Currently a small niche market in the US (this is not so overseas) electric bikes have attracted some of the biggest players in the bicycle and electronics business. Giant, Schwinn, Sanyo, Panasonic and Magna have or are soon entering the American market for electric bicycles in a big way. Aside from these household names, there are a whole host of smaller firms currently working diligently to develop this market.
There are some major differences between these two groups of players. Many of the smaller players are internet based firms selling retrofit kits for existing bikes, custom converted bikes, or imported electric bicycles. Their products typically run from a few hundred dollars for what is really pretty much junk to around $1500 for some pretty good product. The big manufacturers are working through dealer networks or big box stores and some of their product is quite good but usually runs from $2500 to $5000 per unit.
The large manufacturers and a few of the smaller ones have missed or forgotten a few things about this market. Electric Bikes are supposed to be inexpensive transportation. When you are pricing bicycles into a multiple of thousands of dollars, inexpensive they aren’t. Another thing they have forgotten is that an electric bike is not a car to be loaded up with luxury features. Electric bikes are limited by law to 750 watts and 20 miles and hour. Electric bikes are meant to be pedaled and are not motorcycles, therefore weight is an object. Comfort while riding and pedaling is important, much more so than style and durability is a real issue considering the state of most of our roads. A very stylish but heavy bike will have less of a range and be harder to pedal than a lighter bike and a cheap bike is going to have some real issues when you hit a pothole at 20 miles an hour. There have been a lot of frame problems on inexpensive bikes.
However, the biggest thing that has been forgotten is the customer. Who is buying this product and where do they live? What are their demographics? Right now this is a marketing frontier. Electric bikes are a big item in countries where there is a large bicycle culture and riding to work and to shop is common. This is not at all usual in the United States. Our bike culture is mostly limited to children and enthusiasts. Riding a bike to work, school or shopping is not at all common and it is going to take some major economic and cultural changes to make it so. Simply bringing the concept of an Electric Bicycle to the attention of a consumer base who is not cognizant of the bicycle as a transportation alternative, is going to be a major challenge. It is going to require some intensive marketing and significant expenditures to make this happen.
The electric bike is a good thing. Silent, low cost, no emission and small footprint, it can be a big help in the fight against pollution, overcrowded streets and global warming but it will require an intense effort to sell this to the public.
Source by Steven Bodenstein