As the coronavirus pandemic started spreading across the globe this year, getting safely from A to B, especially in cities, became a major concern. As lockdowns lifted at different times across the world, people were justifiably nervous about cramming back onto trains and buses. Even share-cars were not a guaranteed germ-free environment and taxis were mostly a too-expensive daily alternative.
Bikes were dragged out again, and e-bikes suddenly surged in popularity as a great way to get about independently — and without breaking a sweat.
With governments rushing to increase or enlarge city bike lanes, cycling has become safer and more convenient. European countries pledged to invest more than €1bn (£894m, $1.2bn) on cycle infrastructure, adding 2,300km (1,400 miles) of new bike lanes since the pandemic started.
Jill Warren from the European Cycling Federation, told the BBC that cycling was “a big winner," in the pandemic. It’s not just individual consumers turning to battery-assisted bikes, electric cargo bikes are increasingly common for food- and last-mile parcel deliveries.
E-bikes are heavier than normal push-bikes, fitted with a battery pack, the power from which kicks in when you start pedalling, and can deliver different levels of boost. They have have been around for years, especially in Asia and Europe, but had not gained much traction in the US until the past couple of years.
They used to be regarded as a bit un-cool, perhaps something more for elderly people, but now brands like VanMoof, Luna, and Propella are making gorgeous e-bikes. The iconic motorcycle-maker Harley Davidson unveiled their new electric bicycle brand, the Serial 1 Cycle Company, in October.
The growth in electric micro-mobility — think e-scooters, e-mopeds — and Uber’s entry into the sector with its Jump bikes in 2018, paved the way for the e-bike revolution.
While supply-chain disruption brought the industry to a halt in spring this year, e-bike manufacturers soon recovered with a surge in demand that left some of them with order backlogs. E-bikes range from the about £500 to £5,000 and up, but most come in around the £1,500 mark.
Halfords, the British retailer specialising in cars and bikes, said on 18 November that bike sales had boosted its first-half profits in 2020, with sales of e-bikes soaring 184% from the same period a year ago.
Netherlands-based Accell, the European market leader in e-bikes and owner of well-known brands such as Raleigh, reported a 38% growth in sales in the third quarter.
Taiwan’s Giant Group reported consolidated revenue growth of 14.6% in the first nine months of 2020, thanks in part to high demand for e-bikes in Europe and the US.
“E-bikes are one of the most important growth drivers for Giant Group and currently represent 27% of the total Group’s revenue,” the company said. “E-bikes sales price and margins are much higher than traditional bikes.”
Deloitte consultancy said at the end of 2019 that the e-bike market is booming mainly thanks to “recent improvements in lithium-ion battery technology, pricing, and power.”
The consultancy predicts that more than 130 million new e-bikes will be sold between 2020 and 2023, with sales reaching 40 million units by 2023, and generating around $20bn in revenue.
The European Cyclists Confederation said in a report in July that it expects e-bike sales in the EU to more than double, to 6.5 million by 2025. In 2019, there was an overall 23% growth in sales to more than 3 million e-bikes (17% of all bike sales) compared to 2018.