• Transportation Efficiencies
  • Electric Bicycles
  • E-Bikes

E-Bike Sales Climbing in Major European Markets, US Lags Behind

Ryan Citron
Jun 26, 2018

Electric Bicycles

Increasing urbanization and the rising costs of personal vehicle ownership are creating opportunities for alternative mobility options. Electric bicycles (e-bikes) are uniquely positioned to be a primary benefactor of this trend since they are low in cost relative to cars, do not require licensing or the associated hassles of parking, and can take advantage of existing bicycling infrastructure.

The European Market Is Rapidly Expanding

Over the past 2 years, e-bikes sales have grown considerably across major markets in Europe as commuters ditch their cars for electrified two-wheelers. A combination of government policy, urbanization, improved product offerings, and expanded bicycling infrastructure has led to e-bikes regularly replacing bicycle purchases in Western Europe. E-bikes are evolving from a specialty commuting or recreation device to a standard bicycle form that is accessible to nearly all bike consumers.

E-Bike Unit Sales, Select European Markets: 2016-2017

 

 

(Source: Navigant Research, Bike Europe)

As shown in the table above, Germany continues to be the largest e-bike market in Europe. Navigant Research expects the country to top 1 million annual sales within the next 2-3 years. France achieved by far the highest year-over-year growth of the four countries. E-bikes sales expanded by a whopping 90% in the country in 2017, largely due to the government’s introduction of a €200 ($230) e-bike purchase subsidy. Italy’s e-bike sales surged 25% on the back of increased electric mountain bike sales (estimated to account for 65% of total e-bike sales in the country). Historically a laggard in the region, the UK saw solid growth of 22% for 2017 e-bike sales.

US Still Lags behind Europe, but Potential Remains

North America continues to trail Europe considerably in e-bike sales, largely due to lower gasoline prices and consumer awareness, combined with relatively poor bicycling infrastructure. Nevertheless, market conditions are improving, and the Light Electric Vehicle Association estimates that about 260,000 e-bikes were imported to the US in 2017—a modest gain (10%-15%) from 2016 import figures. Of course, imports are different than sales; after conducting interviews with the major e-bike manufacturers in the region, Navigant Research found that slightly over 150,000 e-bikes are expected to be sold in the US in 2016. For more information, reference Navigant Research’s 2Q 2016 Electric Bicycles report.

Lessons from across the Pond

The global e-bike market is expected to be a strong area for investment. The US still has substantial long-term potential due to its enormous bicycle market (roughly 16 million sold per year); however, the country’s current e-bike penetration rate of 1%-1.5% is quite low. There is much the US can learn from countries like Germany, where e-bikes already have a market share of roughly 20% of the total bicycle market. Much of Germany’s success can be attributed to the comprehensive and dedicated bicycling infrastructure in the country. For example, bicycle highways under construction in Germany will eventually span 62 miles of roadway, connecting 10 cities and 4 universities. It is estimated that this will remove 50,000 cars from the road every day. The highways in Germany are 4 meters (13 feet) wide, have several bike lanes, are well lit, and are cleared of snow in the winter. The construction of bicycle highways in North America would go a long way toward increased commuting by bike and e-bike sales. E-bikes help commuters travel longer distances and easily conquer hilly terrain, advantages that work in unison with expansions in bicycling infrastructure to help more commuters make the switch from cars to cycling.