Half the pedal bicycles sold in Europe will have a motor by 2025, underlining the rapid changes to transport accelerated by the pandemic, predicts one of the region’s biggest suppliers of electric bike parts.
Claus Fleischer, chief executive of Bosch eBike Systems, said electric bike sales soared during the pandemic as consumers found new ways to spend extra time and money.
With growth strongest in towns and cities, it also reflects the desire of commuters to avoid public transport and cars in an effort to steer clear of crowds and traffic snarl-ups, while using a greener way to travel.
“From our prediction, in the next three to four years, every second bike in the European core markets should be an e-bike,” said the head of the private group’s division that supplies batteries, motors and display systems to bike manufacturers.
Bosch’s division chief predicted annual growth rates in e-bike sales would return to pre-pandemic levels of 20-25 per cent, easing from annual increases in excess of 40 per cent in many European countries in 2020.
It brings forward the expected growth for motor-assisted two wheelers on the continent, particularly for people who want to commute without having to break into a sweat as they might on a pedal bike.
“We take away all the excuses of why not to cycle. If you take the excuses away, then people like to cycle longer and further,” said Fleischer, whose company’s core markets include Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland.
The vehicles are also relatively cheap compared with a car, with costs for an e-bike ranging between €2,000 for an entry level model to more than €10,000 for top of the range units that Bosch supplies to.
After urban travel, mountain bikes and cycles for touring were the second most popular category among e-bikes.
In Europe last year, 4.5m e-bikes were sold — 34 per cent more than in 2019 or a fifth of total bicycle sales, according to the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (Conebi), an industry body.
“The e-bike is by far the most sold electric vehicle on the European market,” said Manuel Marsilio, general manager of Conebi.
The value of bicycle parts and accessories produced in Europe hit €3bn in 2020, but it is expected to double by 2025, said Conebi.
Fleischer said that bicycle supply chains were reshoring to Europe from Asian countries such as Taiwan, China and Vietnam. About 80 per cent of e-bikes sold in Europe last year were made in the continent.
However, he cautioned that sustained growth for e-bikes was premised on regulations and infrastructure. E-bikes are considered equivalent to regular push bikes in Europe, so they can use cycle lanes, but the industry is wary of regulators reducing the maximum speed at which the motor cuts off.
“We have all rights and duties of bikes,” he added. “This is the biggest value we have. We shall not allow any policymaker to change this.”
Fleischer said that electronic component shortages were yet to interrupt production, although he would not rule out it impacting manufacturing later in the year.
This is in contrast to shortages of mechanical components that have disrupted bike manufacturing globally.