Cycling is popular. Bikes are a fast and flexible means of transport – easy on the purse and easy on the environment. The average German household owns 2.4 bicycles and 82 percent of Germans claim to be active cyclists. Bikes and their uses are many and varied and the range of bikes on the market is growing all the time: this includes eBikes, the current 'engine' of the bicycle industry – half of would-be purchasers are interested in buying a cycle with an electric motor, while one-third would opt for a pedelec straight away. For Bosch eBike Systems, the market leader in the premium eBike drive systems segment, one thing is clear: in terms of sales revenues, eBikes will have a more than 30 percent share of the bicycle market within a few years.
eBike market: Positive developments
eBikes have shown that 'electromobility' presents no problems nowadays: according to the most recent forecasts issued by the German Bicycle Association (ZIV), sales of pedelecs in 2016 will reach 560,000, an increase of five percent compared with the preceding year. This means that at present there are over three million pedelecs on Germany's roads and cycle paths. As Claus Fleischer, Head of the Bosch eBike Systems Product Division, explains: "Increasingly, eBikes are developing into an integral part of the mobility mix. In 2015 around 1.7 million eBikes were sold in Europe – we reckon that this figure will increase to roughly two million in 2016. The longer-term prediction is that one in three newly sold bicycles in Central Europe will be an eBike. In certain countries – in Belgium and the Netherlands, for example – we have reached or are about the reach that figure."
Current trends: Sporty and top quality
What's behind the continuing success of pedelec manufacturers? One factor is that in social terms eBikes are now very much 'in'. They are fashionable, high-quality and now a distinct asset as far as lifestyle is concerned – so purchasers are willing to invest. In 2016 the average price of an eBike is about €3,287, according to a study undertaken by e-bike-finder.com, which is €250 more than in 2015, an increase of eight percent. City models cost on average €3,050, while the average price for eMountainbikes, used chiefly for sport and leisure activities, is €3,897. Claus Fleischer adds: "At present, sports models are in particular demand. This is shown by Performance Line CX: our most powerful and most dynamic product line is now installed in more than a quarter of Bosch eBike Systems. The demand for batteries underscores this trend. Whereas three years ago we supplied 60 percent carrier rack batteries and 40 percent frame batteries, these proportions have reversed since then: now we are delivering 60 percent for the down tube and 40 percent for the carrier rack."
At the same time, the eBike has been establishing itself as the ideal means of transport in city traffic – a logical consequence in view of growing populations in urban areas, where traffic is all too often slow-moving. Every other car journey is over a distance of less than five kilometers. The pedelec is the fastest means of transport for these short distances in urban traffic and offers the greatest potential from the point of view of transport policy.
The vast majority (82 percent) of prospective eBike purchasers opt for a local retail outlet. Consultation and service are key decision-making criteria (for more than 60 percent). Fleischer sees the positive side of this: "As a rule, specialist retailers are well trained and helpful when a purchasing decision has to be made; they can also offer reliable service. The customer can obtain individual information and good advice locally and in many cases can try out his or her model of choice before reaching a decision. These are key factors when it comes to buying an eBike."
The product range is expanding, models are becoming increasingly diverse, mid drives dominate
The range of models is highly diverse. The study published by e-bike-finder.com covers 2,556 different eBike models from a total of 80 manufacturers. Of these, 94 percent are in the pedelec category with motor support up to 25 km/h. Electric mopeds and S-pedelecs (high-speed pedelecs) are for the most part niche products in Germany. There is a clear trend to the mid drive: of all eBikes on sale in 2016, some 87 percent had the drive unit in the center of the frame. Fleischer explains: "Bosch decided on the mid drive right from the outset, because it has significant advantages: its low-down, central position gives the eBike a low center of gravity and good load distribution. This means better control and greater safety. And thanks to their better efficiency factor, mid drives use less energy." Further advantages in comparison with front-wheel and rear-wheel motors are the smooth drive control and the compatibility with all gear systems.
Buyers are also flexible when choosing an eBike manufacturer. A survey carried out by fahrrad.de reveals that 65 percent do not insist on a particular brand, while just under half wish to have a pedelec with a Bosch drive system.
The eBike categories are also becoming more diverse, according to the e-bike-finder study. The last two years have seen a sharp rise in the sale of eMountainbikes (current market share: 19 percent). However, city/urban bikes still account for the main share (38 percent), closely followed by touring/trekking bikes (36 percent). Manufacturers of folding, compact and transport bikes also offer a number of interesting solutions, although their share of the market is still very small (one to two percent).
eBikes as a highly effective means of transport
The diversity and the many and varied uses of the eBike are clearly indicated in a study undertaken by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. According to this study, 20 percent of bike owners only use their eBikes for leisure and travel purposes, whereas for 80 percent the pedelec is part and parcel of their everyday lives – used for commuting and for daily shopping trips or other journeys. Thus, for many people the eBike is a genuine alternative to the car and public transport. This is confirmed by a questionnaire circulated by fahrrad.de: almost one-third of respondees can imagine traveling to work by eBike – while leaving their car at home in the garage. 50 percent felt that the car could be partly replaced, 28 percent believed it could be largely done away with in urban traffic. These are clear signals in favor of sustainable mobility – and offer extremely bright prospects for the bicycle industry. With its technology, product range and service, Bosch eBike Systems is able to provide optimal solutions for the heightened requirements and the growing demand.