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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Electric Bicycle Sales Up Up UP!

Bicycle manufacturer Derby Cycle says its profits are up 40%, mostly due to electric bicycle sales which are up 134%.

And they`re not alone. Other e-bike manufacturers are seeing similar rises in the popularity of electric bicycles.

And not just manufacturers... some bicycle mechanics are now taking old bicycles and turning them into electric bicycles...

Like Velo Wrench Bike Shop (Vacaville California), which has been adding a battery-powered electric kit above the rear wheel which transforms almost any bicycle into an electric hybrid.

Vincent Coons, the bicycle mechanic who owns the shop, is being paid $1,200 for each conversion he makes (minus the cost of the kit, its a healthy profit). Increasingly Vincent is being asked to perform the conversion that takes a few hours to complete.

A retrofitted e-bike kit adds a battery and motor with enough juice to travel 40 miles (64 km), making it a lot easier for people who hate cycling up hills, but still want the option of using their own steam when they want to.

E-bikes go up to 20 to 25 mph, which means they are still classified as bicycles and don`t require licensing.

Electric bicycle usage worldwide has experienced rapid growth since 1998. It is now estimated that there were roughly 120 million e-bikes in China as of early 2010, and sales are expanding rapidly in India and the Netherlands (Holland is the capitol of bicycle usage).

The Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports estimated that 1 million electric bicycles were sold in Europe in 2010. The report said that sales in the United States reached roughly 300,000 in 2010, double the number sold in 2009.

NOTE: Car usage is down in the USA. In 2008 there was 250 million cars in the USA. In 2009 it dropped to 246 million as approx. 4 million Americans scrapped their old cars and opted for other forms of transportation.

E-bikes come in different varieties but share common characteristics: They can be powered by pedals alone, a mounted battery pack, with a power output starting at 250 watts, and an approx. 1/3rd horsepower motor connected to the rear wheel.

Often there is 3 modes: Pedaling, Assisted Pedaling, Electric. Some models don't have the full electric mode, providing only assisted pedaling. A simple throttle switch on the handlebars controls the power.

The e-bike ends up feeling lighter and easier, the amount of effort needed is significantly reduced.

E-bike sales in the U.S. have been growing at roughly 21% per year clip and could reach 785,000 a year by 2016, according to Pike Research, a clean energy market research firm.

In the USA bicycles are generally not considered a viable form of transportation, according to Dave Hurst, a senior analyst at Pike Research. Americans are just too lazy and obsessed with gasoline cars. The same is true of electric cars and hybrid cars, which many Americans openly scorn. Still, Hurst says, the e-bike is winning an increasing number of converts among people who wouldn't otherwise be on a bike, particularly in cities that have added bike lanes.

Deborah Fortier, a 60-year-old piano teacher who lives on Manhattans Upper West Side, had been riding a traditional two-wheeler to her lessons but she was arriving tired and sweaty. After she bought an e-bike 3 years ago, Fortier started scheduling her lessons 15 minutes apart and arriving fresh. Fortier is now an e-bike evangelist and wants more people to abandon their cars for e-bikes.

That would get more people thinking about going out and putting a basket on their bikes and doing shopping, says Fortier. You get a whole wonderful new sense of yourself and the city.

Its also effecting the tourism industry.

Bike tour companies are bringing in more customers by offering e-bikes as an option. They’re leveling the playing field between the fit and the less-so — and assuaging would-be riders’ fear of hills — by adding electronic bikes to their fleets.

“There’s no learning curve to using these bikes,” assures Dan Lehman, owner of the bike tour company Austin Lehman, the first North American outfit to use e-bikes widely on its tours. “They’re very intuitive, with brakes that are the same as on a normal bike.”

Austin Lehman’s announcement this spring that it would be adding e-bikes spurred such interest that the company is planning to purchase 10 more Diamont Trek Ride+ bikes than expected, a sign that many people are welcoming the addition of e-bikes to their roster. Use of e-bikes incurs a $25 per day surcharge over the regular cost of the week long tours.

“We just got a call from a multi-generational family, and it was the availability of the e-bikes that convinced the older folks that they could handle the trip,” says Dan Lehman.

E-bikes are now available for one-day excursions in tourist destinations too. Austin, Texas has them via Austin Lehman Adventures ( austinlehman.com), which offers two-hour overview tours of the city for $48 (less for kids).

The London Electric Bike Tours ( londonelectricbiketours.com; 35-50 British pounds depending on tour length) offers tours of the film locations, as well as more classic cycles along the Thames and to such tourist must sees.

Paris Charms and Secrets ( parischarmssecrets.com; 45 euros per four-hour tour) introduces visitors to both the famous sights and the hidden gems in the city, including the hillier routes.

Napa Valley Bike Tours ( napavalleybiketours.com) in California rents electronic bikes on its day-long and half-day wine tasting tours, for $25 over the normal price (which starts at $89, including lunch, maps and equipment on a self-guided tour).

I Bike Tuscany ( ibiketuscany.com; 129 euros including lunch) does the same type of wine cycle, but transports guests in a van from Florence to the starting point in Poggio in Chianti for rides through medieval towns and wineries.

This is not a complete list of e-bike tours, but you get the idea.

The point I am making is that 20 years from now the roads could be filled with a lot more electric bicycles than any of us were expecting, especially if the price drops considerably.

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