Electric Bikes Take Technology Leap Upwards
By Ed Benjamin
Tokyo Japan -- The Panasonic line of pedelecs has become the best selling electric bike in Japan. With products that weigh as little as 19.9 Kg, and others that have a 110 KM range, it is easy to understand why.
The use of sophisticated frame materials, batteries, and drive units has differentiated the Panasonic bikes from their competitors--displacing long time market leader Yamaha. Attention to many details is evident in their products.
Sanyo is showing new electric bikes that are so sleek and integrated in design that they do not look like an electric bike at first glance. A new hub motor, smaller and lighter than the pervious model was on display.
Honda will introduce a futuristic looking version of the Honda Raccoon Compo in the spring of 2001.
But the biggest crowd of onlookers was consistently at the Sony booth. The crowd was usually 2-5 deep admiring the prototypes of the Sony Entertainment Vehicle--a very advanced folding electric bike. The Sony features a Li-ion battery package, an advanced hub motor, and a high tech frame.
Yamaha has reorganized the management of the PAS division, and is brining on improved products. They continue to have an excellent product--and will undoubtedly regain much of their lost market share.
The word at the show is that 98 -2000 have been difficult years for pedelecs, due to the economic difficulties in Japan. But with an improved economy, sales are expected to rapidly climb to 1997 levels. (about 350,000 units per year.)
The buyer in Japan continues to be older than 40, with the majority in the 50 - 80 year range.
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