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Millions of electric-assist bicycles, mopeds and electric scooters are sold every year in China, providing affordable transportation in already congested Chinese cities. Photo credit: Patrick Benjamin.

The Coming Age of the Electric Bicycle

The future of the EV world rides on two-wheels

By Edward Benjamin

New companies like eZee USA, eMoto of Kent Washington, Aerobic Cruiser are examples of companies that are making serious efforts with innovative, high value products. Major changes are happening such as Panasonic and Sanyo merging their electric bicycle businesses.

Startling innovation has come from companies like YikeBike, and Segway. Controller technology from Navitas of Canada, and new paradigms from companies like Motiv of USA, and ID Bike of Holland. A tiny USA/China JV in Pudong – MAC - is making hub motors up to 1KW. Motor Excellence of Arizona is developing a revolutionary motor.

The biggest players in this business are companies that are just now starting to be heard from internationally: Yadea and Shinri build millions of ebikes. Giant, Fairly / Wettsen, Ideal, Active, Ace Trikes, Dumar are builders of hundreds of thousands of Western branded ebikes. 8Fun is the maker of hundreds of thousands of high quality motors. Nanjing Lishui Electronics is a company no one knows, but they make the motor controllers for millions of ebikes. Phylion Battery Company in Suzhou, China sells hundreds of thousands of Lithium Manganese bicycle battery packs.

This large volume of sophisticated components and vehicles is creating economies of scale for larger vehicles like motorcycles and motor scooters. Already a vigorous business in China, just now experiencing the convergence of cost and capability that occurred for electric bikes 15 years ago.

The vigor and excitement of this industry is hard to describe with words. But the shows that attract tens of thousands of dealers in Asia, and Europe, give a glimpse of the early days of a whole new industry as it climbs into prominence. The river of electric bicycles on Chinese streets, and the large numbers on Dutch bicycle paths help as well.

This industry has relied on bicycle trade journals, with Bike Europe leading the way, followed by the EBB (Electric Bicycle Business) in Chinese and the CBA trade publications. The LEVA now has a regular news letter, and the bi annual EBWR (Electric Bicycles World Wide Reports) documents the rise and players in the industry.

Now the industry has several industry groups: World wide: Light Electric Vehicle Association, based in Maine, USA, In China the dominant group is the China Bicycle Association, and a new group serves the UK.

For the readers of this article, it is not news that increasing urbanization, traffic congestion, parking congestion, and resource limitations mean that more humans will move on two wheels, world wide, than on four. But for North Americans, that is not yet a visceral experience the way it is for most humans world wide.

Our future is a mixture of transportation devices: First kilometer solutions like feet, bicycles, and electric bicycles. Metros and trains. Longer range electric motorcycles and scooters. Electric and hybrid cars, trucks and buses. And as we all know this is not technically, socially or politically simple.

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