Changing lanes: the emergence of e-bikes

VelectriX Ascent Hardtail e-bike

Worldwide, electric bikes are one of the fastest growing segments of the transport market. Dr Elliot Fishman breaks down the numbers and explains how e-bikes can make transport cleaner and greener.

TRANSPORT systems and behaviours are difficult to change. Although only constituting a fraction of vehicles, there are now many more e-bikes on our roads and bike paths than ever before. In recent years, regulations in Australia have been brought in line with those that exist in the EU, meaning Australian consumers are now afforded greater choice in the types of e-bikes available. The new legislation allows motors with a power output of 250 W and assistance cutting out at 25 km/h.

Electric bicycles (e-bikes) represent one of the fastest growing segments of the transport market. Commercially available e-bikes originated in Japan in the early 1980s1, but technological and cost factors limited market attractiveness until the early 2000s2. Improved battery and motor technology, component modularity and economies of scale have meant e-bikes can now travel longer distances and are more affordable than at any time in history. In the past decade more than 150 million e-bikes have been sold2, the largest and most rapid uptake of alternative powered vehicles in the history of motorisation.

China leads the world in e-bike sales, followed by the Netherlands and Germany. It is estimated that some 95% of the world’s e-bikes are in China, but these are almost entirely of the scooter variety, without functional pedals. The Dutch and German markets are dominated by pedelecs, in which engagement with the pedals is required for the electric motor to function.

Very little is known about Australian e-bike sales, as there are no official databases kept on imports or sales. While we do not know the number of units sold, we do know a little about the demographics of e-bike users (as least those willing to respond to university research projects). Researchers from Monash University found a disproportionately high concentration of respondents within the 41 to 60 age band and almost half earnt more than $100,000 per year, substantially higher than the population average. Almost all (94.4%) of respondents owned a car3.

Read the full article in ReNew 139.