90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, August 15, 2011

Electric Bike Sales Take Off Overseas

Electric bicycles in a store in China. (flickr / Augapfel)

Electric bicycles in a store in China. (flickr / Augapfel)

Electric bikes seem to be taking the world by storm. The car company, Daimler AG, recently announced it would start manufacturing electric bikes. In China, 120 million electric bikes are on the road. And in Europe, the number of electric bikers is up to one million. Sales in the United States, however, remain under 100,000 a year.

The bikes have a battery and a motor. In one common model, the motor kicks in to provide an assist on challenging terrain. Another model runs more as a scooter — no pedaling necessary — and is particularly popular in some of China’s cities.

While bulkier than your average bicycle, Frank Jamerson of the Electric Bikes Worldwide Report says that electric bikes are ideal for riders of all ages and best for short commutes.

Guest:

  • Frank Jamerson, Electric Bicycle Company and author and publisher of Electric Bikes Worldwide Report

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Anonymous

    I would love to have one, except I don’t know any place to purchase one? Any hits

    • Kevauty

      eliteelectricbikes.com

    • Kevin Young

      There are more and more options available in the U.S. Your choices range from traditional, open-frame bicycles to what looks like a motor scooter (but is still classified as an ebike by having pedals, being limited to 20 mph, and a motor less than 1000W). Like Frank Jamerson, I had an epiphany when I rode my first electric bike and decided to go into business (while continuing to teach biology full time). And, like him, I have not had much success in sales (so far). I thought the American public might prefer the scooter-style, so I became a distributor of Veloteq eBikes (see http://utahebikes.com). I’d be happy to give 50% off to NPR listeners who took the time to look at this article and read the comments :-) Just email me at utahebikes at gmail dot com and we’ll chat.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Penny-Woodmansee/1680027063 Penny Woodmansee

    I would love information on where to buy one of these in  N. California.

    • Kevauty

      Contact Garnie Gilgore in Mckinleyville (707) 498 1093. She is a distributor for eliteelectricbikes.com

    • Elecbike

      Check out http://www.currietech.com a well known California company.

  • guest

    The electric bike company owner made them seem wonderful.  He advocated them for all ages with no restrictions beyond what now exists for any bicycle.  That may not be wise.

    A friend of mine is recovering from a serious injury after an accident on one of these bikes which was going at about 30 to 40 MPH.  He went over the handlebars when the terrain changed abruptly.  He will be OK, and soon will have the wires removed from his broken jaw.  To allow kids on some of these with no supervision/helmet restrictions, etc. does not seem wise.  There is a reason we don’t let kids drive cars that can go at these speeds…  Caution is prudent here.

    Personally,  I live in a rural area with narrow winding roads and even driving can be risky as some drivers come around a curve driving in the middle of the road.  

    • Karsten

      Clearly your friend was going too fast for the conditions. That can happen with a regular bicycle as well.   The dangers of automobiles are the same to electric and regular bikes.
      Most An electric bicycles have much less than 2 horsepower. Unfortunately we let kids operate very powerful snowmobiles and ATVs ride at much higher speeds and with much more horsepower than electric bikes you can purchase today. Electric bikes are regulated as Mopeds or Motorized Bicycles already and kids can’t use them legally on public roads.

    • Elecbike

      Electric bikes that are sold from reliable vendors have an electronic governor that cuts the motor out at 20mph in the USA (this is a national standard by law from the federal government) and 12 or 15mph in other countries. So this EB rider must have been going down a steep hill or had a bike with extra battery to reach an illegal top speed of 40mph for an electric bike.  Never ride an EB more than 20mph, a speed that can easily be reached by most on a pedal only bike.

      Correction to typo in comment to click_sp3– but acceptable heart our–should read–heart rate. Thanks

  • Click_sp3

    Electric bikes cost 400% more than a traditional bicycle and may be much more dangerous. A traditional bike shop bicycles are available in sizes specific to the height of each individual rider.  Since most electric bicycles are sold as “ONE SIZE FITS ALL,” it is possible that an inappropriate sized rider on an over/under sized bike may experience neck/back pains. Or worse they my cause accidents because they cannot properly handle the equipment that has not been properly sized to the body of the rider!!!

    If you rely on the electric assist your fitness gains will be greatly diminished vs. the benefits of  a traditional bike. Learn to ride traditional bike and experience the cost  savings and greater fitness benefits for 25% the cost of an electric bicycle. 

    • Karsten

      The electric bicycle is about transportation, not fitness. And just like with an automobile or motorcycle (and the vast majority of bicycles sold in this world) 90% of people don’t need professional help to find one that fits. Most bicycles  are adjustable for a reason and will fit most people just fine, especially if they are used to leisurely move about.   I share your concerns though with inexperienced folks riding powered equipment amongst cars, other bicyclists, and pedestrians. Regarding safety I would not worry about the bike being 2 inches too long, short, high, or low.

      Due to their weight electric bicycles will probably be used to move people locally and that makes much more sense than people driving their cars all over the country with bikes strapped to the back so they can get “fit”.  It is about getting from A to B without arriving sweat drenched.

    • Elecbike

      An Australian, or New Zealand, study some years ago compared cardiovascular activity of a car, regular pedal bike and an electric bike over the same public road course that had some tough hills.  Of course the car was null on cardio help, the pedal only bike rider had abnormally high heart rate (not recommended at that level) on the big hills, and the electric bike rider had a higher, but acceptable, heart our. So an EB is TRULY good for your health.  So the EB is the winner in the helpful cardio category.  On safety–have you ever tried to pull away from a dangerous situation on a pedal bike when you were in harms way–I have, and it is hard and dangerous at times.  On an EB, you just instantly accelerate with the flick of the accelerator switch or by pedaling hard on a Pedelec that kicks in the motor for a quick start.  I rest my case.

    • LMZ

      well said, could not agree more, especialy since we are talking about short commutes anyway, and we all need more physical activity anyway.

    • Kevin Young

      Most American households have a bike, but most rarely use them for any sort of commuting–my hope with ebikes is that they will get more people out of their cars more often.

    • Gary Hybridcycles

      We sell electric bikes in all shapes and sizes at a price
      range of between $899-2900.  As you said,
      traditional  bikes are less expensive but
      you wouldn’t have to look too far to find them in that price range. Just like
      any bike shop, it is routine for us to fit the bike to the person.

      You can also get plenty of exercise on an electric bike. For
      most people the motor is used as an assist, mainly on the steep hills,
      otherwise they will ride it as a regular bike. When they use the motor on a
      hill, they are still pumping and breathing hard but not killing themselves…..which
      is why many conventional bikes sit in the garage collecting dust.

      The electric bike industry is not trying to get people off their
      traditional bikes but rather opening up the world of cycling and exercise to those
      who for whatever reason can’t (injury) or won’t ride a traditional bike.   

      We sell electric bikes in all shapes and sizes at a price
      range of between $899-2900.  As you said,
      traditional  bikes are less expensive but
      you wouldn’t have to look too far to find them in that price range. Just like
      any bike shop, it is routine for us to fit the bike to the person.

      You can also get plenty of exercise on an electric bike. For
      most people the motor is used as an assist, mainly on the steep hills,
      otherwise they will ride it as a regular bike. When they use the motor on a
      hill, they are still pumping and breathing hard but not killing themselves…..which
      is why many conventional bikes sit in the garage collecting dust.

      The electric bike industry is not trying to get people off their
      traditional bikes but rather opening up the world of cycling and exercise to those
      who for whatever reason can’t (injury) or won’t ride a traditional bike.   

       

  • Trikke Mi

    If you expand the definition to include three wheels, the Trikke runs at 18 mph with a 28 mile range with a purchase price of $2200. The operating cost including amortization of the lithium ion battery is about $1. Per full charge/discharge. It folds up to go in your car or closet, weighs about 48 lbs and can be used as exercise if you leave the battery off. It will give you a full body cardio exercise. How green is that? Unlike others, it does not require balance and is low impact on the body. Need I say it is fun to ride and can be fitted with flashing lights and siren for Patrol use.

  • Maggie

    OMG I will love to have one! With this economy I don’t want to get in 5 years pmts! I’m a mail lady and work about 10 miles away from work that’s all I need! Price?

  • dimitry ushakov

    hi,dear sportsmen: coulld be OK to ride a electric bike, but how about safety?between electric bike&skooter,
    i am ore for a skooter (a second hand vespa / lambretta  would be more useful
    electric bikes could break down easy
    dimitry from brazil

  • guest

    I have just entered the world of e- bikes, and have logged 1500+ miles on an A2B Velociti 24 in recent months. I love it. Thank you Trailside Cycles in WI!

    The comments about crashing at high speed are valid , but  as I understand it these bikes are held to  20mph maximum unassisted ( no pedaling) .  Mine sure is.  And I’m glad it has really big disc brakes as it is easy to enter into a corner at a decent clip . A less initiated rider could easily get into a tight spot for sure .

    As a person who has grown up on bikes and motorcycles,  I feel the e- bike is a step in the right direction for a commuting solution, or just going out to play!

  • Pat Beckett

     

    I was happy to hear your piece on electric bikes yesterday, and as someone who loves my own electric bike (which folds up too), I had to send in a few photos.I live in Marblehead, MA and more often than not I use my bike to get around town. Nine times out of ten when I am on the bike, someone asks me about it – men, women and especially little boys in the 10-12 year old range!  Everyone seems fascinated by it.  The questions range from how many miles one charge can take me (depends on how much juice I use, but I’ve done 15 miles on it); does pedalling re-charge the battery (no, that would call for a much heavier motor); where is the motor (in the front wheel); and aren’t I “cheating” using electric power to bike (that always comes from men!).  My answer to the cheat charge is, cheating who or what?  My electric bike has gotten me out pedalling more than I have ever done in my life…I don’t think twice about taking the bike instead of the car – it’s pure pleasure to ride it.  And I am indeed pedalling – but when I am tired, or there is a hill, I get help and can keep on going – so I stay out longer, and go further.  I also always point out that the “real” bicyclists I see around always look a little bit pained…whereas I am always smiling on my electric bike!  I feel Dr. Jamerson might do well to promote the joys of electric bicycles  to my age group (57) and especially to women who are not looking to get into serious cycling (and more power to those who are I say), but love what I tell them about how I use it.  Another group that has expressed interest when I talk to people are those who have had hip surgery – like me.  My husband bought me my first electric bike about 8 years ago, which was much more cumbersome and heavy but still just what I needed at the time, enabling me to exercise my arthritic hip in a fun way for three years before I opted for surgery.  Since my hip re-surfacing surgery, and my Quartz Batribike, I am thrilled to be out and mobile and still getting the exercise I need – just with a bit of help and a bit more confidence to go out.  And the other selling point that many people also mention to me, and which is a big part of my own love affair with my bike, is how in a small individual way I can make a difference to the environment, by not polluting with car exhaust when I am out, and by reducing the amount of car congestion in my own town by opting to use my bike instead of the car for errands and shopping.  And my model folds up, so I have taken it with me to New York and to Maine.  Cycling is a great way to explore a new area and for those who are not looking to break sweat or break records, electric bikes are the answer.And of course, it’s just so much more fun – just like a “real” bike. The ten year olds know this!I do think the time has come for electric bikes to become mainstream as in Europe.  By the way, mine was bought in London where I happily biked around my neighborhood there for two years.  And we did buy two – so if you’d like to try one Robin, do  come to Marblehead,.  My husband has named the bike “Zoom Zoom” –  I’d be happy to buzz around town with you!

  • Pat Beckett

    Seems my photos didn’t come through.  If anyone can let me know how or even if you can post photos on this comments site I’ll try again.  Thanks

  • Stan Soliday

    You can’t beat an ebike for in town commuting and chores.  True they are heavier than standard bikes…but they are two wheeled workhorses too!

    EVsRock!
    http://www.evsroll.com

  • Anonymous

    This great news for e-bikes. I wish we had pictures like this in the US stores. I know that we are doing our part to promote electric bicycles online- http://www.chargedelectricscooters.com.  Hopefully this excitement will be felt throughout the states.   I don’t know why we are behind in this area?

  • Luz

    The electric scooters might be desirable alternative in a time when oil is becoming more and more expensive.

  • ScottishDude2

    Really interesting article and comments.  The new kids on the block that look really exiting are the all electric 3-wheel Limited Edition Zuumer and Z1000 Patrol.   The have offer 1200 MPGe and 1000 MPGe.  Their Lean2Steer(R) suspension enables a 3-wheel vehicle to lean INTO a turn like a 2-wheel motorcycle.  They are very stable and a blast to drive.  http://www.ZuumCraft.net

  • terrimarie
  • Sydney711
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

July 29 12 Comments

U.S. ‘Border Crisis’ In A Global Context

Bill Frelick of Human Rights Watch says what the U.S. is seeing is dwarfed by the massive flow of refugees into other countries, such as Italy.

July 29 4 Comments

Iraq War Vet Returns To A Broken Country

Roy Scranton says what he found in Baghdad "shows the evidence of the truth of what we'd actually done."

July 28 5 Comments

Rob Reiner Reflects On Making Movies From ‘And So It Goes’ To ‘Princess Bride’

The actor and director has been making people laugh for decades.

July 28 4 Comments

New HBO Documentary ‘Love Child’ Looks At Gaming Addiction

"Love Child" tells the story of a South Korean couple whose baby starved to death while they cared for a virtual child.