Americans may not be rushing to buy electric automobiles, but apparently they are ready to spend money on the two-wheeled, pedal-powered variety.
Sales of electric bicycles (e-bikes) will triple in the US by 2018 to 265,000 a year, predicts Pike Research. That's still is a very small number, but much higher than the 89,000 e-bikes expected to be sold this year.
E-bikes are already very popular in emerging economies such as China, which accounts for approximately 92% of global shipments. People in developed nations such as Germany also love them: roughly 252,000 e-bikes will be sold there in 2012, even though the country's population is roughly one-third that of the US.
Worldwide global sales of e-bikes are predicted to top 47 million in 2018, generating nearly $12 billion in revenue in that year, says Pike.
“Although the e-bicycle will remain a niche product in the US, the U.S. market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 20%,” says Pike's senior research analyst Dave Hurst. “That means it will continue to trail significant Western European markets, but increases in bicycle infrastructure in growing urban centers and the rise in popularity of alternative means of transport will make e-bikes a viable choice for thousands of new users.”
The biggest obstacle to e-bike sales is figuring out where to buy them, since many bike shops that sell traditional bicycles have been reluctant to carry them -- even though Giant, Trek and Schwinn have all begun offering e-bike models.
What's more, some e-bike manufacturers require dealers to be certified in order to represent them. That costs money and time.
But innovative new programs for bike sharing across the US, including one started this summer in New York, have got many people thinking differently about urban transportation alternatives, which is giving e-bikes new momentum.
Pike's latest research on e-bikes dovetails with early data that includes electric scooters and electric motorcycles, which are also growing rapidly. That growth curve for two-wheeled electric vehicles inspired electric motorcycle maker Brammo to take steps to expand its US dealer network earlier this summer.