While electric bikes are highly popular in many rapidly growing economies – particularly China, which accounts for some 92 percent of electric bike sales in the world today – they have yet to catch on in a significant way in North America.
Only around 89,000 electric bikes will be sold this year in the United States, for example, compared to 252,000 in Germany, a country with less than one-third the population of the United States.
According to a recent report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant’s Energy Practice, that will begin to change over the next several years. Electric bike sales in the United States will more than triple in the next six years, the report forecasts, reaching 265,000 in 2018.
Pike expects that the global sales of electric bikes will surpass 47 million vehicles in 2018, generating nearly $12 billion in revenue in that year.
The challenge of distribution remains a significant hurdle to expanded e-bike sales in many regions, including North America, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
In North America, as in some parts of Western Europe, traditional bicycle dealers have been uninterested in carrying e-bikes because the customers are not typical bicycle buyers.
Some of the world’s largest bicycle manufacturers, including Giant, Trek and Schwinn, currently offer e-bicycles, but these vehicles also remain relatively unsupported in the U.S. market. Dealers in the United States are generally required to qualify to sell the vehicles, and many dealers have not chosen to pursue this product line.