‘SUVs’ Bringing New e-Bike Audience

Frankfurt, Germany

E-Bike ‘SUVs’ are emerging as the most important e-bike sectors to attract newcomers to cycling, according to industry leaders at a Eurobike workshop.

Authorities speaking at the e-Bike: A Game Changer workshop said these ‘sports utility’ e-bikes, combining the sportiness and youth appeal of e-MTBs with practical features more typically seen on urban bikes, would be extremely valuable in broadening the market for cycling.

Bosch e-Bike Systems CEO Claus Fleischer said e-MTBs had set the stage by breaking down perceptions in Europe that e-bikes were mainly for older people. It was cool for kids to use e-mountain bikes for sporting purposes.

“Now it’s cool to use them in the inner city for transportation and leisure,” he said.
“Now you have the e-SUV segment, the e-sports utility vehicle, which is e-mountain bike from the looks and the suspension, the tyres the brakes, but you also have the fenders and lights.

“This is one of the fastest growth categories because you have the beauty and appeal of mountain bikes with all the features of the city bike, crossing over between leisure and sport and between urban transportation.

“What it has achieve is we don’t just bring cyclists onto e-bikes, we also bring non cyclists to ride e-bikes to get them out of the car.”

Some of his fellow panellists were wary of using the term SUV because of negative public perceptions of their automotive namesake but they agreed it will be a highly important sector for further growth in the industry.

While other panel members from Germany, France and Spain were confident e-bike sales in their countries would soon reach 50% of total bikes sale, Claus the industry could be optimistic it could reach 60-70%.

New Category for Commercial e-Cargo

He said to help foster this growth, it was important to control the classification of vehicles and whether they fell within the e-bike category.

“We also have to talk about what is inside the box of cycling freedom and what’s outside the box when it comes to commercial uses.”

For example, a new category of heavy duty e-cargo bikes could be necessary to protect the freedoms and appeal of other cargo bikes.

Claus said while the emergence of higher-powered S pedelec e-bikes contribute to issues about access to cycleways and nature trails, a similar issue might emerge for cargo bikes as larger commercial models become more prominent.

“When we talk about e-cargo, this is the next big thing, the super trend we all see,” he said.
He proposed classifying them under two potential categories, either light commercial utility bikes or heavy duty e-cargo bikes depending on their power, weight and width. He suggested the latter could fall under different regulations and require their own approvals.

“We need to be careful to not put too much in the box of the e-bike 25, because otherwise maybe regulators have to say ‘no, this is too fast, this is too heavy, this is too dangerous, this over-stresses the bicycle infrastructure’.

“We also have to talk about what is inside the box of cycling freedom and what’s outside the box when it comes to commercial uses.”

He was joined on the panel by Riese & Mȕller CEO Dr Sandra Wolf, Shimano Europe Vice President Frank Peiffer, Specialized’s leader turbo e-bike business, April Marschke, managing director of Francaise de Cycle David Jamin and the Orbea global sales director, Gonzales Garcia de Salazar.

Panel members indicated they are equally concerned and unanimous about the need to protect the 25kmh power assist limit in e-bike competition.

“The speed limit of the e-bike is not only what makes a bike a bike but it’s a big part of the emotion,” David said.

“If there’s e-racing without a speed limit, what will be the focus? It will be the biggest battery and the biggest, strongest engine but we have that in motorbikes already.

“Maybe it’s more environmentally friendly but it would change the complete approach and the complete track we are now on with the e-bike.”

Claus said: “When we talk about racing, we want to make sure we are still seen as cyclists. e-Bikes are the bio-electrical hybrid, blending together biological power and electrical power so we compete on the biological and physical aspect of the athlete but also on the motor.”

He said Bosch has been working closely with the UCI with a view to achieving competition regulations that enable competitors to “buy the bike on the Friday and race on the Saturday”.

“You must make sure it is low power, has this 25kmh cut-off speed and it’s absolutely mandatory we stick to this speed and we do not allow any tampering or tuning or cheating of the system.

“Stick with low power and stick with low speed.”

Frank said competition had potential to bring even greater innovation and technical improvements in e-bikes then it had for automobiles.

“It will influence what will be see in our e-bikes on the street,” he said.

April said at the moment, e-bike competition is largely about community.

“So much of riding an e-bike is enjoyment. We have not got to that tipping point when they want to ride really hard,” she added.

“It’s more about community and having fun. As riders start to change, racing will become more prevalent but it will take time.”

However, she said e-MTB racing is an important “proof point”.

“For those people not already yet convinced about e-MTBs, it’s a great opportunity to show these bikes being ridden as hard as they possibly can by fantastic athletes.”

Long-Term Cycleway Planning to Fit e-Cargo

Frank said the emergence of cargo bikes increased the need for long-term thinking about cycling infrastructure.

“Imagine only 10% of transportation will go on the cargo bike. If they’re between 80cm to one metre wide, two of them side by side means there is no more cycle lane.

“If we bring more people to cycling, we need to see that infrastructure is not only available but is fitting the scale. Otherwise, we will see traffic jams on the cycleways and that would be the worst thing that could happen.”

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