While the market for electric bicycles in Europe is growing, there are differences from one region to another. Each country has its own market conditions and mobility trends. The Benelux region, made up of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, is an area where we can observe different levels of maturity in terms of the bike market.
THE ELECTRIC BIKE MARKET IN BELGIUM: A DYNAMIC GROWTH MARKET
In 2021, despite a growing demand, the Belgian bicycle market experienced a minor decline due to supply problems. In 2022, the market had recovered, with double-digit growth. With over 690,000 bikes sold, the annual growth rate is 19%. As in all European markets, this excellent performance was made possible by the e-bike segment, which accounts for almost half of all volumes sold (47.1%). According to a representative of Traxio, the leading trade association for mobility professionals, stock and supply problems are being resolved, and the entire industry is ready to meet cyclists’ demand.
The electric bike market in Belgium: the emergence of new segments
The Belgian bicycle market is characterized by the rise of new segments as opposed to traditional bikes. While the last few years have already seen the emergence of electric bikes, this trend continues to grow from year to year. Between 2021 and 2022, the volume of e-bikes sold rose by 45%. The dynamism of the e-bike segment on the Belgian market is such that in 2021, this segment accounted for 91.7% of the total market increase. Whereas in 2019, electric bikes accounted for just one-third of the overall market. In just 4 years, the trend has evolved towards an almost equal ratio. Consequently, the experts at Traxio predict a reversal in the market over the next few years.
Electric sports bikes: a fast-growing segment
In general, Belgium is considered a dynamic region for sportive cycling. After being affected by delivery problems in the previous year, the electric version is gaining ground in 2022. Electric sports bikes, whether racing, gravel or mountain bikes, are gaining more and more fans, with almost 24,250 units sold, an increase of 145.4% on 2021.
A record year for speedelecs
Subject to European regulations, speedelecs or speedbikes – bicycles capable of exceeding 25 km/h – hit a record year in 2022. In total, more than 17,500 bikes were registered in 2022, an increase of 42.1% on 2021. These fast bikes are appealing to both private and professional users. More and more companies are acquiring these bikes for their internal fleets, opting for leasing solutions. Popular for their speed in congested urban areas, this trend is mainly observed in the Flanders region and in Belgium’s major cities.
Belgian cyclists: a demand focused on support and top-of-the-range products
In Belgium, 15.6% of the population claim to use an electric bike to get themselves around at least once a year. The economic climate of recent years has encouraged more and more Belgian households to adopt the bicycle. More economical and in line with contemporary ecological concerns, electric bikes are starting to become a preferred means of commuting. In response to this need, the purchasing behavior of cyclists is varied, with two main trends: buying bikes or leasing them.
Buying electric bikes: high expectations in terms of quality and support
In Belgium, cyclists prefer to buy electric bikes in specialist stores. Indeed, these stores account for 64% of sales, with an equal split between conventional and electric bikes. By contrast, for the multi-channel distribution channel (including specialist stores, DIY chains and online sales), the split is less balanced, with only 4 out of 10 electric bikes sold. These figures can be interpreted as cyclists need for advice and support when choosing their electric bike. This need for reassurance and quality is also reflected in the price and type of bike chosen.
In Belgium, the average price of an electric bike is 2,200 euros, compared with 1,500 euros in France. According to Traxio, this average price is rising every year, with the technologies chosen also moving upmarket. That’s why we’re seeing the emergence of hub bikes with integrated gears. Between 2021 and 2022, the number of bikes sold with this technology rose by 55%. Although more expensive than derailleur-equipped bikes, they have the advantage of being easier to maintain.
Bicycle leasing: a growing alternative
On the other hand, more and more Belgians are opting for electric bike leasing solutions, whether for individuals or businesses. The ease of the service and the support provided throughout use (maintenance, repairs, advice) are factors that have won over private customers. For companies, government subsidies and tax breaks have made this type of solution attractive. As a result, more and more leasing offers are emerging to provide tailored solutions.
According to Acerta, a Belgian company specializing in human resources, the proportion of workers using a leased bike for work purposes has reached a record level. In the first quarter of 2022, on a base of 260,000 workers, 1.3% had at their disposal a leased bike obtained through their employer. This represents an increase of 9.1% on the previous year.
What measures have been taken to encourage cycling in Belgium?
With an investment of 5.2 euros per inhabitant, Belgium ranks 5th among countries where the government invests the most in cycling policies. Implemented in 2021, the Belgian cycling plan runs until 2024 and covers three main axes:
- Facilitate access to cycling and infrastructure
- Improve cyclists’ safety and comfort (taking theft into account)
- Democratize cycling among all segments of the population
This plan has been adopted by the federal government and must then be implemented in each region. In addition to this plan, the regions also offer financial assistance for the purchase of bicycles. In Wallonia, for example, up to 450 euros in aid is available for the purchase of a new electric bike. For Brussels, the Bruxell’Air program offers assistance of up to 900 euros.
THE DUTCH ELECTRIC BIKE MARKET: a changing market with bright perspectives
According to research organization Statista, in 2022, 65% of Dutch people will be cycling at least once a week. The Netherlands is considered a role model for cycling in Europe. As a forerunner in the use of classic bikes, the country has been transitioning to electric bikes for several years now.
The Dutch bicycle market: facing supply challenges
2021 saw a slight drop in e-bike sales due to a shortage of raw materials, but it was also the first year in which e-bike sales exceeded those of conventional bicycles in terms of volume. In 2022, with 486,000 units sold, e-bikes accounted for 57% of sales volume, an increase of 5 points. However, this good performance needs to be qualified, as the market was affected by inventory problems in the first half of 2022, resulting in an overall decline of 7% compared to 2021. Over a two-year period, this represents a volume loss of 22%, the lowest level reached in 10 years.
Dutch cyclists: on the way to a massive switch to electric bikes?
Accustomed to classic bikes, more and more Dutch cyclists are turning to electric bikes, resulting in a 17% drop in the classic bike segment by 2022. This shift towards electric bikes has helped to increase the overall value of the market by 2%, reaching sales of 1.5 billion euros. Around 80% of this value can be attributed to electric bikes, whose average price has risen by 4% in 2022. The average price of an e-bike in the Netherlands is now 2,489 euros. According to RAI, the main association of cycle professionals, this is due to the lack of availability of certain parts.
Domestic supply, made up of prestigious brands such as VanMoof and Gazelle, is unable to absorb all the demand. Exports are therefore becoming the preferred solution. Recent figures from Taiwanese authorities show a 10.1% increase in exports of electric bicycles to the Netherlands. Almost 370,000 units were exported last year, representing an estimated market value of 482.8 million euros.
For a third of Dutch cyclists, price is the main obstacle to adopting an electric bike. Faced with this demand, and with the aim of getting around delivery problems, new solutions are being developed. We’re seeing the emergence of leasing and second-hand market trends. Indeed, although 96% of e-bikes in the Netherlands are currently privately owned, 4% are put into circulation via leasing solutions, aimed at both private and business customers. Although this percentage may seem low, it represents almost 200,000 bicycles. As for the second-hand market, it’s growing all the time. Today, it accounts for 20% of bikes purchased, with an average price of 992 euros.
Like Belgian cyclists, Dutch cyclists prefer to buy their bikes in physical stores. During the pandemic, online sales increased, but failed to maintain a sustainable market share. In 2022, online sales fell by 20%, with 136,000 units sold.
As a result of this strong demand, some forecasts predict a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 11.95% in terms of revenues between 2022 and 2028. The maturity of the Dutch market explains these projections, which are less impressive than in other markets.
The Dutch government: an example to follow in terms of cycling policy
With one of the highest modal shares in the world, the Netherlands was a pioneer in bicycle policy. Back in 1990, the government declared its intention to democratize the use of bicycles. Following the implementation of the first plan in 1990, the second plan in 2018 brought together all stakeholders in Dutch society to draw up a 7-point plan:
- Maintain the country’s position as a leading cycling nation
- Increase bicycle spaces in cities
- Improve the quality of regional cycle routes
- Optimize transition and intermodality
- Targeted promotion of cycling
- Reduce the volume of cycling accidents
- Improve knowledge of cycling
Following this second plan, a third was introduced for the period 2022-2025. This plan considers cycling as a social objective, and includes making it compulsory to consider cycling when creating new housing, making cycling accessible to people on low incomes, and increasing the number of kilometers cycled by 20% by 2027. The new plan also includes incentive measures, such as encouraging companies to grant their employees an allowance of 21 centimes per kilometer travelled.
The example of the Dutch government shows that good performance goes hand in hand with ever-increasing measures to boost cycling. After Ireland, the Netherlands is the country that invests the most in its cycling policy, with €13.6 per inhabitant.
THE LUXEMBOURG ELECTRIC BIKE MARKET: A MARKET IN ITS EARLY STAGES
A new market following European trends
Luxembourg is no exception to the trend observed between 2020 and 2021. After the pandemic, Luxembourg consumers also turned to electrically-assisted bicycles. Despite this, the e-bike market is still in its infancy in Luxembourg, but is predicted to have a bright future. In fact, according to the research organization Statista, the e-bike market in Luxembourg is set for particularly strong growth over the next few years, estimated at 20% between 2023 and 2029. The economic situation, with rising fuel prices, should confirm these projections.
A profile of maintenance-conscious cyclists
After the wave of massive purchases in the post-pandemic period, industry professionals are observing a slowdown in purchases of new electric bicycles in Luxembourg. The focus is more on maintenance, with an increase in the number of store visits for this type of service. Cyclists, mainly aged between 35 and 50, are expressing a need for reassurance about the lifespan of their bikes.
Luxembourg: a bicycle policy still in its infancy
With a modal share of 2% for bicycles in 2017, Luxembourg has put in place an ambitious bicycle plan aiming to reach 11% by 2035. Launched in 2022, the plan follows the sustainable mobility plan drawn up between 2012 and 2018. It is a small part of a larger policy focused on mobility, and also plans to reduce the modal share of the car from 46% to 25%. To achieve this, Luxembourg plans to implement the following measures:
- Adoption of bicycle-friendly regulations, such as a law to reinforce the safety of the national bicycle network and introduce the concept of “express bicycle lanes”.
- Modification of the highway code, with the creation of crosswalks, non-mandatory cycle paths, cycle streets, and the requirement for a lateral distance of 1.5 meters when overtaking, among others. This also includes traffic calming measures in neighborhoods.
- Establishment of an attractive and safe national cycle network, both for commuting and for cycle tourism, including in rural areas, where cyclists are not forced to ride among car traffic.
- Integrate cycling into all transport infrastructures and offers.
In addition to these more general guidelines, the Luxembourg government has introduced measures that have a direct impact on cyclists’ wallets. The latest measure is a reduction in VAT on electric bicycles, effective January 1. For a bike costing 5,000 euros, this represents a reduction of 400 euros. Although this measure is not yet widely known, it should stimulate demand.
Benelux, a zone of contrasts with different levels of maturity
In conclusion, the Benelux region’s e-bike markets are at different stages of maturity. The Luxembourg market is still developing, but is following European trends in sustainable mobility. Consumers in Luxembourg have shown a growing interest in electrically-assisted bicycles, creating a nascent market with considerable growth potential. A remarkable feature of this emerging market is the increased demand for maintenance services to extend the life of existing bikes. It is therefore crucial to provide quality services and meet cyclists’ expectations.
In Belgium, the electric bicycle market is growing rapidly and offers promising prospects. New market segments, a focus on quality and support, and favorable government measures are all contributing to this positive trend.
In the Netherlands, on the other hand, the e-bike market is mature and faces challenges in terms of conversion to electric and changes of the demand. Dutch cyclists, already accustomed to conventional bicycles, are massively switching to e-bikes, resulting in lower growth for this segment. However, the Dutch market is faced with supply problems and growing demand that require an adaptation of supply.
In summary, the Benelux region offers a diverse panorama when it comes to e-bike markets, ranging from a nascent market in Luxembourg, to a booming market in Belgium, to a mature but evolving market in the Netherlands. Each market presents unique opportunities and specific challenges, requiring a tailored approach to meet consumer needs and seize growth opportunities.