Faced with the urgent need to protect the climate and the current economic situation, the current climate is favoring the development of bicycles, and electric bikes in particular. Less polluting than a car and more attractive for everyday use than a traditional bicycle, the electric bike is gaining more and more ground in our cities. In this dynamic, the various stakeholders, including brands, associations and governments, are getting organized to support and amplify the impact of electric bikes.
The ecological impact on the e-bike industry
Electric bicycles offer numerous environmental and societal benefits. The bike industry is currently working on solutions to overcome the last remaining barriers.
Electric bikes make cities less congested
Electric bicycles can play a major role in reducing urban congestion. As cities become increasingly congested, electrically assisted bicycles (EABs) offer an agile, flexible and fast transportation solution. With the development of infrastructure such as cycle paths and signage, more and more people are becoming interested in this mode of travel. As a result, recent years have seen a proliferation of long-term rental (LLD) offers and self-service fleets.
Electric bicycles are suitable for everyone, appealing to families, professionals and city dwellers alike, thanks to an offer tailored to each individual. This trend is helping to reduce traffic, relieve congestion and, ultimately, cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Reducing carbon footprint with an electric bike
One of the main reasons why electric bikes are seen as an environmentally-friendly solution is their ability to reduce carbon footprints. Thanks to the work of the European Cyclist Federation, emissions from electric bikes are well documented. In France, for example, an electrically-assisted bicycle consumes just 9g of CO2 per kilometer – 30 times less than a conventional vehicle, which emits an average of 271g of CO2 per kilometer.
However, to create a fully sustainable product, challenges remain for the future of the industry.
The challenges of a local production
For many bicycle brands, managing where to produce their electric bikes is a major challenge. Cost and local infrastructure considerations lead many of these brands to choose Asia, particularly China, as their production location. However, this strategic choice has its limits in terms of sustainability, particularly when it comes to transporting parts to Europe, a source of considerable pollution.
Faced with this problem, more and more brands are opting for minimal European production, even if this means slightly more expensive products or lower margins. These commitments, perceived as a guarantee of quality, are welcomed by consumers, encouraging other brands to follow suit.
As a result, an economic fabric is developing in Europe, including France, for the manufacture of bicycles and all the necessary components. This trend is reflected in a growing number of innovations designed to make electric bikes even more sustainable.
Electric bicycle batteries: a challenge for the entire industry
A major point of concern in the electric bicycle industry lies in the management of electric batteries, posing a challenge for the whole sector. The question of the origin of the metals used arises, whether for lead or lithium batteries. Recycling has not yet been fully embraced by cyclists, who don’t always remember to drop them off at collection points.
Since the decree of September 22, 2009, battery manufacturers have had to guarantee the recycling of their electric bicycle batteries. A number of techniques exist for recycling metals and plastics. However, at present, only 60-70% of a battery is recycled. As the use of electric bikes becomes more widespread, the volumes of batteries to be recycled will increase. By 2025, it is estimated that the volume of batteries to be recycled could reach 1,000 tonnes a year. Collecting and processing used batteries is therefore a major challenge. Repairability is also a major issue.
Faced with this problem, new players are emerging to innovate, like the French company Guach, which offers batteries that are easy to repair, without soldering or cables. Similarly, GreenWay, with its inverter capacitor, transforms an electric battery into an energy source for other devices, thus contributing to more sustainable management of electric batteries.
Greater individual awareness
First of all, Switching to a bicycle is a way to embrace a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle. The VAE encourages sustainable mobility by offering a simple, practical alternative that can become an integral part of our daily lives.
In a way, it helps raise awareness of the ecological gestures that can be implemented on a daily basis. The adoption of bicycles by large numbers of people is a virtuous circle. As the number of people using bicycles increases, more and more new people, through interest or mimicry, will be able to get on board.
As a result, in the future we can expect a more massive awareness of ecological impact among city dwellers, leading them to extend this initial commitment to other measures such as waste reduction and local consumption.
To this extent, electric bike brands have a duty to educate the cyclists of today and tomorrow. In fact, they must defend a lifestyle in line with their product by educating and explaining the impact of electric bikes.
Moreover, brands also have a duty to educate from a technical point of view. To attract more cyclists, they have a duty to offer optimized products for a pleasant and attractive electric-bike experience.
Future technological advances for the e-bikes industry
Driven by this dynamic and desire to do better, industry players are innovating to make their products ever more attractive and safe.
After theft, safety is the second biggest barrier to cycling. Whether in the design of on-board technology or in accessories and functionalities, the market is seeing the emergence of more and more solutions for a safer e-bike experience.
On-board innovations for a safer experience: a duty for manufacturers
The connected bike
To remove the safety barrier for consumers, electric bike brands are equipping their bikes with solutions that address these concerns. One of these is the connected bike.
By integrating a connected object into the electric bike, it transforms it into a smart bike. A bike capable of receiving and sending data. Using a mobile application, the brand supports cyclists in protecting and maintaining their electric bikes: real-time geolocation, alarms and notifications in the event of suspicious movements, maintenance tips, reminders, etc.
Accompanying the cyclist through these stages is not only an element of reassurance, but also a relational tool that enables the brand to make itself visible and present to its consumers.
C-V2X a promising techology
Other technologies, such as C-V2X (Communication Vehicle-to-Everything), currently under development, offer the potential to enhance cyclist safety through 5G deployment. This developing technology promises to make cyclists visible to other road users.
Bicycle accessories: innovations to optimize rider safety
In addition to these brand efforts, other players are seeking to innovate and offer complementary solutions. As a result, we’re seeing the emergence of connected objects such as dossards to indicate the direction of rotation, or inflatable helmets whose aim is to democratize the wearing of bicycle helmets, while offering safe, lightweight solutions.
Political and economic trends for the future of e-bike industry
To encourage this craze, governments are putting in place legal and financial measures favorable to the growth of the cycling industry.
Anti-dumping law, a European Union initiative to protect the bicycle industry
Introduced in 1993 and renewed in 2019 for a period of 5 years, the European Union’s anti-dumping law is an additional tax on Chinese bicycle imports. Because of their artificially low prices for large volumes, these Chinese imports represent unfair competition for European players. Since 2013, seven other countries have been included in this measure: Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Cambodia, Pakistan and the Philippines. A European investigation revealed that Chinese goods were transiting through these countries to circumvent the legislation in force.
What impact will government investment have on the bicycle industry?
In May 2023, the French government presented its new cycling plan extending to 2027. With a budget of 2 billions euros, it is accompanied by an initial budget of 250 millions euros, announced in September 2022, for the following year.
Of this 2 billion budget, ¾ will be used for infrastructure development, while the remaining qart will be put to work on extending bicycle aid for both new and used bikes resold by professionals. Such an investment has never been made before, and it’s a first that illustrates the government’s ambition.
A bright future for the e-bike industry!
With 738,454 units sold by 2022, the ebike segment is only just beginning to evolve. With the components crisis behind them, industry players must now face up to the economic climate, which is driving cyclists to consume less and increasing brand production costs. In this economically tense context, brands need more than ever to develop a telltale story, and to differentiate themselves from the competition, because even though consumption is slowing down, cyclists are still interested.
So, in a highly competitive market, it’s even more important for brands to differentiate themselves by offering the best cycling experience. Crucial to cyclists, an optimal cycling experience not only provides satisfaction, but also builds brand loyalty.
For this, connectivity is a relevant option, as it not only removes the disincentives to bike use, but also adds an extra dimension through connected services.
At Velco, we support brands in their connectivity projects with our solutions. Our SaaS software suites enable us to offer each industry player the right solution for their needs.
Velco Rider: electric bike brand offering connectivity to your cyclists
With Velco Rider, our white-label application, brands can offer connected services to cyclists and get noticed by them. By supporting them in the maintenance and safety of their bikes, while enhancing their experience in a fun way, the brand can build cyclist loyalty and turn them into potential ambassadors.