Since the end of Covid, the European electric bicycle market has experienced a new dynamic. Users have discovered the benefits of electric bikes: faster in urban areas and more environmentally friendly. In 2021, sales of electric bikes and muscle bikes have reached an all-time high with 22 million units sold. If on a global scale the trend is observable, one cannot deny the disparities according to regions. For example, in some Northern European countries, the bicycle culture is more established and strong cycling policies have been in place for several decades.
To have a better understanding of the current state of the electric bicycle market, these different dynamics lead us to take a closer look at certain regions, with a first focus on the D-A-CH zone, which is made up of Germany, the leading country for bicycles in Europe, and Austria and Switzerland.
What is the state of the electric bicycle market in Germany, Austria and Switzerland?
The ebike market in Germany, an exemple of transition
In 2021, out of nearly 4.7 million bicycles sold in Germany, 2 million were electric. Nearly twice as many as in 2018. These data testify to the attractiveness of electric bikes in a country where 83 million Germans own 81 million bikes for an average modal share of 12%. From the manufacturer to the cyclist, via the politician, this beautiful dynamic is the result of actions taken by all.
German quality is also an argument in the world of electric bikes
Like in the automobile sector, in the world of e-bikes the made in Germany is also recognized as a sign of quality, engineering and premium. Kalkhoff and Riese & Muller are leading brands in the e-bike world for these reasons. Moreover, with 1.43 million electric bikes produced, Germany is the 4th largest bike producing country in Europe.
As for the motor manufacturers, Bosch is the great representative of German expertise. Coming straight from the automobile industry, it has managed to impose itself in front of Asian competition. The dynamics of the German market are such that more and more automobile giants like Porsche are also being tempted by the e-bike adventure. Indeed, the brand with the horse has shown its interest in the sector by acquiring shares in Fazua, a German producer of motors for electric bikes.
German cyclists: a preference for premium options
According to a recent Deloitte study, the preferred type of electric vehicle for Germans is the electric bike, which they use for sports or recreational use. As in many European capitals, after the Covid, Germans have massively converted to it. According to statistics from the German industry association (ZIV), in 2020 the sales volume of electric bikes increased by 43%. Their market share has also increased from 31.5 to 38.7 percent. While in recent years Germans have increased their consumption in terms of volume, the trend is also confirmed in terms of value. The average purchase price of an electric bicycle on the German market is 2,800 euros, which is 1,000 euros more than in France. This price disparity can be explained by the tendency of Germans to turn to higher-end bikes.
Bicycle use encouraged by public authorities
According to the European Cycling Federation’s 2022 report, Germany has one of the most comprehensive cycling policies in Europe. According to the same report, Germany is the third country in Europe where governments invest the most in cycling policy per person. With €9.2 per capita, the country on the other side of the Rhine is just behind the Netherlands (€13.6) and Ireland (€36.0). Indeed, Germany has a real plan to promote cycling. Launched in 2021, it should extend until 2030. Its ambition is to :
- Reduce bicycle fatalities by 40%.
- Increase its use (in distance and number of trips)
- Increase public funding for cycling from 11 to 30€ per habitant
In conclusion, in the context of a modal transition, Germany is a good example. While the industry is showing a great investment dynamic, the cyclists are receptive to the quality of the products offered while the state keeps investing to encourage the pace. Thus, Germany is well on its way to resembling countries such as Norway or the Netherlands.
Switzerland, a slow growth of the electric bike market
With a modal share of 6%, the Swiss electric bicycle market has not escaped the dynamics of the European market. Encouraged by this, the Swiss industry achieved record sales during this period. In 2020, 171,131 electric bicycles were sold, bringing the electric bicycle market share to a record 10.7%. This volume was achieved mainly thanks to the entry-level and mid-range electric bike, which is more popular with Swiss cyclists. In 2021, once the excitement has passed, the trend has continued. Indeed, sales of electric bicycles still jumped by 9.4% compared to the previous year (187,000 electric bicycles sold) while those of muscle bikes dropped. Nevertheless, this positive development of the bicycle market remains weak compared to that observed in other countries.
A bicycle support policy in its beginning
For a long time, Switzerland was considered to be absent on this front and did not have a bicycle plan. In 2018, following a referendum, cycling was included in the federal constitution. This move was aimed at facilitating nationwide action on the part of the Swiss confederation. On January 1, 2023, the law on bicycle lanes came into force. According to this law, the confederation and the cantons will have to plan and build a network of bicycle paths by 2043. The overall objective is to make cycling accessible to all.
Even if the market trend is less pronounced than in other countries, we can expect good growth prospects due to recent political decisions in favor of the development of cycling in Switzerland.
The electric bicycle market in Austria, a confirmed dynamism
A very dynamic Austrian cycle market
While in recent years the volume of bicycles and e-bikes sold in the Austrian market had stabilized at 400,000 per year, between 2019 and 2020 the market boomed with almost 500,000 units sold. In 2021, out of more than 490,000 bikes sold for about half a bike that was electric (45.2%). Thus, compared to other countries in the region, Austria has the highest proportion of e-bikes to total bikes sold (36.6% in Switzerland and 31.5% in Germany).
While the proportion in volume between e-bikes and muscular bikes seems to be relatively equal, the e-bike segment accounts for 73% of the overall value of the Austrian bicycle market, or more than 750 million euros. This large proportion is explained by the average price of an electric bike on the Austrian market. According to the Austrian Association of Sporting Goods Manufacturers and Equipment Suppliers (VSSÖ), the average price of an e-bike in Austria is EUR 3,012, which is very high compared to other countries.
An ambitious bicycle promotion policy
Launched in 2015, the Austrian policy for the promotion of cycling has the objective of increasing the modal share of cycling from 7% in 2010 to 13% in 2025. To achieve this, the Austrian government is counting on investments to improve the quality of the existing infrastructure. Other goals include reducing bicycle fatalities by 50% and serious injuries by 40%.
Austria is also part of the “Danube cycle plan”, an inter-country bicycle plan for the Danube region.
A D-A-CH region that is moving at different speeds in the growth of the bicycle industry
The D-A-CH area is experiencing different phases of market maturity. Switzerland is a young market where the practice of cycling is starting to become more democratic. Indeed, while the Swiss market of electric bikes is experiencing its first large volumes, the government is starting an ambitious bicycle plan. The Austrian market shows a confirmed tendency where the attractiveness of the electric bicycle is strong with volumes and an average cost per EAB higher than in its neighbors. For its part, the Austrian government has understood the need to organize its infrastructure, particularly in urban areas, to sustain the momentum. Germany, the country of the bicycle in Europe, is a completely mature market, consolidating with political efforts that are intensifying to accompany the national and international dynamics.
Furthermore, while there are no concerns about the strength of the German market, given the current economic climate, we can expect demand to weaken in earlier markets. In the face of a slowdown and a hyper-competitive industry, connectivity could be an opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves in order to drive purchase.