Market for electric bikes outpacing autos

February 9, 2009 10:16:00 AM PST
You have probably considered a hybrid car. Why not a hybrid bicycle or scooter? The market for electric two-wheel transportation is growing faster than the one for cars and trucks.

"The thing that's really changed electric bikes and scooters is the battery technology," says Doug Schwartz, "the fact that you can now get a lithium-ion battery that's small, it's lightweight."

Schwartz is CEO of ELV Motors, the eBike dealer in Santa Clara. He says, "The nice thing about electric bikes is it's not replacing exercise because all electric bikes give you the option to pedal."

Colin Daniel agrees. He is a sport bike enthusiast in San Jose who took up e-cycling six months ago. "They're really fun to take," he says, "because they have enough torque that they can climb the hills with a little bit of pedaling. It's really about fun, because, once you get on it, you stop thinking about everything else. It's just how easy it is to have fun."

Last year 25 million ebikes were sold in China alone. In the US, ebikes sales are increasing by 50 percent each year. The typical eBike sells for $1,000 to $3,000. Schwinn recently jumped in with the Tailwind model that allows you to swap spare batteries.

Coming on even stronger are hybrid mopeds and motorcycles which sell for $3,000 to $4,000. X-treme scooters offers one capable of 60 mph for 90 miles on one charge.

Doug Scwartz offered ABC7 a ride on one of the most powerful ePeds yet in the US, the VM3000H.

"Here we have one of the first hybrids in the United States. It's gas and electric powered. So you can either go electric or you can combine the two to get up to 130 miles per gallon," he says.

At 20 mph you cannot hear anything because the electric motor is on. But, once the bike is up to a certain speed the engine automatically cuts in.

It is not quite a two-wheel Prius, because there is no regenerative braking. However, ELV motors and others are undertaking research and development to add that and other innovations to make eBikes and ePeds even greener and more efficient.

ELV Motors is in negotiations for a plant to build their own eBikes in San Jose.