Electric bikes going mainstream?

UK group claims powered pedals heading for the big time

Sales of electric bikes in the UK are expected to reach an all time high this year of 21,000 - up by 6,500 on the previous year according to one industry specialist. However, this claim has been strongly refuted by a magazine specialising in electric bikes. 

With the British Electric Bicycle Association formed back in July and more recent news that Halfords will be stocking Urban Mover electric bikes from 2010, it seems that electric bikes are set to become an increasingly strong sector of the UK bike industry.

Current members of BEBA are E-motion, Gepida, Giant, IZIP, Ultra Motor, Urban Mover and Whisper.

Dahon have chosen 2010 to launch their first electric folding bike for many years, the Boost - unusually for folding electric bikes it's a high quality pedelec machine (power being delivered via the chainwheel from a Japanese Sunstar motor). Unlike some other Dahon models the Boost will be available in the UK

The large retail chains seem also to be waking up to the potential of electric bikes sales, with Tesco currently stocking a machine based on IZIP technology. 

MarkLoveridge, co-founder of the British Electric Bicycle Association and UK sales director of Ultra Motor, and source of the 21,000 sales figure, added: “I predict the UK will hit 30,000 units quite comfortably in 2010.” 

According to Loveridge the figures are based on the trends shown by BEBA members and the fact that Halfords have taken on the Urban Mover brand of electric bikes.

Loveridge also told BikeRadar: “There are some other large retailers (I can't mention who yet) who will also be taking them into mainstream stores.” He added: “Halfords accounts for about 38% of all bicycle sales in the UK at the moment and want to make their mark in the electric sector.”

However, asked to comment on the BEBA figures, David Henshaw, editor of A to B magazine, specialising in folding and electric bikes, said:

“In November 2008, we asked the key electric bike manufacturers how they saw the prospects for 2009. In late 2008, most had just a bumper year, with total UK sales of 15,300. At that time, the estimated sales for 2009 were put at 22,800.”

“Preliminary figures for 2009 suggest instead a decline in sales, to 15,000 or even less. Most established distributors and manufacturers have suffered, and some are selling less than half the number of bikes they were selling this time last year. The more expensive brands have suffered most, with some being almost wiped out in the UK, but on the positive side, some newer, smaller companies have done well, increasing output.“

“The shipwreck of the electric bike industry has been caused by the weak pound and rising raw material prices. At the time of our first survey, a premium electric bike cost £1,200-£1,500. The same machines are now selling for £1,500-£2,200. But demand for electric bikes remains strong, and we expect sales to take off again as soon as market conditions improve.”

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