A global increase in sales of electric bikes seems to be happening despite or maybe even with the help of worldwide recession.
Whilst car sales are expected to drop considerably, in the United Kingdom at least, sales of electric bikes are rising. A to B Magazine, which specializes in electric bikes and folding bikes, has just completed a survey showing that electric bike sales in the UK should top a record 15,000 this year with even higher sales in 2009.
In the Netherlands, over 120,000 electric bikes will be sold this year and in Germany sales are expected to double between 2007 and 2009. According to Bruno Maier of Cannondale Sports Group, which sells the Schwinn line, electric bicycles are the fastest-growing bike segment in the United States and around the world.
Sales in the US are forecast to double to 200,000 in 2009 from the 100,000 of 2005. Other places with increased electric bike sales include Vietnam, Australia, Thailand, South Africa and Eastern Europe.
Sales in the UK are dominated by budget models such as Powacycle and Powabyke. This is in strong contrast to countries like the Netherlands where price is less important than quality, so brands like Sparta, selling for many hundreds or even thousands of Euros sell consistently well.
The Giant Twist Freedom CS electric bike
China and Taiwan lead the world in production, with Giant planning about a million electric bikes a year by 2011. China probably leads in consumption as well with their sales growing from 40,000 in 1998 to 10 million in 2005.
All this is in spite of handicaps such as a shortage of bikes and equipment and waiting lists for some bikes, not to mention a devastating fire at the factory in Germany of one of the main suppliers of bike batteries.
If an electric bike has a motor under 250 watts and is not able to do over 15mph using the power, it is classed as a bicycle and does not require tax, MOT or insurance. The bike should have a kerbside weight not more than 40 kg (60 kg for electric tandems and tricycles) and the rider should be aged 14 or over.