Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Electric Bike Hype

A couple days ago the New York Times published an article about an electric bike.

The Eneloop, priced at $2,300, came to stores in the United States late last year. It operates like any normal bike and, save for the black lithiumion battery strapped to the frame beneath the seat, looks exactly like one as well. But when you press a button on the left handlebar, a 250-watt motor gently kicks in, providing about twice the power as your own pedaling — and making you feel like Lance Armstrong on even the steepest slopes.

“The average auto trip in the U.S. is five miles or less,” said David Cabanban, bicycle business manager at Sanyo North America. “At the end of the day, how do you lower pollution and get people healthy? We’ve got to get people back to riding bikes.”


Mr Cabanban offers two points: lower pollution and get people healthy. That's great, but I have to question the use of an electric bike for achieving both goals. An electric bike must be recharged. Riding an electric bike can reduce auto exhaust. One less car, right? But the power required to recharge the bike has to come from somewhere. An electrical assist that will last for 46 miles--and who wouldn't take advantage of that on a 50-pound bike?--hardly entices one to push their physical capabilities.

In the 1990s, people like Lee Iacocca and Malcolm Currie, the former chief executive of Hughes Aircraft, got into the e-bike business. Their bikes had heavy steel frames and the same lead acid batteries used in automobiles, which themselves could weigh 80 pounds. The entire Eneloop weights [sic] about 50 pounds.

What puzzles me is who is in the target market for a $2300 electric bike that weighs 50 pounds?

5 comments:

Lucas said...

If you want to proof that this concept is here to stay, look no further than this:

http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/bike_path/ride_plus/fxplus/

When the great Trek bicycle making company (to steal from BikeSnob NYC) moves into it, it's here. Interestingly enough, that is the same model bike that I use to commute to work, albeit a few years newer. Great bike, too bad they screwed it up and made it three times as expensive with that motor on it.

Autumn said...

“The average auto trip in the U.S. is five miles or less,” said David Cabanban, bicycle business manager at Sanyo North America.

Psh I dont know where he's been but around here the average auto trip is 10+ miles. And quite frankly if I am going to bike that it will be all on my own power.

I have to agree with you though, who exactly is their target audience here? No way can I afford that bike (not that I would want to)

charlie said...

A broad range of electrically-assisted bicycles are available, with prices starting at a few hundred dollars and going up to well more then the Eneloop product.

There is a growing community of electric cyclists in the US. Some ride for fun, others to get where they're going a little quicker or a little less sweaty.

As the prices of good lithium batteries drop (and the number of aging baby boomers looking for transporation alternatives grows) I expect to see a lot more electric cyclists here, just as we have in Europe and China.

Please join our growing community at http://ElectricCyclist.com

Terry said...

As a manufacturer of the Pedego brand electric bike, I can tell you that the buyers of these bikes are baby boomers who remember how much fun it was riding a bike as a kid but just do not want to fight the hills or headwinds anymore. They are not buying them for transportation, not buying them for fitness nor to be eco friendly. They are buying them to have fun. Do they use them for transportation? Yes because they find that it is more fun going to the store on a bike. Are they getting exercise? Absolutely since everyone still tends to pedal while riding, even with the motor on. Are they being eco friendly. A lot more than driving their cars to the bank, post office, etc. There are 75 million baby boomers in the US who have the money and want to be a kid again. Go for it and just have fun!

Hank said...

Charlie,

Thanks for the info.

Terry,

That makes sense. Thank you for posting.