All around the world, cycling is gaining in popularity. Especially in overcrowded cities with ever increasing congestion. It is expected that the market for e-bikes will take off in the next few years. This offers loads of opportunities for technological companies, start-ups, as well as the cycling industry itself and the automotive industry, food delivery industry and the public sector.
Times are changing
Not so long ago, the Dutch were known for one particular quirky habit. Instead of travelling by car or public transport, many Dutch people would cycle to work, come rain or shine. But times are changing. From Beijing to Buenos Aires, more and more people – especially in cities – prefer bikes to cars. We are looking at several billion bicycle trips annually, and many more to come in 2022. This could drive profound societal changes, such as reductions in traffic and pollution, improvements in public health, and less-crowded public transit systems.
E-bikes: comfortable, fast and easy to recharge
Especially the use of e-bikes is on the rise. Technological innovations such as lithium-ion batteries (LIB) to assist pedaling, are boosting this growth. Between 2020 and 2023, more than 130 million e-bikes are expected to be sold worldwide, as opposed to only 12 million electric vehicles (cars and trucks) in 2025. LIBs make cycling less of a physical effort (and therefore less “sweaty” when cycling to work) and with an average speed of 25 kilometers per hour, e-bikes will outpace cars and buses in many crowded cities. Also, unlike electric cars, e-bikes do not require a new charging network. Recharging merely requires plugging the battery into a standard power socket for a few hours.
Electric cargo bikes and e-bike sharing
E-bikes could for instance become a preferred solution for last-mile delivery in cities, emitting zero carbon and occupying less space than cars when in use or parked. The impact on take-out food delivery worldwide could be especially high. Automotive companies like Volkswagen are already marketing e-cargo bikes. Another interesting market is bike sharing. Currently, bike sharing usage is still relatively low, but electrification should make it more appealing, since e-bikes are easier to pedal than (heavy-weight) mechanical shared bikes. Chinese shared mobility company Hello Bike has stated that e-bikes are their most profitable division, with 700 million e-bike and e-scooter rides per day – more than twice that of regular bikes.
E-bikes and corporate mobility
In The Netherlands, some businesses are offering e-bikes for lease – both private and corporate. This market is expected to grow as a result of recent Dutch tax law changes (per 1 January 2020). The private use of company bikes is now determined on a lump sum base. For instance, leasing a high-end e-bike with a retail value (plus VAT) of €3,398 will cost an employee only €7.40 per month. From a bookkeeping perspective, implementing this new legislation is easy – it follows the same principles as the legislation for company cars. And the corporate benefits are clear: employers are able to offer an affordable, sustainable and healthy mode of transport to their employees.
Opportunities for tech and other markets
App developers should really look into the e-bike market, for instance to help cyclists plan even faster routes. Other interesting tech markets are accelerometers and gyroscopes, e-helmets, and wearable airbags. Data and analytics technologies, as well as AI, can aid urban planners’ efforts to make cities bicycle-friendly. Until recently, cities were primarily designed around cars. A growing number of cities are beginning to reallocate available space for fast and safe cycling. The Dutch city of Utrecht (or actually, Greater Utrecht) is a good example, as it is striving to become the ‘Cycling city of the future’. For instance, its bike lanes are broad and easy to recognize by its red asphalt, Utrecht Central Station offers great storage facilities for cyclists.
Many vertical sectors should be involved to encourage the use of (e-)bikes. For instance, health institutions. Cycling, even on e-bikes, lowers the risk of heart disease and cancer significantly. For local government, cycling could be interesting from the point of view of inclusiveness. A Dutch city recently did a pilot project with welfare recipients who were given an e-bike. This resulted in a dramatic rise in participation and a drop of the number of citizens on welfare. Employers should also be involved to encourage their workers. After all, healthy employees build a healthy business. As technologies continue to improve, cycling will become faster, easier and safer – creating interesting business opportunities and a more sustainable and healthy world.