Pike Research has concluded the worldwide market for electric bicycles will have a compound annual growth rate of 7.4% between 2012 and 2018. This means global sales could reach almost 50 million units and $13.2 billion in revenue in just six years.
E-bicycles are simply bikes with an electric motor attached to a rechargeable battery. These bikes are gaining in popularity every year with sales in Western Europe totaling 1 million units in 2010.
China figures to be one of the major players in this market, taking the lion’s share at 89% while Western Europe could account for 11.8% or 1.5 million e-bicycles sold. Pike’s projection for the US is far more conservative with sales of 105,682 this year up to 342,526 in 2018.
The one stumbling block as of late has been the types of batteries used for the bikes.
You see, China uses cheaper sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries, which means the average e-bicycle costs around $167 in China as opposed to $815 in North America and $1,546 in Western Europe. While SLA batteries may be cheaper than lithium ion batteries, they are far more environmentally-burdensome due to their lead content. In fact, lead poisoning has become so prevalent in China, the government shut down 90% of battery manufacturing plants.
As of 2012, Western Europe has the highest concentration of lithium ion battery-powered e-bicycles in the world with 65%. North America is right behind with 56% while Asia is at just 4%.
Pike figures lithium ion batteries to grow worldwide from 6% in 2012 to 12% in 2018. The cheaper SLAs will maintain throughout this decade, Pike notes, but new manufacturing practices will eventually drive down the cost of lithium ion batteries enough for them to become the battery of choice for e-bicycles.