3 reasons why e-bikes belong at National Drive Electric Week
Monday, September 15, 2014
From Sept. 15-21, the U.S. is celebrating National Drive Electric Week, a weeklong acknowledgement of all things electric and transportation. The event has grown since its inception in 2011 and promises to be even larger in scale this year.
The goal is to raise awareness of electric vehicles and to accelerate their adoption. Although it has undoubtedly worked — helping to introduce such vehicles as the Tesla Model S, Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF — there seems to be an aspect of the industry that is often overlooked: electric bicycles.
This year, electric bicycles (or e-bikes) should be represented in the National Drive Electric Week, and here are three reasons why.
1. They're electric
National Drive Electric Week is a nationwide celebration and awareness of today's widespread availability of plug-in vehicles. The event is meant to highlight the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles — usually referring to trucks, cars and motorcycles.
But recently, e-bikes have not only gained in notoriety, but also have begun making their claim as another branch in the growing move toward a more electric-friendly era of transportation.
At this year's Interbike International Bicycle Expo, Caitlin Giddings, who is an author for Bicycling magazine, noted that e-bikes are beginning the muscle their way into the conversation about transportation viability.
"At Interbike's Outdoor Demo, there have been two clear trends in evidence: fat bikes and e-bikes," Giddings noted. "I heard lots of compelling arguments for electric assist, and not just from vendors selling the bikes. Cargo e-bikes are ready to replace your minivan. Tandem e-bikes with regenerative brakes can recharge their own batteries on the downhill."
Apparently, the electric revolution doesn't begin at four wheels. It begins at two.
2. Worldwide explosion
Recently, e-bikes have been amassing a following internationally, especially in India and Europe. Even though e-bikes haven't yet exploded in America, Giddings noted how they have definitely caught on internationally. That may be an understatement.
According to New York Times author Danny Hakim, the e-bike is tearing up European roads: "E-bike sales are now surging in Europe, especially in northern countries with long cycling traditions. For some markets, e-bikes have recently been the only area of growth."
Hakim went on to say, "There are 250,000 on the road in Switzerland, according to the European Cyclists' Federation. In Germany, bike sales were down 5.5 percent last year, but sales of more expensive e-bikes were up almost 8 percent and now command about 11 percent of the market. In the Netherlands, which has Europe's highest per capita bicycle usage, the overall bike market fell slightly last year, but e-bike sales rose more than 9 percent."
Similarly, in the Netherlands, several government-backed experiments are under way in an effort to get more people to use e-bikes, according to an article in the Dutch News.
According to Jan Willem van Schaik for BIKE Europe, the e-bike explosion in France is unmistakable: "On a volume of more than 2.7 million, e-bike sales are still small at 56,000 units. However, in 2013 it was the main segment with double-digit growth figures in a slightly decreasing French bicycle market."
If the international market has awakened to both the practicality and purpose of e-bikes, can the United States be far behind? National Drive Electric Week could be the e-bike industry's tipping point for recognition, pushing it finally into the U.S. cultural consciousness.
And isn't that the reason for the event's conception?
3. Shared demographic
People who like electric cars, more than likely, will also like e-bikes.
People who like electric cars want the freedom that comes with not having to rely on gasoline and other fossil fuels. For these people, electric is the way to go. What better way to raise awareness for your cause than to champion similar causes. Inciting the "see, everyone's doing it!" phenomenon is a great way to change minds.
National Drive Electric Week is a great way to change minds as it has been proven to actually work. The National Drive Electric Week "bump," where products showcased have experience both a rise in interest and sales, has been documented.
Imagine the traction that could be gained for an industry that has found great success abroad, but is searching for a place at the EV table.
The goals of the EV owners are the same goals for e-bike owners. Perhaps 2014 is the year that both industries embrace the other and decide to move forward together.
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