That’s what we’re exploring with this latest guide, which contains everything you need to know about car manufactures, e-bikes and the future of the market.
So car manufacturers are making e-bikes now?
It looks that way. E-bike sales are estimated to grow from 3.7 million to 17 million by 2030, with the pandemic supercharging demand. So, yeah, e-bikes are popular, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by automakers.
Car giants like BMW, Volkswagen, General Motors (Ford, Chevrolet), Seat, Peugeot and Skoda are entering the electric scooter and cycle market. Seat, for example, unveiled a seated 125-cc electric scooter equivalent featuring an 11 kW motor that can reach top speeds of 50 km (31 mph).
Ford, under the General Motors umbrella, even licensed an e-bike back in 2014. Yet, it’s only now that they’re beginning to take action. The real question is, why? Why are car manufacturers so keen to make vehicles that sell for figures far lower than cars?
The world of tomorrow
Big cities, in particular, are becoming more challenging to navigate in a car. Governments are well aware of the need to reduce carbon emissions, and cars are primary polluters. In the UK, cities like London and Birmingham have introduced a tax on vehicles that aren’t environmentally friendly, with drivers having to pay extra if they drive their car in one of the low-emissions zones.
Over time, you can expect even more initiatives to improve air quality in larger cities, and cars will undoubtedly be affected. If fewer people start buying cars and motorbikes, automakers could lose out. While the car market is unlikely to disappear entirely, it makes sense for manufacturers to pivot and explore other avenues to increase revenue.
Urban transportation is moving away from carbon emissions, which spells bad news for conventional cars. Consequently, electric scooter and bike companies are seeing a surge in demand. Automakers want a seat at the table.
But what about electric cars?
Of course, you may ask, ‘but what about electric cars?’. Practically every car manufacturer on the planet is hard at work designing and releasing hybrid and electric versions of their cars, while brands like Tesla only produce electric vehicles (EV).
However, the costs involved with electric bikes are low, which means the market still makes sense for automakers. Electric bikes are easier to build than cars, plus they’re cheaper. Car manufactures can potentially profit from the high demand while still committing to making the cars of tomorrow.
And even though EVs are a smart response to offering more environmentally-friendly drives, the number of people buying cars is falling. This isn’t a new trend either: in the US, millennials, who have the highest spending power of all demographics, bought fewer cars between 2007 and 2014, with sales dropping by 30 per cent.
What about e-bike makers?
Even with the entry – and financial might – of automakers, e-bike companies continue producing electric cycles. After all, they have experience in the market, which gives them an advantage over car manufacturers, who are still finding their feet.
BMW’s first attempt at an electric scooter didn’t go down particularly well. So now it’s turning its attention to bikes, but there’s no guarantee the high-end automobile brand will get it right at the first attempt either. Skoda is also testing the market with a sort-of-scooter-e-bike-hybrid.
A collaboration for the ages?
E-bike companies will probably find themselves benefiting from car manufacturers foraying into the market. Most automakers aren’t reinventing the wheel and instead license e-bike and scooter companies.
That means they don’t build their own bikes – they partner with companies that do. Seat has a scooter reworked from Silence S01as well as other models produced from a partnership with Segway.
While the idea of car manufacturers releasing e-bikes might seem like a threat to electric bike and scooter companies, the reality is something different – at least in the short term. For now, they seem to be working together.
Is it all just a marketing ploy?
There is some scepticism towards car manufacturers and their eagerness to build e-bikes. Many believe this is just a quick and easy PR win for them, showcasing their desire to make more environmentally-friendly vehicles while continuing with a primary focus on cars. It’s good publicity in this day and age.
But what about the future? With changes to the way people get about becoming a long-term trend, automakers will likely see this as more than an opportunity for some good publicity, especially with higher-priced e-bikes.
Right now, there’s a train of thought that people won’t spend £1,000-plus on an e-bike as they’re seen as a fancy gadget. But the more people turn to cycles as their primary mode of transport, the higher the chance they’ll be willing to spend upwards of a thousand pounds.
For car manufacturers, that means higher profits on e-bikes if they can convince riders to spend more. It’s not impossible to imagine people forking a few thousand on a high-end BMW e-bike if they get the design and performance right.
Summary: are car manufacturers the future?
Right now, it’s still early to tell if we’ll all be driving e-bikes and scooters from Mercedes, BMW and Audi in the long term. But it’s also a high possibility. Whatever happens with the e-bike market going forward, there’s no denying that consumer choice can only be good. That in itself is enough reason to be excited about car manufacturers throwing their e-bike hats into the ring.