2020 was always going to be a big year for e-bikes in the UK. Sales of the electronic personal transport systems were expected to increase significantly, bolstered by a series of high-profile launches from both newcomers to the market and established brands. Yet according to UK government figures the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed increased demand to the point that supply is struggling to keep up.
Part of the reason for the growth is that bike sales, in general, have rocketed as consumers sought safe ways to travel. Retailer Halfords recently posted figures highlighting that for the five-week period to 25th September there had been a 46% growth in cycling sales compared to the same period last year. It does acknowledge though that the boom is fuelled not only by the demand for new traditional bikes, but also e-bikes and scooters.
So what of the future? Here then are five reasons why e-bike sales will boom in 2021:
1. They are already on a significant growth curve – In the ten months to October 2020 50,626 e-bikes entered the UK from the EU and 74,691 from outside the EU, adding up to a total of 125,317 units sold. This is a 23.6% increase on the 2019 total of 101,362. The 2018 total was just 67,300, so demand has doubled in less than two years. Halfords reported in September that overall growth in Google searches for electric bike and e-bike related terms have jumped significantly from 2016 to 2020, with a massive 172% increase.
2. More countries are building e-bikes – Taiwan remains the key e-bike supplier for the UK with a total of 31,487 units representing a market share of 25%. There is also significant growth from EU countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic as well as China and Thailand which have had plenty of opportunities to increase sales to the UK. How Brexit will impact on the supply chain remains to be seen. The last month has seen several major European bike dealers as well as a few global brands refusing to ship products to the UK because of confusion over the new regulations.
3. The big bike manufacturing countries are switching from traditional to e-bikes – Taiwan has traditionally been the major player in the production of carbon and aluminium bikes. Michael Tseng, Chairman of the Taiwan Bicycle Association (TBA) recently cited the country was looking to ramp up its e-bike production. In the first half of this year, Taiwan increased its e-bike exports to 410,000 units or 21%. Export values of e-bikes reached €440 million, on par with regular bikes which stood at €491million.
4. The established bike brands are taking bikes more seriously – The last few years have seen a launch of a range of e-bikes from premium brands such as Bianchi (Aria e-road,) Cannondale (Synapse Neo 1) and Orbea (Gain M201) being three of many examples. These are high-end road bikes that incorporate electronic features to target older cyclists who wish to have the option of going electric to take on hills while still cycling for fitness.
5. British companies are still playing catch up, but have lots of potential for growth – Halfords has a series of e-bikes for sale from UK based makers including Carrera, Boardman and Pendleton, and the UK also boasts premium brands like Gocycle. There are however lots of opportunities for growth.