Electric Bicycle Adoption: Opportunities and Requirements
Book chapter, 2017
Recent rapid advances in technology and scale have enabled the emergence of affordable electric bicycles (e-bikes) with unique mobility value propositions.1 Supported by favourable legislation, this has caused a dramatic increase in both purchase and use. More than 150 million e-bikes have reached end-users during the last decade and 31 million were sold in 2012 alone. The lion’s share of these purchases took place in China, which encompassed 93% of the global market in 2012, but the market penetration is picking up worldwide. European sales grew almost tenfold between 2007 and 2012, with Germany and the Netherlands as the two leading e-bike markets.
Still, the global market is far from saturated. The growing interest in the bicycle’s role in Western urban transport systems, and the emergent global middleclass, are transforming western cities into ever-rising markets for e-bikes. MacArthur et al. forecast that the global annual sales of e-bikes could reach 47.6 million by 2018. The penetration rate of e-bikes already represents the largest and most rapid uptake of alternative fuelled vehicles in the history of motorization.
If the upsurge of e-bike usage is replacing motor vehicle trips, vast potential societal benefits can be reaped. These benefits stem from reduced congestion, reduced local air pollution, and less negative environmental impact as well as improvements to public health caused by the physical activity. Hence, e-bikes, and the adoption of them, are highly relevant for a wide range of researchers and practitioners as well as urban planners. However, despite the rapid development and the vast potential for societal gains, there is relatively little extant research on drivers and barriers for the dissemination of e-bikes as well as on the consequences of it. This chapter introduces why and how current users choose to use e-bikes and what the effects are on personal as well as societal levels. Lastly, the chapter indicates favourable societal trends as well as suggests requirements required for a sustainable large-scale introduction in Sweden.