E-bicycles give pedal power motorized zip
Bikes with a small electric motor are catching on worldwide as an easy, environmentally friendly way to commute.
Never heard of an e-bicycle? Don't worry, chances are good you might see one cruising a city street near you in the not-too-distant future.
They're electric bicycles, that is, bikes fitted with an electric motor. They've established a toehold in some North American cities as "pedal-assisted" bikes over the years, but the current crop of e-bicycles are already popular in Europe and Asia. In fact, China currently makes up more than 90% of the global market, with about 28 million e-bicycles.
Navigant Research, a Boulder, Colo., firm that monitors so-called clean technologies, says it expects the market for e-bicycles, especially for use as transportation during the daily commute, to expand steadily over the next several years. It projects worldwide revenue from the vehicles will reach $10.8 billion by 2020.
Navigant also says North America will become one of e-bikes' fastest-growing markets, with a projected 9.7% annual growth.
"Growing urbanization is contributing to traffic snarls on city streets in many countries, and pushing people toward other options," Dave Hurst, principal research analyst with Navigant Research, said in a press statement. "The aging global population is seen by many as one driver of e-bicycles' popularity, but the fact is that more young people are choosing them as well."
The Denver Post reports most e-bicycles weigh in somewhere between 30 and 50 pounds. About 20 pounds of that is due to the 36-volt motor, which can propel an e-bike up to 60 miles on one charge, while puttering around at around 20 miles per hour.
Dean Heyek-Franssen, co-founder of Pete's Electric Bikes in Colorado, says new lithium-ion batteries are taking the place of lead batteries and are helping to lighten the e-bicycle as well. The electric motor, he told the Post, "helps the 65-year-old up a hill, but increasingly it is also seen as transportation alternative, a commuting option."
E-bicyles may cost a lot less than a car or motorcycle, but they're not exactly cheap, going for anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000. But Navigant says the recovering economy -- as well as more Americans considering alternatives to owning a car -- should make the U.S. West Coast and other weather-friendly regions prime markets for e-bikes.
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