Electric bikes have been around since the 1990s and are quite popular in China, Amsterdam and most parts of Europe. Unfortunately, the adoption in the U.S has been noticeably slow. As a result, the market for the eBikes in the U.S has remained smaller compared to most parts of say, Europe.
The slow adoption could be attributed to the following factors:
No doubt eBikes cost way more than regular bikes. In fact, electric bikes can cost up to several thousand dollars. And it makes sense. They have additional expensive features.
The motor and the battery alone contribute to almost 70% of the cost. The remaining 30% is covered by the onboard computer, frames, tires, and accessories. This doesn’t even include costs like replacement parts, regular maintenance, and new or additional batteries.
Some of these costs are small. A tire replacement may cost you $50, which is manageable. But replacing a battery will cost you anywhere between $400 to $800. If you use your eBike to commute daily, that means you could exhaust the 1000 charge limit pretty fairly quickly.
Though some may think charging is an additional expense, the cost of charging your ebike costs only a few cents per charge.
While the convenience of an e-bike is admirable, the costs associated with owning one is certainly a big turn off for most Americans.
Why incur extra costs just to get an eBike when you can get the same convenience with a regular bike at a fraction of the cost?
“I don’t need one” is a common response to owning an ebike. And this point is a valid one. A lot of American’s feel an ebike is simply not necessary. Americans prefer driving to riding and most riders do it for other reasons other than transport. This is unlike cities like Amsterdam where eBikes are adopted majorly as a mode of transport. Most Americans use their bikes for short distances which a regular bike does pretty well.
3. Insurance and Regulations
Both owners and those who wish to buy an electric bike are stuck as there hasn’t been a clear definition of electric bikes by the Federal law. The only known law is the one that acknowledges eBikes using motors under 750 watts limited to 20 mph. Any eBike that exceeds this limit is still undefined.
Coming to state laws, some states will require a license and registration while others will not. Very few states have laws governing the use, distribution, and sale of electric bikes. California was the first state to define and classify the electric bike followed by Tennessee, Utah, and Colorado. Other states are struggling to follow suit making the adoption of electric bikes even slower.
This uncertainty on laws and regulations has made so many people apprehensive when it comes to owning an eBike.
There is also concern about insurance. While this may be a good thing, most riders feel its an unnecessary cost. People are struggling to pay insurance for their cars and homes as it is.
4. Maintenance and Complexity
Maintaining an electric bike is not as complex as maintaining a car but definitely more tasking than maintaining a regular bike. For one, ebikes have more components than that of a regular bike. Secondly, these bikes travel faster and longer than a regular bike which means more maintenance.
Unless someone has owned an eBike before, most folks would feel intimidated to get an electric bike. They don’t know how to go about with the periodic maintenance and often assume that it must be more expensive and complex.
Well, ebikes do require more care and attention. You have to think about the motor, battery, and other sensitive components. You also have the potential for mot problems regarding these devices. While you can still pedal an ebike, it’s often harder than a typical bike.
There is also the issue of finding an electric bike mechanic who is locally available. Even though there are mechanics spread in every state, they are thinly spread. Proving to be a challenge for most riders when they encounter a malfunction.
5. Higher Theft
Electric bikes are expensive and thieves love them. While there are lots of ways to protect your ebike, it does come with a price. Having to worry about your bike being stolen costs money and requires extra attention.
And it’s just not the whole bike being stolen. Batteries are being stolen as well, which cost at least a few hundred dollars.
But even though electric bikes are a prime target, antitheft devices for electric bikes are in plenty. They range from simple locks to inbuilt systems, to software that immediately sends you an alert if your bike is being stolen.
The U.S market for electric bikes is small for various reasons discussed. While adoption is slow, electric bike owners in the US have been increasing every year. And if the government ensures there is proper cycling infrastructure, laws and regulations, ebikes will continue to ride upward.