E-Bikes Already At $1.5 Billion Annual Revenue & Being Fought For Globally

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As CleanTechnica continues down the path to the formal e-bike market report in early 2019, we’ve been doing core market research. We’ve been scouring data sources for manufacturers of e-bikes large and small around the world. Some of our findings are surprising. Which countries and companies are dominant, which ones are set to be dominant, and which are competing hard for the gold prize is an interesting story.

Articles in the series leading to the report have included the innovative disruption facing the space from electric-assist bicycles, the challenges facing major motorcycle firms such as BMW and Harley-Davidson, the different issues facing startups such as Zero and Alta, the unexpected impacts that are emerging, what’s driving the transition and the prevalence of retro design in the space.

Have an insight that’s important or a portion of the space that the series hasn’t covered? Get in touch via comments or email.

This article focuses on a snapshot in 2018. Future articles will review various projections and assemble a new projection, but let’s start with the basics, such as who is making coin today and how much? These figures are gleaned from publicly available sources such as Owler.com and Alibaba, and mistakes are the author’s.

Note that there are undoubtedly small bike shops making e-bikes in almost every country in the world. If there is a significant vendor in a country that we haven’t identified, please let us know so that we can improve this material. All charts are by author.

Geographically, there aren’t a lot of surprises. As this chart of e-bike manufacturing revenue by country shows, China by itself is the biggest manufacturer of e-bikes, followed by the USA and Taiwan. That last comes with a political wrinkle, however. China considers Taiwan to be part of China, while Taiwan considers itself independent. Taiwan, or the Republic of China, lost its UN seat to the People’s Republic of China in 1971, but still maintains official diplomatic relations to 16 countries and informal diplomatic relations with most of them.

Why this is interesting is that the two largest revenue firms for e-bikes globally are both from Taiwan: Giant and Merida. This chart shows the top 15 firms by estimated e-bike revenue.

Recently, the EU found against China in an e-bike dumping investigation, specifically calling out Giant China. It’s frequently difficult to tell where companies start and stop when it comes to China, as many operate through local partnerships. What percentage of Giant’s e-bike revenue is specific to its China subsidiary is somewhat opaque at this point.

There are a couple of additional points worth noting about this chart. First, the majority of firms in the e-bike market today are making less than US$100 million specifically from e-bikes. Giant and Merida, at an estimated US$170 million, are more than double the size of the next largest individual competitor. They are well-positioned to continue to dominate. Second, while most companies have a relatively limited number of models across a handful of categories, the number of variants within models is very large, especially for smaller pure-play Chinese manufacturers.

Merida stands out for having the widest range of e-bike models, but that’s a wide variance within specifically mountain bikes and road bikes. They don’t manufacture tandems, cargo, or folding e-bikes, as many of the other companies do.

Another way to look at the data is to summarize it by major continental / geographical groupings. Under that view, it’s clear that the roughly $1.5 billion in revenue is dominated by Asia Pacific.

Dominated by China and Taiwan, but with a reasonable contribution by Japan, APAC constitutes roughly 60% of global e-bike revenues.

North America, including Canada and Mexico, is somewhat surprisingly ahead of European firms in terms of revenue with roughly 23% vs roughly 19% of global revenues, which given the greater prevalence of e-bikes in Europe historically is indicative of both rapid growth and diversification of manufacturers. Trek, Specialized, and Cannondale appear to have the largest share of the e-bike revenue, but pure-play Rad Power is doing very well at around $30 million annual revenue, and GoPlus, a recreational goods company, is doing well too.

Europe, long a home of e-bikes, has three dominant firms. Riese and Muller and Sporttechnik of Germany see an estimated $76 million and $60 million in revenue, making Germany the e-bike powerhouse, without counting Bosch’s dominance in high-end e-bike motors. Scott Sports of Switzerland is just beating Sporttechnik in annual revenue, with Raleigh, BH Bikes, and BMC making up the remainder and spread across other countries.

The next summary of the data highlights some interesting aspects as well.

Unsurprisingly, the dominant type of company making e-bikes are companies that historically made bicycles. The barriers to entry are lowest by adding e-bike options to existing manufacturing lines. The number of components changes as does quality control, but the price point is higher. E-bikes have been a lifeline for many bicycle firms, with just over 50% of total estimate revenue coming from firms such as Giant, Trek, Specialized, BAOGL, and Bianchi.

However, a very large number of pure-play e-bike companies have sprung up, and on average they are very young and very much Chinese. At present, roughly 38% of the market and growing is made up of companies whose primary product is electric bikes.

There are three other interesting numbers in that table, showing total revenues including e-bikes from $16 billion to $146 billion. The $146 billion total revenue including e-bikes in the automotive space is entirely due to GMs recent announcement of two electric bikes, but there is no revenue from those yet, and its unclear if GM is seriously entering the market or merely doing some marketing. The $42 billion revenue including e-bikes is another Japanese firm, Bridgestone, which has $12 million estimated annual revenue inside Japan from e-bikes. Yamaha and Kawasaki make up most of the motorcycle company e-bike revenue. Yamaha’s e-bike motors are in a large number of e-bikes sold globally under different brands, just as Panasonic’s batteries are (it’s not in these numbers as it doesn’t sell assembled e-bikes, just components.)

With US$1.5 billion global annual revenue in e-bikes already and expected growth rates in high-single or low-double digits, depending on the analyst, major manufacturing concerns in the market already, and rapid increases in pureplay e-bike firms, this is a market to watch.

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Michael Barnard

is a climate futurist, strategist and author. He spends his time projecting scenarios for decarbonization 40-80 years into the future. He assists multi-billion dollar investment funds and firms, executives, Boards and startups to pick wisely today. He is founder and Chief Strategist of TFIE Strategy Inc and a member of the Advisory Board of electric aviation startup FLIMAX. He hosts the Redefining Energy - Tech podcast (https://shorturl.at/tuEF5) , a part of the award-winning Redefining Energy team.

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