Dutch e-bike manufacturer VanMoof recently shared some interesting research, and it looks like the US is ready to embrace e-bikes in some big ways.
Before we get to the data, let’s take a look at why VanMoof’s data matters. It has been an active player in the global bicycle market for over a decade, and has earned a reputation for building solid machines. It sells bicycles in over 40 countries, and has flagship stores in a number of them, while selling direct in others. Its sales have grown to tens of millions of euros, and the company has been earning a number of prestigious European awards.
We’ve covered the company before, but probably the most interesting thing we did was review its S3 electric bike. One of our editors, Kyle Field (he’s one of the cooler people I know from Cali), got to spend a few weeks with it, and it turned out to be a really solid bike, even by bike standards. In fact, that’s one of the things he liked the most about it — that it’s just a really solid bike that doesn’t try to lean on its electric aspects to achieve greatness. He described it as “a stealth e-bike set to take the industry by storm.”
Some of the cooler features was an automatic shifting mechanism, an oversized top bar with LED indicators that shine through pinholes, and a generally stealthy appearance that doesn’t look at all like an e-bike. Kyle was able to ride around his whole area with minimal effort and great efficiency/range.
The bike’s connected features is what gave VanMoof the ability to gather a lot of data. As US customers bought them, the company got to learn a lot about how people all over the country actually use the bikes.
One of the more notable data points was that US e-bike riders tend to take relatively long trips. Time-wise, the average round trip is 45 minutes, or 11.6 minutes longer than the rest-of-globe average. In terms of distance, the average trip is just over 7 miles, and exceeds the average for the rest of the planet by almost two miles. These long-distance rides show that people are willing to take longer trips in the States, which means they could actually be useful as commuting and shopping vehicles, and not just for recreation.
“E-bikes make everyone healthier. They reduce society’s reliance on cars and lower greenhouse gas emissions. They increase productivity and space in our cities,” said Taco Carlier, co-founder of VanMoof. “They transform commuting from the worst part of your day into the best. As we look towards a post-Covid future, they will play a central role in our green recovery.”
So far, VanMoof riders in the States have already stopped 118.3 tonnes of CO2 emissions from being released over the last year, and as I’m sure the company is aware, there are many other people riding e-bikes from many other brands, so the overall impact is much bigger.
Changes are also coming to the US market. For one, VanMoof’s sales increased 120% during 2020, as customers realized that electric bikes present a great alternative to public transport systems. With a global pandemic that ravaged the States, riders were looking for better ways to get to work without needing to be in a sealed space with other people. At the same time, showing up to work sweaty and stinky is less than ideal, so e-bikes present a great alternative in that way. As the habit of using a bike sets in, we should see continued growth for commuter e-bikes for years to come.
Another change is in bicycle infrastructure. VanMoof points out that Los Angeles has built 1,190 miles of bike lanes, specifically designed for e-bike commuters to glide through the hills and valleys. Washington, DC cyclists can enjoy 48 miles of bike lanes stretching across the city for a healthy, eco-friendly commute. As CleanTechnica has covered some in the past, bike paths are growing all over the United States, with some plans for interstate routes.
The Federal Government might also get in on the action. Most notably, the E-BIKE act (a bill in Congress) would provide tax credits for electric bikes. Eligible bikes would be covered by the tax credit up to 30% if the bill passes. You can see CleanTechnica’s coverage of the bill here.
Another neat thing is VanMoof’s heat map of e-bike ridership in the United States. As you’d expect, you see a lot of ridership in the larger coastal cities, but they’re also popping up in places like Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio in Texas, and a number of other smaller cities, like Denver and Salt Lake City. Sure, the e-bikes are used more in major cities, but not just the biggest ones. That shows us that there’s a lot of cultural room for growth!
Some Cool Things I Noticed Here
Probably the neatest thing is how stereotypical US behavior isn’t really reflected in this data. I mean, sure, I’ll give you that there are still people rolling coal and making up lies about renewable energy, but us ‘mercans can get over stuff like that when we start to see advantages. Things like electric cars, solar, and now even electric bikes are all things we embrace when we see the fun and savings that can happen, even for people who weren’t early adopters.
At the same time, though, we can see that the focus is still on cities, and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good in that cities are exactly where the collective benefits are greatest. Reduced emissions, more room on traditional transit for new riders, and less traffic are all things cities need that e-bikes can give them. Sure, people who think everyone should ride the bus are going to be disappointed, but the benefits are still there.
On the downside, it would be nice to get more information on the rural users of e-bikes. I live at the edge of a small city, and can’t really use e-bikes for utilitarian things that often, but I doubt that’s the case for everyone (especially people who aren’t self-employed). The impact of e-bikes in small towns and rural areas are something we need to both measure and realize.