There are now more e-bikes sold in The Netherlands than non-electric bikes. But let me qualify that. According to new market statistics 40% of all bicycle sales in The Netherlands last year were e-bikes. However, when you strip out of the total the 11% of all bicycle sales that account for childrens’ bikes then the majority of adult bikes sold were e-bikes.
This tipping point is even more impressive when you see the growth between 2017 and 2018 – the e-bike market grew by 9% in a single year. This is the steepest increase to date.
According to figures from Dutch industry organizations RAI Association and BOVAG more than 1 million bicycles were sold in 2018, with revenues of €1.22 billion of which €823 million were from e-bike sales. The average price of a bicycle in the Netherlands is now €1,207. In 2011 the average was €734, when e-bikes were 15% of bicycle sales in The Netherlands.
In a research note, BOVAG and RAI Association state that electric bikes are starting to become the “new normal” in The Netherlands.
This state of affairs was predicted nearly a decade ago by e-bike advocate Hannes Neupert, founder of ExtraEnergy, a non-profit German consultancy that has been plugging battery-powered cycling since 1992.
In 2010, Neupert told an electric vehicle conference that traditional bicycles would go the way of the dodo: “Electrification will kill the mechanical bicycle within a few years like it has killed many other mechanical products. Bicycles … will remain as historical items hanging on the wall.”
Neupert described the pedal-powered bicycle as likely to become a “fossilised cult object” similar to the washing mangle, the mechanical typewriter and the mechanical camera.
He has since softened this view, admitting that “analog” products also have a future, but remains convinced that the majority of consumers would rather be battery-boosted up hills rather than tax their muscles alone. “Any analysis of development trends over the last 100 years shows a strong and unmistakable trend towards electrification,” he believes.
Neupert’s Das Powerbike of 2000 was the first book about electric bikes, some time before the bicycle industry started taking e-bikes seriously. His non-profit is an electric-bike institute, a center of both excellence and education. It also creates e-bike test protocols.
As well as running the consultancy business and testing lab run from a former factory on his family’s farm in Tanna, near the Czech border, Neupert curates an electric vehicle museum with 1200 e-vehicles, including a folding e-bike produced for BMW and used by athletes and officials at the 2012 London Olympics, and a tiny solar-powered e-car, made by Maserati in 1973 at the height of oil crisis.
Neupert is very much in favor of the suck-it-and-see form of promotion for e-bikes. ExtraEnergy has a roadshow that travels the world getting people to trial the latest e-bikes, including electric cargobikes.
Neupert and ExtraEnergy will be at the Taipei Cycle Show in Taiwan at the end of this month, where it’s expected a greater than ever percentage of the new bikes launched at this key international trade show will be electric.