E-Bike Sales Are Surging in Europe
BERLIN — With a faint electric whir, Iris Marossek pedals her bicycle through concrete apartment blocks in the heart of old East Berlin, delivering mail to 1,500 people a day.
Painted yellow and black like a bumble bee, her bicycle is a nod to both past and future. It is decorated with an image of a curving black horn, harking back to earlier centuries when German postal workers trumpeted their arrival. But the twin battery packs under her seat also reveal it is more than the average bike.
Ms. Marossek rides one of the 6,200 e-bikes in service for Deutsche Post, the German mail service. E-bikes use electric motors to make them easier to pedal and have been gaining popularity in bike-loving countries like Germany, appealing to older people, delivery businesses and commuters who don’t want to sweat.
“They are really nice and they are only getting better,” Ms. Marossek said. “You’re not as exhausted as you would be with a regular bike.”
With tens of millions of e-bikes already on the road in China, e-bike sales are now surging in Europe, especially in northern countries with long cycling traditions. For some markets, e-bikes have recently been the only area of growth.
There are 250,000 on the road in Switzerland, according to the European Cyclists’ Federation. In Germany, bike sales were down 5.5 percent last year, but sales of more expensive e-bikes were up almost 8 percent and now command about 11 percent of the market. In the Netherlands, which has Europe’s highest per capita bicycle usage, the overall bike market fell slightly last year, but e-bike sales rose more than 9 percent.
So far, the appeal seems largely limited to countries with a strong bike culture. In China, consumers often use cheap e-bikes with lead-acid batteries, a bane of environmentalists, instead of scooters, and they have also made headlines for leading to more accidents in a country known for its dangerous roads. In Europe, e-bikes are more expensive and evolving out of the traditional bike market.
In other areas, it still represents a niche. The United States has yet to significantly embrace e-bikes, and in New York State, they are still regulated like motorcycles, presenting challenges to mass adoption...
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