Before the pandemic, the main appeal of electric bikes (e-bikes) was lower-impact exercise. Pedal when you want to; use the motor for hills. Now, sales are surging as riders embrace a single-person mode of transportation that helps them save fuel while avoiding crowds and traffic.
Deloitte analysis reveals that annual e-bike sales in North America and Europe (combined total) nearly doubled from 2018 to reach an estimated 6.4 million in 2021.1 During 2020–21, even as the pandemic affected consumer vehicle sales globally2 and transit ridership fell 73% in the United States,3 total e-bike sales in the country grew 26% year over year and 22% in Europe.
In 2019, Deloitte predicted strong growth globally for e-bikes during 2020–2022, as they presented a faster, easier and healthier option for commuting.4 Motorised “assistance” also made cycling more accessible for individuals with physical limitations (from disability or age), as batteries reduce or remove the need to pedal.5 In the wake of COVID-19, factors such as personal health, well-being and social distancing have likely made e-bikes even more attractive.6
Besides health and safety reasons, consumers have shown more interest in buying their own means of transport mainly to cut personal commute time, especially over short distances. According to a 2021 study, some 60% of trips in the United States were five miles or fewer—a distance easy to cover on a bike.7 (In fact, enthusiasts report that e-bikes handle round trips of 30–35 miles comfortably.8)
The ability to avoid traffic is another huge benefit of e-bikes. US consumers lost 99 hours per person annually due to traffic congestion and drivers in London, Paris, and Brussels lost 130–150 hours due to congestion.9
Finally, the rising cost of gasoline may be fuelling e-bike growth in the United States and Europe.10 With global uncertainty lingering even after the pandemic, e-bikes seem to represent an attractive, environmentally responsible, short-distance commute option.
Commercial adoption of e-bikes is gaining traction too, in logistics and delivery services, for example, as well as bike rentals. Cargo e-bikes were the fastest-growing e-bike category in Europe in 202011 and increasing adoption of shared micromobility commuting post-pandemic may also bode well for e-bike sales.12
E-bikes have been and continue to be a large market in China, with over 30 million being sold annually, although they tend to be larger, heavier and less likely to use lithium batteries than e-bikes in North America and Europe.13
The pandemic has led to a rapid rise in new riders in new regions. How can the tech, telecom and smart city ecosystem players capitalise on this growing market opportunity?
Higher use of e-bikes (and traditional bikes) during the pandemic led to a significant growth in dedicated cycling infrastructure. Several cities are planning on retaining that infrastructure and even adding to it (e.g., Paris14), which could propel e-bike adoption further.
Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) industry practice brings together one of the world’s largest group of specialists respected for helping shape many of the world’s most recognised TMT brands—and helping those brands thrive in a digital world.