Ebikes are coming to a town near you (part 1): Europe

Apr 28, 2017

Ebikes are just a niche product, right?

 Not so. Analysts reckon that more than 200 million were being ridden worldwide in 2016 and that 35 million of them were sold in 2016 alone for a total of $15.7 billion. That is estimated to jump to more than $24 billion by 2025. 

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the figures I gave above for ebike sales works out at only about $450 per bike, which seems like a pretty good deal. That’s because the word ‘ebike’ has taken on a life of its own, referring to everything from the €2,000 pedal assist bikes that are increasingly common in Europe (where they are often known as ‘pedelecs’), to miniature electric scooters in China that can be bought for a tenth of that. The rules can be very different as well. For example, throttles are generally fine in China and the US but frowned upon in Europe, meaning that the way that people buy and ride ebikes is pretty different wherever you go. It makes sense to think of each of these regions a little differently, so let’s start close to Hinton Bikes’[Edit: now Flit] home: Europe.

EU Ebike Breakdown - Flit folding electric bike blog post
EU Ebike Breakdown – Flit folding electric bike blog post


Thankfully, these confusing legal definitions are mostly in the background and haven’t stopped Europeans taking up pedelecs by the millions. Sales have leapt from 0.1 million in 2006 to 1.4 million in 2015 as pedelec technology has improved and more people have come to appreciate the convenience that they can bring in congested cities. But the boom hasn’t caught on everywhere equally.

EU Pedelec Sales 2006-2015
Booming Sales: EU Pedelec Sales, 2006-2015 (source: CONEBI)

Pedelecs are far more popular in north-west Europe than elsewhere, with sales in Germany alone topping 0.5 million in 2015. The Dutch buy about half that number each year but, given their much smaller population, this means you’re much more likely to spot a pedelec in Amsterdam than in Berlin. The Dutch are now so keen on pedelecs that nearly one in every three new bicycles sold in the Netherlands has electric assist. It helps that countries like Germany and the Netherlands have well-developed networks of bike paths and cultures where cycling is seen as part of everyday life rather than mainly as a sport.

We’re also starting to see ebike sales growing in other European countries like the UK for the same reasons that they have caught on elsewhere: they are great for rediscovering the freedom of the road in increasingly crowded cities without risking sweat patches at the office. New specialist stores like Fully Charged in London are great for finding out more about the latest trends in the wonderful world of pedelecs, from practical commuters to eMTBs (electric mountain bikes) or retro ebikes, but there is still work to be done before we catch up with many of our European cousins:

Pedelec Sales Penetration and Modal Share
Dutch in the Lead: EU Ebike Popularity vs Prevalence of Cycling, 2016 (source: CONEBI, Eurostat, Eurobarometer)


Pedelecs are having a moment in Europe and are playing a bigger and bigger role in getting people around more quickly, independently, and conveniently than would otherwise be possible. With governments proving slow to tackle issues that affect our daily lives, like congestion and air pollution, it’s time for all of us to take matters into our own hands. At Hinton Bikes we’re contributing by designing the ultimate folding ebike that’s light enough to carry up the stairs, or small enough to store in the cupboard under them. It’s an exciting time to be getting involved. 

Other blog posts in this series:
Part 2: Ebikes in China & East Asia
Part 3: Ebikes in North America

[Edit: Hinton Bikes was renamed Flit in October 2018 – links have been redirected to the new website: www.dev.flit.bike]

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