A booming market
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.
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.
A practical Dutch pedelec: upright seating and lots of luggage space
Dutch in the Lead: EU Ebike Popularity vs Prevalence of Cycling, 2016 (source: CONEBI, Eurostat, Eurobarometer)