Interbike 2010 had many electric bike and electric assist products on display. I got the sense that electric assist is not only hear to stay but is growing rapidly.
In addition to all of the products, LEVA, Light Electric Vehicle Association, offered several interesting sessions on topics including eBike trends, retail sales, technical, and federal policy. LEVA sponsored an outdoor hill climb challenge as well.
ELECTRIC BIKE PRODUCTS
There were many designs and configurations of bikes and motors that spanned all ranges of price and quality. The competition for North America market share is heating up and companies are very active with new features and innovations to be recognized as leaders.
BionX was well represented with their conversion kits and were showcasing a limited edition high end eBike, the Styriette. The Styriette uses their IGH3 motor that has an integrated SRAM 3 speed hub. This system uses a torque sensor built into the rear dropout instead of the bottom bracket. Because of that, this kit will only be sold to bike manufactures and not as a consumer conversion kit.
At a LEVA technical session, BionX demonstrated their computer interface and program for system diagnostics and upgrades . This program will be used by eBike service departments for upgrades and diagnostics. It will also be used by OEMs for setting initial parameters. Since they have a highly integrated system, they can embed the intelligence in all of their components to allow each component to report status programmatically.
Voltage Cycles had their bike on display, The ElectrickBas. This design is based on a prewar era motorcycle for a very distinctive look.
Many cargo hauling options with electric assist were on display. An example is a new model from Currie, the iZip E3 Metro with sturdy integrated rear rack and bolt on front basket. In addition to cargo bikes, there were electric assist trailers that push the bike they are connected to.
Ultra motor was showing their latest A2B models including the new propulsion system that they will sell to other bike manufacturers. This will not be a consumer conversion kit.
Hidden Power was showing their kit. It is a very light weight system that uses friction drive. It won the Eurobike award 2010 Gold winner for e-bike.
There were several companies large and small not showing their electric assist components. One reason given was that they are focusing on the markets where sales are high and will concentrate on North America later when it appears more promising.
LIGHT ELECTRIC VEHICLE ASSOCIATION SESSIONS
One of my favorite parts of Interbike was seeing the presentations at the LEVA sessions and hearing the questions and comments from the audience. The audience was comprised of retailers, manufactures, designers, and enthusiasts.
After attending these sessions it felt like the eBike industry is at the start of something really big. Now that the retailers are figuring out that they can make higher margins, they will figure out new ways to attract new buyers and get the word out about electric bikes. I think LEVA is going to need a much larger room at Interbike 2011.
Some of the highlights from the sessions include:
An increasing number of retailers that are introducing electric bike products are discovering greater margins and an increase in the sales of all other products. This includes selling electric bike kit conversions. There are several reasons for this but the evidence is real: there is money to be made by the IBDs that sell electric bikes. The early adopters will establish themselves as relevant players in the eBike market and will have more market share later. There is also great potential in eBike service and support as well.
There were sessions that recommended who to hire for eBike service and what skills they need to have. It was mentioned that it’s better to have expert bike mechanics and train them how to use a voltmeter. Most of the service work will be regular bike maintenance.
There were several technical sessions that presented a functional overview of eBikes as well as details about controller design, motor design, and battery technologies and issues. There was a lot of useful information here that I’ll be posting soon.
Many issues with regard to federal policies were presented by ICLA, International Cycling Law Association. There are several issues that need to be addressed including culture, infrastructure, technology, and regulation. To make sure that favorable legislation for light electric vehicles is introduced and passed by the government, will take a lot of effort and money by associations such as ICLA and LEVA.