Electric bicycles are expected to generate $10.8 billion a year in worldwide revenue by 2020, up from $8.4 billion in 2013.
E-bicycles remain a small niche in North America. A new report by analysis firm Navigant Research credits Asian and European countries for sustaining the market so far.
Projected sales in China this year are about 28 million, 92% of the total world market. According to the report, growth of that country's market is expected to slow because of a weakened economy, manufacturer consolidation and some supply-chain issues in lead-acid batteries. Excluding China, global sales are expected to reach 4 million in 2020, up from around 2.6 million this year.
E-bicycles are traditional two-wheel pedal bikes, outfitted with battery packs, electric motors and handlebar controls. Top speeds for models in the U.S. reach nearly 20 mph; those sold in China max out at 12.4 mph.
Continued expansion of major cities could contribute to the burgeoning market, according to principal researcher Dave Hurst. "Growing urbanization is contributing to traffic snarls on city streets in many countries, and pushing people toward other options," Hurst said.
Eric Busch, store owner of Electric Bikes LA in El Segundo, said a diverse mix of customers has driven the 60% growth in his shop's revenue over the last two years, though baby boomers made up a slightly larger portion than young professionals. "A lot of customers come in and they're looking for a way to avoid traffic, avoid higher gas costs, and a way to have fun on their way to work," Busch said.
A mid-range e-bike sells for about $2,500. According to the Navigant Research report, e-bicycle revenue in the U.S. alone for 2013 will be about $82.3 million, and it is expected to reach $152.3 million in 2020.
"I can tell that awareness of e-bikes has increased," Busch said.
Electric Bikes LA has been open for the last five years, selling and repairing a variety of e-bikes, folding bicycles, kick scooters and electric scooters. In that time, Busch said he's noticed more stores in his area carrying e-bikes.
The bikes appeal to Angelenos looking to simplify their lives, he said. "We've had customers that have bought an e-bike and then returned the lease on their BMW," Busch said. "People just want to downsize."