On fire! That is the only way to describe the current US eBike business.
While much of the US bicycle business has been in a slump, one category is showing good growth: eBikes. By some estimates, electric bike sales grew as much as 70% in 2016 and may have reached 250,000 units. Based on researching the current state of the market we believe that combining electric assist capability with our folding, utility, and tandem bikes is a niche we can fully leverage. If Bike Friday were to capture even .5% of the US market in 2018, annual sales of eBikes could reach 1200 units or $2.5M in sales, doubling our current sales. This is also an opportunity for Bike Friday to take advantage of clear interest from our 30,000 Bike Friday owners in offering electric assist kits that can be retrofitted on existing Bike Fridays as well as new bikes.
To take advantage of this growing opportunity we have undertaken a multi-stage project with the goal of a complete line of electric assist products. We've completed the first two stages, and because of the great success of our StartEngine campaign we now have the resources to really dive into stage three. But before we get to the latest developments, here's a quick overview of what we've done so far.
The first stage of this development was a partnership with BionX to provide a robust e-assist system for all of our 406 wheeled bicycles (the New World Tourist, Pocket Llama, Haul-a-Day, and Family Tandem).
The Haul-a-Day cargo bike equipped with BionX e-assist
The BionX system uses a brushless, DC, rear hub motor and can be fitted with either a 6 amp hour or 11 amp hour, 48 volt battery. The system has an impressive pedal-assist feature that monitors your pedal stroke and seamlessly adds power at just the right moment. The amount of boost is determined entirely by the rider, with 4 levels in total. The setup even includes a little red button to give you full power without any pedaling! A backlit LCD display screen shows you your battery life, level of assist, speed, and distance. Another great feature of the BionX is its regenerative braking- great for use as a drag brake, especially on tandems.
Alan Scholz, Co-founder of Bike Friday and Lead Engineer, in combination with eBike experts Grin Technologies, has come up with an outstanding e-assist system for the pakiT- the LiGo system. The LiGo system is revolutionary for traveling as it is the only electric assist battery that you can easily ship and fly in an airplane legally!
The pakiT with the LiGo e-assist system from Grin Technologies
The pakiT with the LiGo system easily converts between e-assist and non e-assist, it’s lightweight even for an e-bike, and its unique battery system allows it to be safely transported on airplanes– because each battery is under 100Wh it meets the safety requirements of most airlines. The system has a Bafang G01 Front Hub Motor that delivers 250-500W of power at a top speed of 18 mph for up to 20-30 miles on a single charge, with a 2+ hour charge time. Speed levels are controlled by a combination of a twist-grip throttle and the Ezee LED console. And because weight is a determinant factor for many, we’ve designed the heaviest parts of the system to be easily removed in under 4 minutes. It’s practically like having two bikes in one- a light weight folder and a speedy e-bike!
Watch this great video of a pakiT with LiGo e-assist!
The current stage of electric-assist development at Bike Friday is the creation of a mid-drive system to round out our offerings. Alan has identified the market, selected outstanding suppliers of motors, batteries and controls, and alpha tested several products over the past year. With the surge of enthusiasm and support from our StartEngine campaign, we now have the resources to begin beta testing our latest systems. Just this week Alan took Hanna's Haul-a-Day off to install the electric assist system. We always test new products on ourselves first, we love being guinea pigs!
Here's Hanna handing off her bike to Alan to electrify:
Stay tuned for more electric assist development updates with more details on our goals and findings very soon!
Hanna and Alan and the Bike Friday Team