Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with a very knowledgeable industry expert and the topic of electric bikes came up – as it seems to more and more often lately. We chatted a bit about the opportunities in the category, and he mentioned how Yamaha had made a splash a few weeks back at the Tokyo Motor Show with their line of e-bikes. Not having been aware of the famous motorcycle (and piano, stereo and flute) maker’s e-bikes, I did a quick search for coverage. Here’s what I found.
It turns out that many car makers decided to not exhibit at this year’s big Tokyo Motor Show due to the effect the economic slowdown has had on that industry, and electric bikes helped fill the void on the show floor. Click the image to watch a brief video report from the show by CCTV. The video mentions that Yamaha actually created the first electric assist bicycle back in 1993. I can’t vouch for that claim, but it’s encouraging that the company sees great potential for e-bikes in the near future.
On a side note, it’s interesting that these electric bicycles are on display at the Motor Show. I caught a glimpse at an industry survey, recently, of IBD’s and their interest (or lack of, as it turns out) in selling electric bikes and have to wonder if the specialty bicycle dealer channel will be seen as the place to go for e-bikes in the future or if it will be served by others as well in a significant way. These could be motorcycle dealers or mass merchant electronics dealers like Best Buy. I know there has been a debate in the bicycle community about whether e-bikes should be considered bikes or essentially the equivalent of motorcycles that happen to run on batteries. Designed the proper way, I believe that they can fit into the bicycle category.
I have to say, I finally got to seriously try out an electric assist bike (a Giant) at our East Coast Demo event in Providence a few weeks ago, and I’m now convinced of the potential for the category. If a dealer can get the right customer on one, it’s an instant eye opening experience. Providence’s Mayor David Ciclline (in the photo below talking to Brad Klipping from Giant) came out to the event to try some bikes and I had to really talk him into trying the Giant. The mayor is a cyclist himself, and I think his pride was preventing him from giving the bike a try. He gave in and the smile came across his face right after the first electric-assisted pedal stroke as it did for me. To give him full credit as a cyclist, after the e-bike ride we hit the demo trails on a pair of the new Breezer MTB’s.
I would recommend a deliberate look into e-bikes for bike dealers out there who are on the fence. And give them a second chance if you have had less than stellar experiences with them in the past – it’s a whole new ball game with some high quality innovations by many companies.