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The Chinese Electric Bike Surprise | by jurvetson
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The Chinese Electric Bike Surprise

By Jonathan Weinert, Chevron Research, but “These are not the views of Chevron”


“Surprise! - The remarkable rise of electric bikes in China.”


From a demonstration of 100 bikes in 1994 to 20M eBikes and scooters per year in China today. Even remote rural china.


Some data on Chinese eBikes:

• Cost: $200-450

• Top Speed: 16-25MPH

• 350-750W (.5 – 1hp)

• 20-40 mile range


Even cheaper than commuting by bus in China.


Much less particulate matter -> leading to Chinese push. Point source of particulates is worse than power plant far from urban center.


Drivers of eBike Growth in China:

• disposable income: went up 2x to $1200/yr


• Late 90s – gas scooters banned in many cities. 53K scrapped in Shanghai


• 2004 ebikes given right to use bike lanes. “as long as it has pedals.” Also useful if you run out of charge


• 2006: Beijing repeals bans on eBikes. Guangzhou: banned all motorized 2-wheelers


• Tech: 2005-9: switched to brushless motors: 50->85% efficiency. Valve-regulated lead acid batteries: Energy Density up 33%, life up 35%, better cost and weight.


• Externalities: 2003: SARS –> fear of buses and mass transit


Survey: If no eBike, 10% would have taken cars! They have cars, but prefer the eBike for commuting (most would shift to buses, or regular bikes)


How many would have bought a scooter if ban was not there? Most people shift to eBike from bicycles and public transit for cost. 20% would have bought a gas scooter had they had that option.


EV bike: growing and adding wheels. Some are beyond regulations on weight and speed. Some manufacturers are becoming EV car makers. [Low-speed EV examples below]


Shift to LiIon:

Valve-regulated lead acid (VRLA) vs. LiIon Batteries:

• Cost: $110 vs. $420

• Mass: 26 vs.8 kg

• Lifetime: 1.5 vs. 4.5 years


50K/yr estimated EV car sales in China. Resistance points: charging infrastructure (vs eBike – can remove battery easily, and carry inside), battery safety, cost.


Public transit is not keeping up with urbanization.

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Taken on April 7, 2010