• E2W = Electric 2-wheeler = eBikes + eScooters

The Chinese Electric Bike Surprise

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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.

View 6 more comments

  1. curiousbrandt 110 months ago | reply

    I saw so many E-Bikes, E-Scooters and even E-cargo trikes when I visited last fall. It was impressive, they were everywhere.

  2. Imapix 110 months ago | reply

    Very interesting!


  3. Dr DAD (Daniel A D'Auria MD) 110 months ago | reply

    I would be curious to know what you think is the major impediment to their use here in the US?

  4. Jim Rees 110 months ago | reply

    A 26Kg battery can be easily removed and carried inside?

    I wish the graph had bicycle sales on it.

  5. hanhan131 110 months ago | reply

    very interesting

  6. JKaljundi 110 months ago | reply

    Estonian connection: check out the new urban bike exo bikes who will have their launch event in 2 days. Here's their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Exo-bikes/338281077655

  7. paranoidroid 110 months ago | reply

    Wow good timing, I just got back from Shanghai and wondered about all of these electric bikes. They really are everywhere.

  8. david.orban 110 months ago | reply

    The full slide deck of this very interesting presentation is available on www.jonathanweinert.com/presentations/E2W-CAFCP.pdf

  9. TomiTapio 109 months ago | reply

    I assume E2W means "electric two-wheelers".

  10. eastpole 107 months ago | reply

    "What kind of coal is being burned to power these 'clean machines' ?"

    Compare the thermodynamic efficiency of a gasoline internal combustion engine with the coal plant --> power grid --> battery combination. It turns out (not a shock to engineers) that when you don't have to carry around the apparatus for burning fuel and dissipating the 80% of the energy that gets wasted as heat, you can move a vehicle a lot more efficiently. And of course, when you don't have to make the combustion chamber portable and collision-safe, it can be more efficient too.

    Also, note the horsepower: 0.5 to ~1 hp. Can you build an efficient gas engine that small? Does it have enough torque to go up a hill? For electric motors, we already know the answer is yes.

    The only option more efficient than these scooters is the bicycle, which I believe has already achieved widespread adoption in China. :)

    Thanks for posting!

  11. jurvetson 105 months ago | reply

    thanks. And I just updated the graph for presentation I made yesterday to Castrol/BP management. =)

  12. stella nurina s. 99 months ago | reply

    Great timing. No wonder there are so many electric bycicles here in Shanghai! Great solution to the pollution that's in Shanghai's air!

  13. solerena 96 months ago | reply

    so many bycicles in Beijing... probably the number has grew since last year...

  14. jurvetson 96 months ago | reply

    are you there now?

  15. solerena 96 months ago | reply

    here, bycicles are here there and everywhere:)

  16. Jim Rees 96 months ago | reply

    For a while the Chinese were busy converting their excellent bikeways into roads for motor vehicles. I hope they've stopped that.

  17. jurvetson 84 months ago | reply

    I worked with Jonathan to get the latest numbers out of China... The EV category is mainly the E2Ws, and the installed base is up to 200M now...

    Screen Shot 2012-06-08 at 11.17.43 AM

  18. eastpole 84 months ago | reply

    Thanks for the update!

  19. ecarecar 73 months ago | reply

    Dr. Weinert's work is very important.

    However, some of his earlier writing strikes me as even more interesting. It was about the modularization of Chinese electric vehicles and the use of interchangeable parts.

    It seems as though progress on this very important engineering tool has stopped. That is most unfortunate.

    I have written a short essay on the subject with a very interesting photo.


  20. jurvetson 73 months ago | reply

    Thanks. I saw that photo in a presentation once, but I can't recall the source:


    I think the comparison was with the electric car... If we leave the battery pack as a module from a supplier, there are so many fewer parts in an electric motor...

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