The e-bike conversion market quietly revs up within the wake of the e-bike increase

A model of this text ran within the June situation of Bicycle Retailer & Trade Information


PORTLAND, Ore. (BRAIN) – Store proprietor Brad Davis’s profession as an e-bike entrepreneur presents a peek inside an typically neglected however more and more worthwhile nook of the electrical bike market: e-bike conversions.

A decade or extra in the past, earlier than the trade pivoted and commenced pumping out e-bikes in all shapes, sizes, and value factors, many e-bikes on American streets had been DIY retrofits. Early adopters had to determine set up a motor and battery system themselves or discover a store to do it.

“There wasn’t something good available on the market,” stated Davis, who noticed a chance. 13 years in the past, they co-founded EcoSpeed, an early e-bike conversion equipment that by no means actually took off. “The batteries are all sort of sucked.”

Davis pulled the plug on EcoSpeed ​​six years in the past and opened Nomad Cycles, which focuses on changing present bikes with aftermarket motors – largely from Bafang. “Primarily, Bafang got here out with their BBSHD system, and it was so good and so low-cost that we simply began shopping for theirs.”

Right now, Nomad has a six-person crew that retrofits cargo bikes, trikes, and all kinds of bicycle types.

A number of sellers and suppliers interviewed for this story stated Bafang is the highest motor provider within the conversion market. “Bafang is the market chief for North America by far. They’ve their thumb on the conversion market, ”stated Adam Ostlund, co-founder of the Electrify Bike Firm in West Jordan, Utah.

Different motor producers supplying the home conversion market embody Tongsheng – like Bafang, primarily based in China – and CYC Motors out of Hong Kong. Promovec is a Danish model that has opened a US workplace with plans to start promoting conversion kits to sellers.

Different suppliers embody smaller manufacturers like Electrical Bike Outfitters in Denver that supply motors, battery cells and electronics from China and re-brand them for seller and direct-to-consumer gross sales.

Electrify Bike Firm, positioned within the better Salt Lake Metropolis metro space, has expanded into a number of gross sales channels lately, providing conversion kits on the market to each sellers and customers, doing conversations for walk-in clients and now opening a retail retailer to promote its personal branded e-bikes. “We are going to construct up present bike manufacturers and promote these as conversations,” Ostlund stated.

Sellers say that value is a key think about why customers select a conversion reasonably than an entire e-bike off the showroom ground. For the price of a heavy, entry stage e-bike, customers who personal a pleasant bike or body can proceed using it with an electrical conversion.

“Lots of people already personal very nice bikes, however for a wide range of causes they’ll’t or don’t trip them anymore,” Ostlund stated. “The motors we use for conversions are sometimes the identical motors used on pre-built e-bikes.”

Retirees, Eco-Aware Shoppers, and the Adaptive Market

Dependable information on the scale of the home e-bike conversion market is scant, however retailers and suppliers say gross sales are booming. Marketing consultant and Gentle Electrical Car Affiliation Chairman Ed Benjamin analyzed Customs import data to estimate that about 24,000 DIY kits entered the nation final yr.

Benjamin cautioned that this opaque market is difficult to trace and his depend could also be low.

Requested to explain their clients’ demographics, sellers stated they’re typically older people and retirees – the identical customers courted by e-bike manufacturers.

One other buyer base is people with bodily challenges or accidents that want a trike or hand cycle or adaptive bike.

“It can save you hundreds of {dollars}” by changing an present acoustic adaptive bike or trike, stated Livingston, a mechanical engineer who based EBO in 2015 after present process chemotherapy that scarred his lungs. He transformed a motorbike to electrical help and located it helped his therapeutic.

“This week alone we transformed three bikes for individuals with MS (a number of sclerosis),” Livingston stated.

The Hostel Shoppe in Stevens Level, Wisconsin, is among the largest recumbent trike sellers within the nation, is amongst Electrical Bike Outfitters’ sellers. The Hostel Shoppe obtained into the conversion enterprise a decade or so in the past utilizing the now defunct Bionix system.

“We’re including e-bike kits to numerous these trikes that individuals have already purchased from us up to now,” stated Jessie Bostic, advertising supervisor for Hostel Shoppe. “It will get these people who already personal a motorbike and who do not need to make investments $ 3,000 to $ 6,000 in a brand new full e-bike.”

Livingston of Electrical Bike Outfitters obtained sells kits to retailers in nearly each state. “Some sellers do one or two conversations a yr, and now we have others that order 100 methods. We now have numerous retailers in Florida. ”

Davis’s clients at Nomad Cycles embody dad and mom who “purchased a cargo bike when their children had been small and now the children are larger, they usually want some energy. In case you already personal a good cargo bike, it is a large financial savings to transform it. ”

Davis described one other kind of buyer because the “aware commuter” who owns a superb bike body and feels it will be wasteful to purchase a brand new e-bike.

Different clients need a extra highly effective e-bike than they’ll discover in a store promoting Bosch or STEPS powered e-bikes. Oregon regulation permits e-bikes of as much as 1000 watts.

Warranties, Batteries, Provide Chains, and Security

Nomad expenses from $ 1,200 to $ 2,100 so as to add a Bafang rear hub motor or mid-drive. Most of Nomad’s conversations are for transportation or utilitarian bikes, stated Davis, noting {that a} freight supply firm employed him to affect its freight trikes.

Davis makes use of Bafang motors and as for batteries, he rolls his personal. He sources GA cells from Sanyo and packs them into diverse sizes of battery instances, paired with a battery administration system circuit board.

Livingston stated he sources motors from three totally different factories and makes its personal batteries utilizing Panasonic, LG, and Samsung cells. “We work with the massive three. We don’t do generic cells, ”Livingston stated.

Livingston stated his firm is conscious about security and that each one his batteries and kits are examined and run by way of diagnostics to make sure they’re functioning correctly.

Promovec, the Danish model, is making an attempt to regulate what kind of bikes are transformed. “We do not permit individuals to place them on, for the shortage of a greater time period, division retailer bikes,” stated Steven Harad, basic supervisor of Promovec America. “We at all times ask what sort of bike our clients need to put the system onto. We implore our sellers to do the identical factor. ”

As with the remainder of the bike market, provide chain issues and the pandemic have precipitated shortages. “The whole lot now we have in inventory is pre-sold,” Harad stated. “With Shanghai shut down as a result of COVID we’re struggling to get our subsequent orders out.”

Promovec’s entry into the American market is an indication of rising demand for conversion kits. The corporate’s mid-drive engines are designed to be put in in a single hour. “We designed it for mothers and dads and the typical bike owner,” Harad stated.

For Ostlund, who got here into the bike trade after a “thankless” profession in excessive tech, working within the e-bike conversion market is pure pleasure. A lot of his clients are ecstatic to have the ability to trip a motorbike or trike for the primary time in years. “That could be a buyer base that’s at present not being served by e-bike producers.”

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