Electric bicycle sales have been on a skyward trajectory since early in the pandemic, and new numbers show they are selling more units than electric cars and plug-in hybrids combined. Those figures recently released by the Light Electric Vehicle Association trade group help bolster the case for personal electric vehicles as alternatives to larger cars and trucks.
According to data released by the LEVA, the US saw nearly 790,000 electric bike imports in 2021. That marks a 70% increase from the 463,000 imports in 2020.
Also in 2021, Americans purchased 652,000 electric cars and plug-in hybrids, according to BloombergNEF.
That data for electric bicycle adoption in the US sits far behind Europe, where e-bike sales have outpaced electric car and hybrid sales for years, and are on pace to outsell all cars (ICE included) in the next few years.
Europe and Asia still handily outsell the US when it comes to electric bikes. The LEVA estimates sales of 3 million and 35 million electric bicycles annually in Europe and Asia, respectively.
Electric bicycle sales have taken off for a number of reasons.
Many commuters have switched to electric bicycles as a way to avoid crowded public transportation and maintain social distancing.
In doing so, they’ve discovered other benefits to e-bike commuting such as being able to commute on their own schedule and arriving directly at their destination instead of a local transit hub. Others are combining the two, using lightweight folding e-bikes to extend their range from transit hubs.
While traditional pedal bicycles offer some of the same freeing benefits as e-bikes, their sales have not taken off at rates anywhere close to the impressive growth of the e-bike industry.
The reduced effort required by electric bicycles has tipped the scales for many commuters who had considered traveling by two wheels but weren’t prepared for the intense effort required by traditional cycling or the inconvenience of arriving at work in need of a shower.
Commuting is a major factor in the skyrocketing sales of electric bicycles, but many riders have also taken to electric bicycles for recreation instead of for utility roles.
Fat tire electric bicycles have seen rapid growth thanks to their ability to traverse both streets and trails, making them impressive dual-purpose vehicles for riders that enjoy both leisure riding and commuting by e-bike.
E-bike prices have actually increased lately due to various factors including supply chain struggles and shipping challenges, but companies have also rushed to launch stripped down models that offer fewer fancy features yet come with lower and more attractive introductory prices.
That funding trend has continued nearly unabated since early in the pandemic.