Automotive stalwarts such as BMW, Porsche and German supplier Robert Bosch are betting that e-bicycles will become a lucrative business as consumers look for newer, cheaper and eco-friendly ways to get around.
McKinsey & Co. projects that the micromobility market will grow by 9 percent annually to reach a cumulative $260 billion by 2025. Bikes, including manual and electric ones used in bike-share services, will account for about $180 billion of that, with e-bikes accounting for a growing share of that market.
"In most markets, e-bikes are growing anywhere between 5 and 15 percent per year, while conventional bikes are growing more like 2 percent per year," said Kersten Heineke, leader of the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility. "They're cannibalizing conventional bike sales."
E-bikes are popular in countries with strong biking cultures, such as Germany, Heineke said. They're starting from a lower point in the U.S., where decades of car-centric urban planning have made bicycling as a form of transportation sometimes difficult or unsafe.
For the U.S. e-bike market to grow rapidly, cities and bike manufacturers will need to make sure riders feel safe and that they feel like they are getting significant value for their money, said Carla Bailo, an industry consultant.
"People have to feel safe in them and in their ability to get around, and where the infrastructure for that exists is where sales are going to compound," she said.
Public-private partnerships will be needed to boost safety and prompt U.S. cities to rethink their approaches to infrastructure, transit and urban planning, Bailo said. Bicyclists often have to share the road with vehicles or ride on sidewalks alongside pedestrians, unsafe approaches that often result in collisions.