466 Million Electric PTW Forecast by 2016

February 18, 2010
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

Electric-powered two-wheelers figure to gain a bigger piece of the motorcycle market. Yet the electric PTW’s fate and projected success remain nothing more than guesswork. Now at least one research firm is putting a hard number on the speculated increase, and it’s a big one –  mind-blowingly big at 466 million units.

The electric Zero X is powered by lithium-ion batteries lasting 40 miles and rechargeable within two hours.
Electric motorcycle technology continues to evolve. Now one research firm predicts the market will explode in the coming decade.

Pike Research, a Boulder, Colorado-based firm, makes the bold claim in its study “Electric Two-Wheel Vehicles”. (Read the press relase announcing the report at: http://www.pikeresearch.com/newsroom/466-million-electric-two-wheel-vehicles-to-hit-the-road-by-2016) It predicts worldwide sales of electric bicycles, motorcycles and scooters between 2010 and 2016 will top 466 million.

Pike’s industry analyst Dave Hurst says of the report: “Demographics and economics are aligning to create a strong market opportunity for two-wheel electric vehicles. In some countries, these vehicles will be engines of economic growth, while in others they will be signals of broader consumer behavioral shifts.”

What kind of electric two-wheelers will dominate? Pike’s analyst cites e-bikes will make up the biggest chunk of the new electric rides saying: “e-bikes will be the largest category with 56% of the market, followed by e-motorcycles at 43% and e-scooters in a distant third place with less than 1%.”

The e-bike class includes low-speed two-wheelers where an electric motor is supplemented by human-power via pedals (or vice versa, with the electric motor supplementing the human rider pedal input). Pike’s executive summary of the report acknowledges the e-bike, e-scooter and e-motorcycle tags vary “substantially across the globe,” citing that China identifies pedal-less models with sub-20 kph (12 mph) speeds as e-bikes.

Pike Research
Asia will power the coming sales boom in electric-powered two wheelers, in particular China. However, the markets in Western Europe and North America are predicted to increase sales too and deliver disproportionately high revenue.

China Driving Trend

The near half-billion sales estimate would call for a massive shift in the current market place. According to the report, the bulk of the electric PTW sales would occur in Asia, with China identified as the dominating market. Pike claims China already commands 98% of the global electric PTW market. It also predicts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2% for electric PTW in China between 2009 and 2016. Asia as a whole is predicted to sport an 8.9% CAGR in electric rides, the increases culminating in 78.6 million Asian sales for the year 2016.

Western Europe and North America

Pike predicts the electric PTW market will also grow in Europe and North America, with Western Europe the largest market outside of Asia at “1.941 million vehicles for a CAGR of 17.3% between 2009 and 2016.” While the number of vehicles sold is dwarfed by the high-volume Asian totals, the European market will generate a disproportionately high amount of revenue. Pike data suggests that by 2016 Europe will make up 3.4% of the e-bike marketplace, but provide 12% of the revenue in the global market.

North America will sport a similar trend, but at a lower volume, with 2016 predictions of 1.9% global sales and 5.6% global revenue (Pike expecting 2016 North American e-bike revenue to reach $1.2 billion). These trends reflects the current markets for conventional internal combustion PTW, with the Asian market characterized by a high volume of low-priced models while European and US markets feature lower sales volumes of more expensive units.

E-Bike Demographics

The Pike Research report identifies key demographic changes for e-bikes within different markets. Younger ridership in Middle Eastern, African and Latin American nations are predicted, with Pike citing UN forecasts of “substantial growth in these markets within populations aged 15 to 64.” Pike also foresees consumers in Asia, and the aforementioned markets, increasingly turning to electric PTW with “increased urbanization and growing wealth.”

With eco-friendly two-wheeled concepts on the rise  Piaggio may beat everyone to the production punch with its HyS gas electric hybrid scooters.
Potential electric PTW sales in Europe and North America could come via the Piaggio MP3 hybrid (above) and Brammo Enertia (below). 
The Brammo Enertia taps electric power  making it a green alternative - especially when sourcing renewable power  like solar.

This is opposed to North America where the average e-bike consumer is identified as an affluent baby-boomer (age 45 to 65), whose purchase is the byproduct of “more of a lifestyle or style choice, rather than fulfilling a missing transportation need.”

Pike Research, which describes itself as “a market research and consulting firm that provides in-depth analysis of global clean technology markets,” targets its report toward OEMs, retailers, investors and government agencies. The firm ends its executive summary (the full 37-page report costs $2500) saying: “Overall, Pike Research sees a strong opportunity for growth in the electric two-wheel vehicle market.”

Certainly 466 million units is a strong growth opportunity, and a staggering claim. If it holds, the big question remains who will fill the demand? Thus far the only production electric motorcycle from a major manufacturer is the Piaggio MP3 Hybrid, a gas-electric hybrid. Honda debuted an electric-powered concept of its ubiquitous Cub at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, but no plans for mass production have yet been announced.

In the US, the electric market has only been tapped on a small scale by start-ups like Brammo and Zero, as well as Vectrix, which has been revived from bankruptcy. The Pike report aknowledges one of the most important barriers to growth remains a lack of established channels for distribution, sales and service.