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

A model of this text ran within the June challenge of Bicycle Retailer & Business Information


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

A decade or extra in the past, earlier than the {industry} pivoted and started pumping out e-bikes in all shapes, sizes, and worth 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 in the marketplace,” mentioned Davis, who noticed a chance. 13 years in the past, he co-founded EcoSpeed, an early e-bike conversion equipment that by no means actually took off. “The batteries all type of sucked.”

Davis pulled the plug on EcoSpeed six years in the past and opened Nomad Cycles, which makes a speciality of 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.”

At this time, Nomad has a six-person crew that retrofits cargo bikes, trikes, and all kinds of bicycle types. Promovec's conversion kit.

A number of sellers and suppliers interviewed for this story mentioned 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,” mentioned Adam Ostlund, co-founder of Electrify Bike Firm in West Jordan, Utah. 

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

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

Electrify Bike Firm, situated within the better Salt Lake Metropolis metro space, has expanded into a number of gross sales channels in recent times, providing conversion kits on the market to each sellers and shoppers, doing conversions for walk-in prospects 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 conversions,” mentioned Ostlund. 

Sellers say that worth is a key think about why shoppers select a conversion somewhat than an entire e-bike off a showroom flooring. For the price of a heavy, entry degree e-bike, shoppers 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 will’t or don’t experience them anymore,” Ostlund mentioned. “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 knowledge 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 Automobile Affiliation Chairman Ed Benjamin analyzed Customs import information to estimate that about 24,000 DIY kits entered the nation final 12 months. 

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

Requested to explain their prospects’ demographics, sellers mentioned they’re usually older people and retirees — the identical shoppers 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 1000’s of {dollars}” by changing an present acoustic adaptive bike or trike, mentioned 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 mentioned.

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

“We’re including e-bike kits to loads of these trikes that folks have already purchased from us previously,” mentioned Jessie Bostic, advertising and marketing supervisor for Hostel Shoppe. “It will get these of us who already personal a motorbike and who don’t wish to make investments $3,000 to $6,000 in a brand new full e-bike.” 

Livingston of Electrical Bike Outfitters mentioned he sells kits to retailers in nearly each state. “Some sellers do one or two conversions a 12 months, and we have now others that order 100 methods. We have now loads of retailers in Florida.”

Davis’s prospects at Nomad Cycles embrace mother and father who “purchased a cargo bike when their children had been small and now the youngsters are greater, and so they want some energy. In case you already personal a good cargo bike, it’s an enormous financial savings to transform it.” 

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

Different prospects desire a extra highly effective e-bike than they will 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 conversions are for transportation or utilitarian bikes, mentioned 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 different sizes of battery instances, paired with a battery administration system circuit board. 

Livingston mentioned 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 mentioned. 

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

Promovec, the Danish model, tries to manage what sort of bikes are transformed. “We don’t permit individuals to place them on, for the dearth of a greater time period, division retailer bikes,” mentioned Steven Harad, common supervisor of Promovec America. “We all the time ask what sort of bike our prospects wish 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 prompted shortages. “The whole lot we have now in inventory is pre-sold,” Harad mentioned. “With Shanghai shut down because of COVID we’re struggling to get our subsequent orders out.” 

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

For Ostlund, who got here into the bike {industry} after a “thankless” profession in excessive tech, working within the e-bike conversion market is pure pleasure. A lot of his prospects are ecstatic to have the ability to experience 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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