Austria turns to e-mobility. Initiatives and cooperations of politicians and players in the private sector are growing the market for e-vehicles. The city of Vienna promotes e-mobility with a subsidy on the purchase prices of pedelecs and e-bikes. Bike manufacturer KTM explores new avenues by cooperating with car manufacturer Opel.
Unlike in neighboring countries Germany and Switzerland, pedelecs and e-bikes only really started selling in Austria in 2009. This might come as a surprise, since the country is mountainous, the cities characterized by narrow streets, where parking is at a premium and trips short - all factors speaking for e-bikes and pedelecs. But, pedelecs and e-bikes were simply unavailable before 2009.
The Austrian bicycle trade is characterized by oligopolistic conditions, with about five wholesalers dominating the market and controlling supply. Now, it seems as if the Austrians have also caught onto the big e-vehicle trend.
The successful entrance of the Austrian bicycle manufacturer KTM to the pedelec market is partly to thank for the latest market development, which has even interested the auto industry. KTM launched a new sport pedelec called e-cross and entered into an alliance with the German auto manufacturer Opel.
To celebrate its 111th anniversary, Opel launched the so-called "ecoPaket" in Austria, a marketing initiative which connects the auto, train and bicycle. When a client buys one of the vehicles listed in the "ecoPaket", he gets, among others, a card for travelling on trains in Austria at special prices (something similar to the Bahncard of the Deutsche Bahn) and a €100 gift coupon, which can be cashed in on the purchase of a KTM bike. For the promotion and Opel's 111th anniversary, KTM built exactly 111 special bikes, called "Opel ecoBike Edition" bikes.
Apart from cross-sector cooperations, politicians are now also blowing life into the market for two-wheelers with their own initiatives. Result: a growing number of Austrians are getting on their bikes.
Last year Vienna's traffic authorities introduced a kind of a "scrap premium" for normal bicycles. The initiative rewarded every Vienna citizen who exchanged his/her old bicycle for a new one with €70, if he/she produced an invoice for the new bicycle bought. The old bikes were later rebuilt and donated to social institutions.
The €70 subsidy increased the number of bicycles sold, but most of all, it made people aware of the alternatives to cars and forced them to rethink their ways. The more pedelecs and e-bikes were seen on the streets snaking though traffic jams, the more popular they became.
Now there is a follow-up initiative. Ulli Sima, a local politician responsible for the environment, is behind it. She says she wants to "motivate more people to swop their cars for bikes in the city and so help the environment and climate".
She subsidizes 30% of the price of a pedelec for the buyer, with the maximum subsidy fixed at €300. In the first phase of the action, the offer is limited to the first 1,000 electric two-wheelers sold. The offer expires at the end of the year, regardless how many bikes were sold.
The Austrian market is set for another boost, when the EU-promoted GoPedelec! project visits Vienna in mid-May this year. Vienna will be the first Austrian city to host the GoPedelec! test track.
Copy: Nora Manthey
Translation: Christoffel Volschenk
27 January 2010