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Shanghai Cycle Show: The E-Bike Industry is Maturing

The 19th International Cycle and Motor Fair was held at Shanghai from April 25 - 28, 2008. The fair was quieter this year––an indicator that the industry is more focused, maturing, and quality is improving. Electric two-wheelers face a new regulation. A report by Susanne Bruesch

This year’s Shanghai Cycle Show was held at the Shanghai New International Expo Center from April 25 - 28, 2008. In nine halls regular bicycles, components, and a large number of electric bikes was on display. Talking about electric bikes, more manufacturers showed a larger number of products designed for export compared to previous years. These products are typical bicycle style e-bikes or pedelecs with a hub motor and a lithium battery on the rear rack or behind the seat post. They are sold at around 250 to 450 USD.

The number of exhibitors showing e-bikes for the Chinese domestic market were less than in previous years. In 2007, most electric exhibits were bicycle style e-bikes with pedals. In 2008 most of them had turned into big electric scooters – equivalents to gasoline motor scooters. This year, there is a reverse trend: electric scooters have changed back to electric bicycles, still with big lead-acid batteries, lots of plastic cover and pedals. Colorful flower decoration is very popular. The typical price for this kind of e-bikes is 2,000-3,000 RMB (200-300 EUR).

Why, this change from scooter back to bicycle style? The Director of the China Bicycle Information Center, Mr. Yu Shi Guang, explained that the industry was not mature enough to supply electric scooters, which satisfy their customers. And, what probably had the most influence on the decline of big electric scooters is regulations. So far there has been no regulation that clearly classified big electric scooters. Basically the same rules applied as for electric bicycles or scooters were prohibited at all. The government is going to change this situation very soon by introducing a national regulation for electric scooters. According to the proposal, there will be two categories: Electric bicycles meaning two-wheelers with functional pedals, 20km/h max speed and no more than 240watts. A new category will be introduced applying to electric scooters of up to 50km/h and no more than 500watts motor output. A helmet will be obligatory for this category. It seems that many manufacturers who set on electric scooters are now re-evaluating their business concept and others are waiting to see what happens. This explains why there were less electric vehicle exhibitors compared to previous years.

Mr. Yu also pointed out that Shanghai Cycle Show focuses on international business, offers more events such as a lithium battery conference and is also more aware of copyrights. Many foreign visitors were refused their visa due to stricter regulations prior to the Olympics. All these factors are reasons why the show looked quieter this year than in previous years. At the same time this development is seen as an indicator that the industry is getting maturing, and, with the quality level rising, is going through some kind of natural selection. Tough competition on price has also caused some companies to disappear.

The Chinese domestic market has been growing quickly during the past years. You see them everywhere on the roads, lately with big chains around the batteries. There is now an accumulated number of 65 million e-bikes in China. According to the China Bicycle Information Center, 21.38 million e-bikes were manufactured in China in 2007, 350.000 were exported. 90.000 units out of this number were sold to Europe. The domestic market is supposed to continue growing but at a slower pace.

Shanghai Cycle Show 2008 (by Susanne Bruesch)
Shanghai roads (by Susanne Bruesch)

May 6, 2008



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