The 2008 LEV Conference was held in Taipei and Hsinchu from March 15-19. Markets and marketing as well as new technologies, industry standards, and rental systems were key topics. A report by Susanne Bruesch.
The first two days took place during Taipei Cycle Show at the new Nangang Exhibition Center in Taiwan’s capital city. The organizers – ExtraEnergy, ITRI, and TAITRA – had recruited speakers from all over the globe, who provided excellent insights into individual markets, marketing concepts, and the latest technological developments.
On the following three days, workshops were held in Hsinchu where industry representatives discussed the further development of EnergyBus and BATSO standards. Key topics throughout the conference were projects, which support further market growth. These include standards for battery safety and connecting electrical components, international promotion concepts, and a pilot battery rental system in Stuttgart, Germany.
To begin with, lectures were given on the status of specific markets.
China faces new Challenges
Sales of electric vehicles are increasing worldwide. China is still the number one market. Jean Chen, who owns an EV Sales and Service business in Shanghai, reported that China sold about 20 million e-bikes in 2007. But the rise is predicted to slow down in the coming years. Large electric scooters that were predominant at last years Shanghai Cycle Show have left customers unsatisfied and are prohibited in most regions. In cities like Shanghai there is no clear regulation that classifies electric scooters as a category of its own. The industry is facing a new challenge with people demanding for better quality.
India on the Rise
A newly emerging market with a large potential is India. A little jealous about the Europeans easily spending 2,000 Euros on an electric bicycle, Ed Benjamin, who is responsible for Business Development at Ultra Motor UK., reported about India as a country where price matters more than most other things. Yet, the UK based company successfully sells electric bicycles and scooters in India. With a lot of marketing effort, Ultra Motor has opened up quite a number of own-brand stores. The idea of electric power in combination with modern design and Western influence seem to attract Indian customers.
Netherlands dominant in Europe
According to the latest estimates of ExtraEnergy, 250,000 electric bikes were sold in Europe in 2007. An estimated 60% were Pedelecs sold through IBDs at prices, between 1,200 and 2,000 Euros or more. About 40% of the sales were achieved with 300 – 1,200 Euros products.
The leading market in Europe continues to be the Netherlands, a country in which every inhabitant, 16.5 million, owns more than one bike, and where the population rides as many kilometers by bike as by train. These are the best conditions to create an electric bike market. Sparta succeeded to do so in 2003 with the ION Pedelec: an electric bike with an almost invisible drive unit. Han Goes of Q Square stated that customers expect quality and are ready to pay for it, so customers readily spend more than 2,000 Euros on a Pedelec. About 100,000 Pedelecs were sold in the Netherlands in 2007. Accell Group (Sparta, Batavus, Koga), Giant, and Gazelle are the top manufacturers. Future prospects are promising. Han Goes stated at 2008 LEV Conference that Pedelecs have the potential to reach 25-30% of the bicycle market share in the Netherlands within the next 5 years. This would be a number of 250,000 to 300,000 units per year.
Andrés Moreno from Vehiculos Verdes, who was also a speaker at the Taipei Conference, introduced Spain as a new potential market for electric bikes. So far, there is one specialized electric bike dealer in Barcelona, selling around 100 units per year. This is not much compared to dealers in the Netherlands selling 100 units per week! But the tourism industry in Spain is immense and provides a potential for rental stations and fleet operators.
The Industry needs Standards
In terms of technology, EnergyBus and BATSO standards as well as Pedelec rental and battery vending systems were central topics at the Conference. The industry more and more regards these standards as an important condition for further market growth. Battery safety and compatibility of electrical components are especially important for public rental systems and fleet operation. “With EnergyBus we could develop a fuel cell for the entire market, not only for one particular vehicle”, said Kai Steckmann of SFC AG in Germany.
All lectures of LEV Conference are available for download at LEVConference.org
Last updated: June 19, 2008