2005 has been a good year for the pedelec market in Europe. 2006 will be even better, but there will be risks. Read an interview with Hannes Neupert, President of ExtraEnergy, on the biggest information campaign in Europe ever.
Staff Editor: Mr. Neupert, ExtraEnergy has been responsible for the light electric vehicle program at IFMA Cologne for the last 10 years. What was so different in 2005?
Hannes Neupert: For the first time, all high-ranking personalities in the bicycle industry took pedelecs for serious. Ten years ago, most people made fun of our exhibition on as little as 400 square meters. Times are changing.
SE: Why do you think this attitude has changed?
HN: Most manufacturers are struggling for survival in an environment of high risk and low margins. The message has spread even faster, that ACCELL Cycle Group's success has evolved from good sales of the ION pedelec. This is why all leaders in the bicycle industry are suddenly interested in pedelecs now and hope that they can raise their income as well. This reminds me of the mid Eightees when many manufacturers hurried up trying to catch up with the mountain-bike trend.
SE: Do you think the success of Sparta can be transferred to other companies?
HN: This is not as easy as most people think. You need an excellent technological know-how and a lot of time for testing. Sparta has invested many millions of Euros and a couple of years into the development of the ION. But I see some manufacturers on a good way to catch a piece of the pedelec cake.
SE: Will the hectic pace in the industry pose a danger to the market?
HN: Yes! I see danger caused by importers who thoughtlessly use Chinese components without knowing what they do. Here is a recent example: In Switzerland, an importer offered a pretty good product with Lithium battery that the manufacturer declared to be safe. Well, the house of a customer burned down because the battery caught on fire while it was charging. Thanks God nobody was injured. I am also worried about products that are not really useful to the customer and are often far too expensive.
SE: Since 1992, ExtraEnergy has significantly contributed to the development of the pedelec and e-bike market in Europe by means of product testing, exhibitions, promotion events and seminars. What activities are you planning for next year?
HN: ExtraEnergy is working on a big information campaign to support further growth of the market.
SE: What are the key elements of this campaign?
HN: We have just started with the biggest Pedelec & E-Bike Test ever. Test rides will be finished in late November. We have decided to publish the test results in February 2006 to herald the new season and hopefully show new and promising developments. All tested bikes will be on display in a LEV Special Exhibition at the worldwide famous Deutsche Museum in Munich from February to June 2006. At the same time, a Pedelec and E-Bike Special Edition of the German bicycle magazine “aktiv Radfahren“ will be published. It will widely be distributed to the subscribers, through magazine shops and promotional events and also serve as the official exhibition catalog. As surrounding program of the exhibition at Deutsche Museum, a number of promotional activities are planned for dealers and end users. In order to help consumers and dealers to find each other more easily, an improved dealer directory has just recently been installed at the ExtraEnergy website.
SE: Other ExtraEnergy activities are related to electrical components. Where is the main focus?
HN: That's right, in the technological field, a lot is going on, too. The BatteryTest that we are conducting in cooperation with Deutsche Post AG has 15 participants now. More companies have announced their participation, including a fuel-cell manufacturer. A seminar on Lithium batteries is scheduled for November 15, 2005 in Frankfurt. Experts will tackle the current No.1 discussion topic––safety issues, in particular, UN safety regulations for the transportation of Lithium batteries. A kick-off meeting for the EnergyBus organization is also scheduled for November. This will bring the communication protocol for electric vehicle components a big step closer to production. For 2006, we are preparing a number of events to support the dialog between Europe and China on a technological and cultural level. We hope that a better information exchange will help to reduce poor quality products in the European market.
SE: Thank you very much for this conversation. Good luck with all your projects.
HN: Thank you!
More information at the following links:
• Pedelec- und E-Bike-Test 2005/06
• ExtraEnergy Testseal
• „aktiv Radfahren“ Pedelec & E-Bike Special Edition
• LEV Special Exhibition at Deutsche Museum, Munich
• Lithium Battery Seminar
• BatteryTest in cooperation with Deutsche Post AG
October 13, 2005