Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

General Discussion about electric bicycles.
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Kitaro1999   1 W

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Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by Kitaro1999 » Aug 13 2018 10:55am

I have been lurking in forums and I am curious if getting in the ebike market is viable. Here are my pros / cons and would love to get feedback on how to look at it.
Pros:
  • Appears to be somewhat lucrative on the high end. Not so much on the low end.
  • If you find a niche, it is a good business - Juiced (commuter), Lithium (scrambler), Rad (Commuter), Luna (Custom), now Frey (Bafang Ultra), Yuba (commuter), Biktrix (commuter, fat tire)
  • Not a lot of regulations in the US, so having something fun, and supported well, should sell.
Cons:
  • Really no sales numbers to go by for smaller shops. I cant figure out how much people actually sell - e.g. Biktrix or Radbikes- is it 2 bikes a month or 15 ?
  • Tons of brand names entering with underpowered but expensive and well supported LBS (Specialized, giant etc).
  • Not really sure what trends exist. What is an ideal sweet spot for someone to look at ?
  • People are jaded by random Indiegogo campaigns.

My goal is not only to figure out a sweet spot but to identify what a majority of people are looking for. at some point, this is a value game, and people will pay for quality and value (Juiced is a great example for me). Also flash in the pan ideas are great (scrambler) but hard to build a business around one.

Thoughts ?

donn   1 kW

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by donn » Aug 13 2018 1:14pm

Just some newby impressions that you can safely ignore (really) -

Regulations in the US (and elsewhere) seem to me like a big question mark.

Just in the last year, it seems to me that the market has exploded for heavy electric powered bicycles, and I'm seeing big fat tired things, cargo bikes, etc. all over the place. They are undoubtedly taking the place of cars to some extent, and I think that's the question - how many car drivers will switch to an electric bicycle? Where I am, conventional bicycles are popular enough, but after decades of advocacy and improvements, they're still around 5% of the traffic. If electric bicycle technology is appealing to enough car drivers, that maybe another 5% would switch? you just put an electric bicycle fleet on the road in equivalent numbers to all the bicycles out there. So that's a market. There are shops sprouting up all over around here.

But the regulations. Basically designed to keep the electrics in the same class with "bicycle", so they can be subject to the more or less the same rules. Maybe makes sense; maybe, arguably, it's the way to make no one happy. Mixed use trails are supposedly protected from over-powered hot-rod electrics, but when they become arterials for people trying to get to work on 750W cargo bikes, there's going to be unhappiness. The same bike can hit the streets pretty comfortably where bicycling has been OK, but in the heavy arterials where there's inadequate shoulder and traffic is 40mph, they can't keep up and will get in the way.

So my guess would be that somewhere in the curve, there's going to be a big market for something like an electric moped, and an evolving regulatory environment could make a big difference in how that turns out. I might have to wear a 3-pound helmet, pay for a license plate, probably. OK, but will I be able to drag this critter up a short flight of stairs, for example?

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spinningmagnets   100 GW

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by spinningmagnets » Aug 13 2018 1:26pm

The benefit of ebikes is that we are living in a golden era right now. You can have an ebike that doesn't scream "hot rod" but has a very satisfying amount of power ( *as long as you ride safely around other people).

Doesn't require a license plate, road registration, insurance, or a moped operators license. It's a loophole, but...it exists.

That being said, customers will pay a little more for someone with technical expertise to perform some of the work. By that I mean, you buy a kit and then install it, the customer test rides it and buys it, you might make $200. Is that enough for your time and effort?

Years ago, I hot a part-time evening job as a cashier. After a full-time 40-hour a week job, I would go to this store and deal with customers. 80% just want to get through their day, like zombies. Ten per cent were wonderful, and ten per cent were awful.

Are you willing to wrestle with the ten per cent of customers who are horrible? No matter how hard you try to satisfy them, they will make your life miserable. They want the absolutely lowest price, and also the best possible customer service, for a product that may not even work for their application.

If you don't kiss their asses, they threaten to ruin your business. Sounds like fun?

Kitaro1999   1 W

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by Kitaro1999 » Aug 13 2018 2:05pm

spinningmagnets wrote:
Aug 13 2018 1:26pm
The benefit of ebikes is that we are living in a golden era right now. You can have an ebike that doesn't scream "hot rod" but has a very satisfying amount of power ( *as long as you ride safely around other people).
This is true.. but how does that affect or factor into what consumers want to buy. You are one of the pioneers in the space - where do people want to be - the 80% or a large enough population.
spinningmagnets wrote:
Aug 13 2018 1:26pm
If you don't kiss their asses, they threaten to ruin your business. Sounds like fun?
Yeah - I have seen the 10% being the most vocal as well. Tons of disclaimers - full transparency - especially if you don't do business in person. No way to escape it.

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by Kitaro1999 » Aug 13 2018 2:09pm

donn wrote:
Aug 13 2018 1:14pm
Regulations in the US (and elsewhere) seem to me like a big question mark.

So my guess would be that somewhere in the curve, there's going to be a big market for something like an electric moped, and an evolving regulatory environment could make a big difference in how that turns out. I might have to wear a 3-pound helmet, pay for a license plate, probably. OK, but will I be able to drag this critter up a short flight of stairs, for example?
That is an interesting take. Even though everyone is talking about regulations, cities are still struggling with basic biking infrastructure issues. Sometimes I feel that infrastructure will address regulations - i.e. if there are dedicated bicycle lanes for long commutes (6 miles or more, one way), then everyone will feel the need to have something sturdy enough, an potentially powerful enough to use as the primary means of commuting. Ebikes for me are a logical answer at that point. Today a bunch of people bike on shared bicycle and walking paths - ebikes aren't the solution there, and IMO neither are the regulations.

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by AHicks » Aug 13 2018 2:25pm

Here's another thought regarding small business. You are always one pissed off customer away from bankruptcy, especially if you are building conversions - as at that point you are the manf. and take on tons of responsibility when it comes to an accident. Even if caused by operator error, an accident involving a friend, a bike built as a favor, whatever. If something negative happens, YOU are the one things are going to back up on.

E-bikes make a way better hobby than they would a business.

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by ScooterMan101 » Aug 13 2018 2:37pm

The Niche that has not yet been realized yet, is the Niche between ( A cross between / A Hybrid ) of ..
A Bicycle , and A Motorcycle/Scooter
With
Longer Wheelbase of at least that of a full size 1,000cc motorcycle , Full Suspension of at least 100 - 125 mm for each wheel, at least 3/4 enclosure, with wind screen that directs the wind over your head , and fairings that direct the wind/rain around you.

If done with 2 wheels have outrigger wheels that come down when the speed is 5 mph and under , these wheels do not have to have a very wide stance, just a little more than the width of a a wide bodied American, Sumo Wrestler and/or Samoan .

More important is the need for three wheel aerodynamic trikes , larger than a velomobile that the Northern Europeans make.

2 wheels in front is OK, but leaves the disadvantage of not much down force on the back wheel .

2 wheels in back is better ... as long as you make the front of the trike able to tilt.
There are several examples of this, like the very old Honda Gyro, the more modern Carver Motorcycle, etc.

I would not even try to design and sell a bicycle, there are so many People / Companies that are already making e-bikes that there is just , No , niche left,

What we really need in the world is more NEV's ( Neighborhood Electric Vehicles ) that are lighter in weight than the Typical Golf Cart, more along the lines of a slightly heavier velomobile. Long Wheel Base, Wide Track.

As time passes by more and more Cities and Towns are going to allow such a NEV to travel on most all city streets , and at speeds of up to 42-45 mph , in order to save on parking spaces, clean up the air, and all the other reasons that we should be using more EV's .
BTW , here in California a bicycle , Can use most or in most areas all of the Right side traffic lane on city streets and country roads. So making a wider , longer, faster e-bike , 3 wheeled bicycle is already allowed, the only part we need is for More of US to get our local and State Governments to allow us , with such a NEV , to travel at faster than the 28 mph allowed now. ( Not for bike paths though, just higher speeds on the Roads that Car/Motorcycle's travel on )
My first conversion ... Sold

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=71378&p=1077497&hil ... 1#p1077497

It's 2018 already, ( now 2019 ) lets get some real , improved e-bike / e-velomobile / e-motorcycle designs .

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by Tommm » Aug 13 2018 3:03pm

Depends, are you looking at reselling or making something? What power level? One niche I can think of is high powered bikes that don't look like high powered bikes. This way you neither have to race with slow manufacturer bikes neither moto looking bikes like the bombers or sur ron.

donn   1 kW

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by donn » Aug 13 2018 4:28pm

Kitaro1999 wrote:
Aug 13 2018 2:09pm
Even though everyone is talking about regulations, cities are still struggling with basic biking infrastructure issues. Sometimes I feel that infrastructure will address regulations - i.e. if there are dedicated bicycle lanes for long commutes (6 miles or more, one way), then everyone will feel the need to have something sturdy enough, an potentially powerful enough to use as the primary means of commuting. Ebikes for me are a logical answer at that point. Today a bunch of people bike on shared bicycle and walking paths - ebikes aren't the solution there, and IMO neither are the regulations.
Sure, infrastructure could make it work. My city is crazy about bicycle infrastructure projects (two way street - city hall is crazy about doing them, and they're driving neighborhood residents crazy.) But they're dealing with a lot of constraints because the streets are already built, and a powerful bicycle activist lobby that has hazy visions of Amsterdam or something, and the results are glitzy but not robust. They end up designing for the target they can hit, basically a slower speed cyclist who needs a lot of reassurance, and the outcome is going to present some similar problems for ebikes and other high velocity cyclists as the mixed used paths. Once that's done, there's not much room for revisions later - unlike regulations.

Something that could keep up with cars at a moped level, but manageable weight, park in a bicycle rack, etc. If that can be built, I'm guessing the legal requirements will be adjusted to make it work.

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by wturber » Aug 13 2018 4:35pm

If you are asking here and don't have a clear idea what your business model would be, then it probably isn't a very viable business for you right now. You need to be out in front of most of our thinking...

That said, I think there are opportunities in e-bikes. But I wouldn't recommend it to anybody who wasn't also passionate or at least highly interested in and motivated by ebiking.
"Commuter - DC Booster"
Iron Horse 3.0 hardtail - 48V / 1000W / 470rpm generic Chinese DD Hub motor (ebay)
8 x 36v 4.3ah 10s 2P battery packs - 1500W 30A DC Boost Converter delivers 54v and about 1000 watts peak
53T/42T Sakae Road cranks - 30mph+ on flats
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=90369

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dogman dan   100 GW

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by dogman dan » Aug 14 2018 7:06am

I don't want to be too discouraging here, but first step is liability insurance for your product and an LLC. So you are not one pissed off customer away from bankruptcy, including homelessness. The LLC at least lets you keep your house or other personal assets when the sky falls.

Regulations. One of the biggies is battery shipping. Obeying the regs on shipping lithium plus costs of good customer service is why legit mail order vendors battery is 800 bucks, and others are 400. You are really screwed if your pissed off customer is the USPS or Fed Ex. They hate a sneak shipped battery burning their planes, trucks, or warehouse. To avoid this disaster, step one is not selling cheap ass stuff that burns houses down. So up front costs go up, and you still need a big mark up to cover CS.

Finding the unfilled niche to sell in is tough by now. Big players are covering ready to ride bikes sold in shops, and mail order trikes and bikes as well. Some equally big players cover good quality mail order kits, and even bigger ones cover the cheap ass kit. Guys like BMS Battery shipping from china.

But if you live in a market that has a lot of ebikes running, here is one often unfilled niche. Repairs. Especially resurrecting stuff sold by companies that don't exist anymore, or even just models that don't exist. The local bike shop that now sells e bikes have no real experienced ebike mechanics yet in most cases. If you live in a big city, you could do a van based mobile bike shop, and repair both e bikes and regular bikes, by appointment. Something like the way they do windshield replacements now. This could also include installing kits on bikes, or other custom work they can't get from the treks and such at the bike shops.

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spinningmagnets   100 GW

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by spinningmagnets » Aug 14 2018 11:44am

I agree that learning to troubleshoot and repair ebikes would be a vital first step. Make that your side business for a while? Also maybe installing BBSHD's?

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by LockH » Aug 14 2018 12:27pm

My "two cents"? (In Canada it's up to a nickle...)

I'd go after a local conversion biz. To start selling kits and the expertise for converting the millions of bikes that are already "out there".

1) Folks can do the work "cheaper" (than buying a whole new ebike), given that used bikes are extra-cheap to buy... if they don't have one already...
2) They start accumulating the tools and knowledge to DIY repairs and upgrades... like, have they a volt-ohm-ammeter yet?

This from an accountant... having graduated before that in marketing... :)
L
ES changed my life (for the waaaaay better).

Eff. June, 2014 Phoenix Ebike Promotions

(Current ride? High speed lawn chair.)
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=57408

Phoenix Ebike Promotions conversion kit (work in progress. More drink holders, etc etc)
viewtopic.php?f=15&t=60564

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by wturber » Aug 14 2018 1:18pm

If I were to do conversions, I might consider upgrading existing bikes with 250 or 350 watt (based on controller wattage) Class 1 and 2 kits. But I probably would not convert existing bikes that would motor someone up to close to 30 mph. And conversions to existing bikes would have to go through a thorough check-out from an independant bicycle shop for roadworthiness before I'd touch it.

If I were doing Class 3 and/or 750 watt and above conversions, I'd probably only convert new bikes. And then I would only want to convert new bikes that I was familiar with in order to keep things efficient. In other words, I'd stock the bike and customize the Class 3 conversion for you.

I think conversions are great fun for us hobbyists. But as a business, I think you have to be careful to manage efficiency and minimize liability.
"Commuter - DC Booster"
Iron Horse 3.0 hardtail - 48V / 1000W / 470rpm generic Chinese DD Hub motor (ebay)
8 x 36v 4.3ah 10s 2P battery packs - 1500W 30A DC Boost Converter delivers 54v and about 1000 watts peak
53T/42T Sakae Road cranks - 30mph+ on flats
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=90369

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LockH   100 GW

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by LockH » Aug 14 2018 1:22pm

^^ Oh. "go through a thorough check-out from an independant bicycle shop for roadworthiness"... V.Good point! :)
ES changed my life (for the waaaaay better).

Eff. June, 2014 Phoenix Ebike Promotions

(Current ride? High speed lawn chair.)
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=57408

Phoenix Ebike Promotions conversion kit (work in progress. More drink holders, etc etc)
viewtopic.php?f=15&t=60564

Joined yer local chapter of EA yet?
(Ebikers Anonymous - Where we're all miserable failures, but the parties are hilarious...)

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by donn » Aug 14 2018 2:29pm

wturber wrote:
Aug 14 2018 1:18pm
If I were doing Class 3 and/or 750 watt and above conversions, I'd probably only convert new bikes. And then I would only want to convert new bikes that I was familiar with in order to keep things efficient. In other words, I'd stock the bike and customize the Class 3 conversion for you.
As someone who is doing that kind of conversion on my own bicycle - I agree. I can't see any point at all in, for example, the lady of the house taking her Surly to the conversion shop for a setup like mine. I'm doing it because 1) I wouldn't care to ride anything but my long wheelbase recumbent, and 2) I'm willing to lash it up myself. I did get a kit with a lot of the details sorted out. From there, it's fairly well within reach of the average guy, and anyone who'd do the last bit of work on a succession of random bicycles would either have to charge a princely sum or settle for some pretty rough work. And if the DIY approach saves any money, it won't for long, as the Chinese factories ramp up.

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by LockH » Aug 14 2018 6:04pm

^^ This convo getting better and better. :D So. Insist on customer supplying a new bike/trike... then offer conversions. One part I like about any "standard" bike/trike is plenty of spare bits from the "bike industry". :wink:
ES changed my life (for the waaaaay better).

Eff. June, 2014 Phoenix Ebike Promotions

(Current ride? High speed lawn chair.)
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=57408

Phoenix Ebike Promotions conversion kit (work in progress. More drink holders, etc etc)
viewtopic.php?f=15&t=60564

Joined yer local chapter of EA yet?
(Ebikers Anonymous - Where we're all miserable failures, but the parties are hilarious...)

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dogman dan   100 GW

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by dogman dan » Aug 16 2018 6:29am

Not so sure there is much money there in conversions, sure, maybe up to $100 to strap on a kit. But doing the upkeep on a list of satisfied customers ebikes who the bike shop told to f off could grow and grow. Many of them will have bought kits with problems, or got a non functioning e bike freebie, or whatever. Now they have nowhere to turn.

It would be a weekend hobby thing for quite some time of course, as you gained experience, and a customer list that turns to you every time they get a flat on that motor wheel.

Depends on the market too, I live in a medium size city, and all my experience is worth zero here. Not nearly enough e bikes around here at all.

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LockH   100 GW

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by LockH » Aug 16 2018 10:34am

dogman dan wrote:
Aug 16 2018 6:29am
Depends on the market too, I live in a medium size city, and all my experience is worth zero here. Not nearly enough e bikes around here at all.
Hehe... Stand by: "BPSA data shows sales of e-bikes for the first six months of 2018 are up by 83 percent in units and 78 percent in dollars from the same period in 2017 — after nearly doubling between 2016 and 2017. The relevance of this category to IBDs and consumers continues to skyrocket, and Interbike is the place to see new product, learn from the experts, and stay on top of the trends — all under one roof."

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=57933&start=6525#p1403445

:wink:
ES changed my life (for the waaaaay better).

Eff. June, 2014 Phoenix Ebike Promotions

(Current ride? High speed lawn chair.)
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=57408

Phoenix Ebike Promotions conversion kit (work in progress. More drink holders, etc etc)
viewtopic.php?f=15&t=60564

Joined yer local chapter of EA yet?
(Ebikers Anonymous - Where we're all miserable failures, but the parties are hilarious...)

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Re: Is entering the ebike market a viable business now?

Post by nfmisso » Aug 16 2018 3:15pm

Kitaro1999 wrote:
Aug 13 2018 10:55am
I have been lurking in forums and I am curious if getting in the ebike market is viable. Here are my pros / cons and would love to get feedback on how to look at it.
Pros:
  • Appears to be somewhat lucrative on the high end. Not so much on the low end.
  • If you find a niche, it is a good business - Juiced (commuter), Lithium (scrambler), Rad (Commuter), Luna (Custom), now Frey (Bafang Ultra), Yuba (commuter), Biktrix (commuter, fat tire)
  • Not a lot of regulations in the US, so having something fun, and supported well, should sell.
Cons:
  • Really no sales numbers to go by for smaller shops. I cant figure out how much people actually sell - e.g. Biktrix or Radbikes- is it 2 bikes a month or 15 ?
  • Tons of brand names entering with underpowered but expensive and well supported LBS (Specialized, giant etc).
  • Not really sure what trends exist. What is an ideal sweet spot for someone to look at ?
  • People are jaded by random Indiegogo campaigns.

My goal is not only to figure out a sweet spot but to identify what a majority of people are looking for. at some point, this is a value game, and people will pay for quality and value (Juiced is a great example for me). Also flash in the pan ideas are great (scrambler) but hard to build a business around one.

Thoughts ?
My thoughts (no offense intended): you are not prepared to start and make money with a business. Take a look here for some resources: https://www.sba.gov/business-guide

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