Energy efficiency compared to automobiles is one of the driving forces behind the popularity of the ebike. In some European cities, more people use bicycles and e‐bikes than cars. The manufacturers of automobiles are catching on and want to get in on the next wave of modern transportation. They are turning their design expertise toward creating e‐bikes that are like none we have ever seen before.
Will automakers be the leading e‐bike developers of the future? They are certainly making a bid for the title with these models.
Mercedes was one of the first automakers to break into the electric bike industry. Their e‐bike has a traditional appearance that actually stands out from the others that tend to be futuristic in their design. Maybe it was the dull appearance, or maybe it was the fact that it was not only heavy but slow, but the Mercedes electric bike did not become the status symbol that their cars usually are.
Mercedes learned from this early lesson and has since released the eye catching Smart e‐scooter and ebike. With a more space‐age appearance, both of these models have enjoyed a warmer welcome and
compare well to Mercedes small urban style vehicles.
BMW made a splash when they provided new concept e‐bikes for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The design was attractive and captivating, and they released it before a global audience. Marketing genius is going on over there at BMW. By making the sleek BMW e‐bike ready for Christmas shoppers that year, they were able to take full advantage of the press and excitement over the BMW e‐bike.
Volkswagen debuted a concept e‐bike in 2010 that got a lot of attention. Unfortunately, it has never made it to market. The pedal free, foldable e‐bike was designed to fit into the trunk of, you guessed it, the trunk of a Volkswagen. The lack of pedals made this one technically a scooter, which leads to different manufacturing and riding laws in most countries. It gained attention and high hopes of mass production, but the VW e‐bike remains a concept.
Audi has an e‐bike scheduled for release in 2016. It is fast enough for road trips, durable enough for off road riding, and embodies Audi styling that is certain to get attention. It has more of a traditional dirt bike look to it than some of the futuristic concept e‐bikes that other car manufacturers have created, but enough modern styling is blended in to make it something special. As one of the few e‐bikes created by automakers that looks like it might go into full production, the Audi e‐bike has some great potential.
Several other car manufacturers have taken the step of creating a concept electric bike without any solid plans to mass produce them. Porsche, Ford, Lexus, Honda, and Toyota have all brought prototype ebikes to shows and toyed with the idea of adding e‐bikes to their production lines, but none have taken any steps to make it a reality. They are content to sit back and wait to see if e‐bike usage really does take off in the affluent areas of the world where automobiles are not simply transportation, they are status symbols.
Car makers have faced challenges in the last decade as urban areas become too congested for heavy car traffic and environmental awareness increases. For some, the transition, or at least addition, of a line of e‐bikes seems to be the natural answer. While automobile manufacturers are clearly thinking about the future of electric bikes, so far they have been hesitant to commit to this industry and have focused on the development of electric and hybrid automobiles instead. Only time will tell if the companies that we know of as leading car brands will someday be recognized as the creators of the world’s finest e‐bikes.