Cost-Benefit Comparison: Automobile Folding Electric Bicycle Worth $5 Billion Annual Revenue

Mike leroy

Active Member
Understanding the Ford Smart Mobility electric bicycle project is the motivation behind this posting. Ford designed a special purpose car eBike to fit inside every Ford vehicle. The two eBikes are a result of an internal Ford competition consisting of more than 100 bike designs, over a one year time period.

The eBike conceptually resembles a BMX bicycle, crossed with DOT motorcycle safety features and a computer video game controller in the handle bars.

Ford created a low-cost, international standard eBike. The single most important step towards an international standard is overcoming the legal obstacle of motor power rating. Ford choose an elegant solution to circumvent the silly and naive "watts" motor power rating used by politicians. Ford choose a 200 watt power rating, which masks the motor's true physical power.

To achieve the same speed or hill-climbing ability as conventional eBikes rated in "watts",
Ford choose smaller wheels -- to exploit so-called mechanical advantage. Acceleration or instantaneous bursts of power are not compromised because voltage is raised from conventional 36 to 48 volts. The measure of acceleration for eBikes is from zero to twenty mph in a matter of a seconds. My guess is Ford targets 0-20mph in 8-12 seconds. The eBike will excite riders with thrilling acceleration, without running afoul of international laws.

The significance of an international standard is profound. Incredible economies of scale can be achieved with an international standard. Ford eBikes can realistically sell over ten million eBikes annually for under $500 -- five billion dollars in annual revenue. The Ford Model T -- déjà vu, all over again!

Do you remember the George Jetson cartoons of a folding flying saucer? The Ford eBike is like the Jetson flying pods that eject passengers to their final destination.


The most unique feature is ultrasonic, rear-facing sensors to detect traffic. The technolgy helps blind people detect objects by putting an ultrasonic sensor in walking canes. Like car airbags, ultrasonic technology is a safety feature that should be standard on all bicycles. After all, if ultrasonic sensors park cars, should they also save the lives of bicyclists? What is wrong with this picture, or do you need a walking cane?


eBike features that complement car transportation are explored. The following Star Plot presents costs and benefits in a graphical format. Please note how highly functional and low cost the eBike appears.


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Software, roadworthiness, accessories and low cost components are some of the major design objectives. Important accessories are cell phone integration,
racks to carry compartmentalized luggage, lights and turn signals -- roadworthy features.

Conspicuously missing are expensive conventional eBike features. Euro terminology like "Pedelec", "S-Pedelec" or "R-Pedelec" are refreshingly absent. components such as gears, suspension, and high capacity batteries are omitted. The eBike may not be suitable above 5% grades. A hilly city like San Francisco is probably poorly suited to Ford bikes.

Both eBikes recharge inside the vehicle, facilitating endless short bike trips on inexpensive, durable equipment. The bike design exploits minimum capacity to reduce costs. However, the electrical system is super-charged 48 Volts for best acceleration and power. At 200W, the motor only draws 5 amps. If 350W, 36V, 10 amp European motors are elevators, then the Ford motor is an escalator. The tiny 5A motor compacts well, is very inexpensive and thrives in stop-and-go traffic, rather than blasting the autobahn. The small wheels will spin very quickly.

 

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Mike leroy

Active Member
How to make sense of such a radical departure from traditional eBikes? The first question to ask yourself is: "How would Ford like you to change your commuting behavior?". The answer is presented in the following diagram:

(Link Removed - No Longer Exists)

Link to MoDe:Link diagram

The second question to ask yourself is: "So, what does this mean to me"? I think the answer is more options. You may own or use both a desktop and laptop computer. The Ford eBike is not intended to be general purpose recreational eBike. You would not edit a long, large document on your cell phone. The idea is to make a high performance, short distance eBike at the least cost. The electrical costs are minimized. Having a second, inexpensive portable eBike is as useful as a smart cellphone or laptop computer.

The Ford eBike availability is scheduled for 2016. Should you consider a folding eBike today? Let's try to understand how to best judge such a different, secondary eBike.

Ford eBikes may be most useful in a carpool. Suppose two people carpool together. Having the flexibility to park most quickly may be a great time saver. I lived in San Franciso for a short time period. I remember circling the block trying to find a parking spot for almost an hour. The ability to park ten blocks away is a huge advantage.

Suppose you carpool to work with your husband or a friend. The payoff for an inexpensive, folding eBike is great. The payoff for a grocery shoping or recreational eBike is a very difficult case to justify based on economics. Frequent use is the key to cost savings.

I randomly picked a folding bike for illustration purposes. No particular reason other than it is a middle starting point. At $1700 not the most or least expensive, which provides room to compare tradeoffs. The A2B Kuo Plus was rated 9/10 for the 2014 model, so we feel comfortable the bike is not junk.

My guess is the Ford will cost between $500 and $1000. Ford has global sales volume and resources to drive the cost below $500, but I do not want to make bold predictions. Ford has "experiments" on every continent to emphasize the global scope of eBikes. In other words, the project is not limited to the USA. The sales volume is hard to imagine, but could be staggering if sold in India and China. 25 million eBikes were sold in China during 2014, or 92% of global sales. A billion dollar industry must interest Ford.

I do not know how effectively traditional eBike manufacturers could compete against a serious, global Ford campaign.

The following Star Plot diagrams Benefits against other factors such as Cost. We assumed the Kuo Plus is an "average" bike, based on price. Based on our initial assumptions, all factors in our decision is rated a three(3) on a scale from 1 to 5.
Folding1Purpose.png
Let's consider the eBike features in detail to more accurately judge the benefits provided by the folding bike.

Let's assume you can take advantage of eBike 200 times per year by carpooling with your wife or a friend. You would break even in the first year if you could save $8.50 each day. Saving this amount is very likely when inner city parking or a long distance commuting is an issue. The payoff is closer to several years for bus fares. The eBike is very economical and rated a 5 of 5.

The 250W, 36V, 7A motor requires minimal pedaling, which provides a high Ease Benefit.

Folding2EconomyEase.png

Let's face it, this bike is about practicality. Little enjoyment or excitement, from my point of view, so I rate both a 2 of 5. No harm done. If we reject this bike based on these factors, then we must be willing to pay a higher price. Also, the motor is only 250W and 36V, so we cannot expect to last a long or accelerate extremely fast.

Folding3Enjoy.png


The final factor is the Elegance Benefit, which reflects portability features, e.g., folding, carrying, appearance, etc... We contrast this bike with the most and least expensive eBikes rated on this site.


Maximum power assistance speed 18.7mph
Range up to 25mi
Display LED display, speed, distance, mode, and battery charge
Battery Lithium-Ion, 36v 8ah
Recharging 6 - 7 hours
A2B Motor/ Power 250w brushless DC hub motor
Gearing Deraileur Shimano Tourney 7-speed
Brakes Tektro V brakes
Suspension None
Frame 6061 aluminium frame
Tire Size 20in x 1.95
Curb Weight 39.5lb

Five basic decision types are illustrated as Star Plots below. The tradeoffs you make result in decisions that balance:
  1. Benefits (contains six categories)
    • Economy
    • Excitement
    • Ease
    • Enjoyment
    • Elegance
    • Endurance
  2. Purposes
  3. Costs
  4. Risks
  5. Biases

The six benefit categories represent bicycle features. The features are scored. The benefit category score is the averaged features score. Features often appear in long and tiresome bicycle specification sheets.
 
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Mike leroy

Active Member
Conclusion

Ford expects to deliver an eBike in 2016. My guess is Ford sells a feature-rich, folding eBike for around $750. I do not believe any manufacturer can compete with Ford, if Ford initiates a serious global campaign. Over 25 million eBikes were sold in China during 2014. I suspect Ford is interested in any billion dollar market.

The two EBR top-rated folding bikes reviews were converted to Star Plots and appear below. e-Joe appears on the left and Easy Motion appears on the right hand side.

Ford has the overall highest Benefit (4 of 5) and highest Cost-Benefit Ratio (4.0).

E-Joe:

e-Joe Epik SE Folding 2015.png

Easy Motion:

EasyMotionNeoVoltFolding2015.png


Ford:
FordMoDePro.png
 
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