E-Bikes in Japan - just a little article

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E-Bikes have been utilized in Japan for over 25 years. Not a lot of Americans who know about ebikes, realize this. Yamaha of course has been a big player there. Interesting to note as mentioned in the article, Japan as a country, has crossed the 500,000 annual unit ebike sales mark in recent years, which apparently represents about 10% of all unit sales for bikes sold there.

The US has a LONG way to go, for ebikes to reach 10% of its unit sales of all bikes. It won't likely happen very fast, since Americans love their cars, pretty much shun public transportation except for a few large cities, has relatively poor biking infrastructure compared to other countries, however ebikes might be the catalyst here to help change that. So in this case, slow and steady wins the race, and its more likely to be a marathon. Hence, the huge number of ebike firms introducing product, aren't likely to last. Many are not making good business decisions, often rushing junky things to market, or doing really dumb things on pricing vs value delivered. Too many gimmicks as well, which could come back to haunt them, if they lose their own consumers, or turn people off ebikes. (the stupid e-scooter sharing onslaught is one of many unintelligent examples)

(By the way, Yamaha is in this for the long run here in the US. But they've 'been there, done that' in Japan for many years, and being in the ebike market for far longer than even many EU ebike firms. I expect a lot of US firms will find themselves eventually playing catch up to them, despite their delayed introduction to the US last year.)

Anyway, its a brief article, but intended to expand awareness of what is going on in the world of e-bikes outside of the US. This is really NOT a new market - but with newer emerging battery technology now helping it along a little faster than it was before lithium batteries reached a good price point - I have been following it since the late 1990's. Like the culture in Japan, I've taken my time studying it, observing, learning patiently before putting my now additional time and money into it.

Sometimes little articles like these can be great to learn from, without saying a lot.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2...years-yamaha-motors-first-model/#.XGmOKaJKg-0
 

ebikemom

Well-Known Member
I'd love to see them sell more of the utility type ebikes here that they sell in Japan. Here their models are focused on road, fitness, and mountain bikes. They aren't selling any step-through models with an upright riding position, whereas in Japan they have tons of such models.

I hope they can see that ebikes here have a strong potential beyond those groups. If Yamaha models were available that were oriented to people who want to do grocery shopping, schlep kids around, and get on and off a bike easily without having to throw their leg over the back of the bike, I think that would be great. I think there is a huge market for "comfort" and "commuting" bikes for people who aren't comfortable with an aggressive physical cycling position.
 

Timpo

Well-Known Member
E-Bikes have been utilized in Japan for over 25 years. Not a lot of Americans who know about ebikes, realize this. Yamaha of course has been a big player there. Interesting to note as mentioned in the article, Japan as a country, has crossed the 500,000 annual unit ebike sales mark in recent years, which apparently represents about 10% of all unit sales for bikes sold there.

The US has a LONG way to go, for ebikes to reach 10% of its unit sales of all bikes. It won't likely happen very fast, since Americans love their cars, pretty much shun public transportation except for a few large cities, has relatively poor biking infrastructure compared to other countries, however ebikes might be the catalyst here to help change that. So in this case, slow and steady wins the race, and its more likely to be a marathon. Hence, the huge number of ebike firms introducing product, aren't likely to last. Many are not making good business decisions, often rushing junky things to market, or doing really dumb things on pricing vs value delivered. Too many gimmicks as well, which could come back to haunt them, if they lose their own consumers, or turn people off ebikes. (the stupid e-scooter sharing onslaught is one of many unintelligent examples)

(By the way, Yamaha is in this for the long run here in the US. But they've 'been there, done that' in Japan for many years, and being in the ebike market for far longer than even many EU ebike firms. I expect a lot of US firms will find themselves eventually playing catch up to them, despite their delayed introduction to the US last year.)

Anyway, its a brief article, but intended to expand awareness of what is going on in the world of e-bikes outside of the US. This is really NOT a new market - but with newer emerging battery technology now helping it along a little faster than it was before lithium batteries reached a good price point - I have been following it since the late 1990's. Like the culture in Japan, I've taken my time studying it, observing, learning patiently before putting my now additional time and money into it.

Sometimes little articles like these can be great to learn from, without saying a lot.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2...years-yamaha-motors-first-model/#.XGmOKaJKg-0
Not 25 years.. Since 1970s so well over 40 years perhaps close to 50 years. The article says 25 years after first Yamaha model. Before that, Panasonic, Hitachi, Sanyo and other manufactures were building ebikes. Then the motorcycle manufactures like Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha entered the ebike market.
 
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Deleted member 4210

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Not 25 years.. Since 1970s so well over 40 years perhaps close to 50 years. The article says 25 years after first Yamaha model. Before that, Panasonic, Hitachi, Sanyo and other manufactures were building ebikes. Then the motorcycle manufactures like Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha entered the ebike market.
Imagine the batteries used in the 70's. Probably didn't go far and weighed more than the bike itself. Maybe they were referring to more modern versions that were relatively commercial and practical (for that time) ebikes.

Either way Japan has a good long history with use of ebikes,while the EU seems to get greater press coverage about their experience which is ahead of the US. Meanwhile the 10's of millions of ebikes sold in China, w lead acid batteries would likely not sell well here in the US. Different strokes for different folks.
 
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Timpo

Well-Known Member
Imagine the batteries used in the 70's. Probably didn't go far and weighed more than the bike itself. Maybe they were referring to more modern versions that were relatively commercial and practical (for that time) ebikes.

Either way Japan has a good long history with use of ebikes,while the EU seems to get greater press coverage about their experience which is ahead of the US. Meanwhile the 10's of millions of ebikes sold in China, w lead acid batteries would likely not sell well here in the US. Different strokes for different folks.
I don't know about the range, but I'm sure they were NiCd powered back in 1970s.
Also they didn't have brushless motor back then, so I'm sure the brush had to be maintained or changed.

1979 Panasonic EC2


1976 Panasonic Electro Boy Z
(It was sold under the division of Panasonic, the "National" brand.)
 
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ebikemom

Well-Known Member
Wow, Timpo, great stuff!
I found this cool graphic showing ebike sales from 1993-2005, from 35,000 to 250,000, a huge increase.
Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 5.12.08 PM.png
And, here's the type of bike I wish Yamaha would be importing to the states instead of only focusing on sports/fitness type cycles:
Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 5.13.16 PM.png
 

Roxlimn

Member
Yamaha's 1993 introduction into the ebike scene was significant because as far as I can tell, that was the first instance of what we would call a modern PAS. Older models from Panasonic and Sanyo used a concept more similar to an electric moped.
 

Timpo

Well-Known Member
Wow, Timpo, great stuff!
I found this cool graphic showing ebike sales from 1993-2005, from 35,000 to 250,000, a huge increase.
View attachment 30055
And, here's the type of bike I wish Yamaha would be importing to the states instead of only focusing on sports/fitness type cycles:
View attachment 30056
There's a huge sales drop at 1997 to 2000 and makes wonder why. Also right before that looks like they were selling their ebikes like hotcakes.

I guess the reason why those Japanese bikes don't come to the U.S. is because there's not enough need?

Not just ebike, but regular bicycle as well.
If you go shop for non-ebikes, do you ever see that style of bike? Because I believe in Japan, that's the most common style of bicycle. (not limited to ebikes)
Whereas in the U.S., you hardly see those practical bicycle..

But I know what you mean, the U.S. should have more of those commuter (practical) bikes.
 

erider_61

Well-Known Member
Yamaha's 1993 introduction into the ebike scene was significant because as far as I can tell, that was the first instance of what we would call a modern PAS. Older models from Panasonic and Sanyo used a concept more similar to an electric moped.
 

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Alex M

Well-Known Member
I'd love to see them sell more of the utility type ebikes here that they sell in Japan. Here their models are focused on road, fitness, and mountain bikes. They aren't selling any step-through models with an upright riding position, whereas in Japan they have tons of such models.
Perhaps they (Yamaha) don't see much sense pushing it in this market. Hub drives fill the utility niche well, and for people who prefer mid-drive for grocery shopping and casual riding around the 'hood, there are quite a few BBS models (though I don't see particularly strong argument for mids in this application).

The convenience of step-through is slowly, slowly dawning on people here. I wish there were more step-through to choose from. And, - more low-riders with 20" wheels. "Electric moped"... there is something to it...
 
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ebikemom

Well-Known Member
I wish there were more step-through to choose from
YES! When I was growing up, step-through meant "girl's bike", and most bike styling was aggressive (drop handlebars, etc.) Then I went to Japan in 1980 and saw that step-through, upright ride-style bikes were common frame style for nearly everyone. I almost never saw a "boy's bike" style bicycle. Step-through bikes are accessible for a wider range of ages and sizes of people, for different styles of clothing (dresses! Longer coats!), etc. I'd like to see Yamaha bring step-through frames with an upright riding style, in both mid- and hub-drive types of ebikes. :)
 

ebikemom

Well-Known Member
Pedego has been quite successful with its cruisers and dutch style bikes--their cruiser (the Interceptor) comprises 90% of their sales, and the dutch-style City Commuter is their second best seller. I think Faraday's failure wasn't a styling issue (beautiful bikes!) but a problem of poor range. I think there is a huge untapped market out there. I think bike style choice relates to demographics very strongly. :)
 
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Alex M

Well-Known Member
Unfortunately there have been a great many attempts to bring mamarachis and similar dutch bikes (omafiets, or grandma bikes) to the states. None of them has succeeded, so far.
Wrong timing, or maybe wrong implementation. Were they electrical bikes? And if so, were they common European 250W hub with skinny tires and no suspension?

There isn't much need for mamarachis in a country where 1 child (or less) per family is a norm today.
Besides, states are predominantly rural or suburban. Not a bike-friendly environment. In my area I quite often see low-end step-through with either cargo baskets or one child seat. Rather bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly area, you won't see this in many other parts of the city (hence, makes sense that ebikes in general are not as popular here as in Japan or Europe).

Step-through are becoming popular with aging boomers, as soon as knee and joints problems "help" them to get over the desire to look cool on a diamond frame ;)
 
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Timpo

Well-Known Member
Here's my guess...
I just looked at Japanese Yamaha ebike websites and just by looking at their marketing photos, it's very clear that they're selling their ebikes for everyday use.

The American / Canadian version of step thru ebikes are fundamentally different.

For example, Pedego may have step thru bikes, but if you compare them with Japanese ebikes, Pedegos really are not commuters, they're weekend cruisers.
The only reason Pedego bikes offer step thru is because customers wanted it for comfort, not so that they could use Pedego as a daily tool like Japanese people (picking up kids, getting groceries, going to work, school, and all that stuff)

Look at Pedego website, they're NOT marketing their ebikes for everyday use.
If you look at Pedego pictures, every single picture is something do with enjoying the weekend ride with friends, wife or husband.
Cruising down the beach, scenic ride in the city, in the nature or occasional weekend adventure.
The entire Pedego pictures are something do with recreational ride. (There's no pictures of picking up kids from school, or high school students & working young adults using them for commute, etc.)

In fact, there's no Pedego cruisers that come with grocery basket, child seat, center stand for stability while loading groceries or a child, affordable price, etc. (The Japanese ebikes typically start around $800 or so, yes, much cheaper than the US)
Yes, there are exceptions like Pedego cargo bike, you might be able to install child seat and grocery basket, however considering the price of Pedego is approx 4x of Japanese ebikes, it's hardly a realistic daily commuter for the majority of people.

To be clear, I'm not saying Pedego is bad (I'm using them as an example since their step thru is very popular), they have solid customer service reputation & they sell great bikes, but I'm just saying that judging by their marketing photos, right away I saw the different marketing technique between the Japanese version of Yamaha and popular step thru US bike company like Pedego.

Not just Pedego, look at Rad Power, their Step Thru bikes are more like their MTB style variant with different frame style.
Same goes with any other manufactures available in North America with step thru ebikes.

Here are the pictures I found from Yamaha website:











 
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ebikemom

Well-Known Member
Pedegos really are not commuters, they're weekend cruisers

LOVE Yamaha Japan's marketing photos. I have a middle schooler who ebikes to her activities, and it's clear that Yamaha Japan also has that market in mind! Now, pretty please, bring these bikes to the US??

I agree that Pedego should improve their marketing. They do have marketing materials that show commuters--for example, there's a video about a physician who commutes 10+miles each day to work, and another by another woman who commutes and has a long hillclimb as part of her commute. I don't remember what she does as a job, though .... Pedego also sells Pedego-branded baskets and panniers, and their shops sell other commuter-friendly accessories also. And, they have a cargo bike that has seating for children, and recommend child seats for it.

Pedego ebikes bikes are great commuters, as are those from other companies who you mentioned who also should improve their marketing. They are durable, long-lasting, easy to maintain bicycles that are great for hard use. My local dealer recently saw a cargo bike with 20,000 miles on it that had everything on it still original (except tires and brake pads).

It would be great if they would improve their marketing to show the wide range of possibilities for ebikes, and to better target those who might commute on their ebikes or who are looking for a car replacement, or a way to carry kids and grandkids around. I have 2600+ commuting, errand and recreation miles, and counting. I don't like their new ad campaign that focuses on William Shatner (colonoscopy joke, chased by a cop joke ... I found them very un-funny, and there are more coming in this vein, I'm afraid). I think their "Hello, fun" campaign was much better, and "hello, fun" also describes my 25 mile round-trip commute quite nicely. :)
 

Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
I think there are a number of features of both the mamarachi and the omafiets that don't translate well into the US bicycle market.

One is quite literally embedded in their names -- omafiets roughly translates from Dutch as "grandma bike".

Another is that they are extremely inexpensive by American standards -- sometimes as little as $200-$250. So inexpensive that sometimes many owners don't bother doing *any* maintenance on them. With their enclosed chain guards you need to oil the chain only once a year or so, and many owners probably don't even do that. The problem with them being so inexpensive is that they take about the same amount of effort to sell and the same amount of square footage in a bike shop as a bike that costs five or ten times (or more) as much. So even if they could end up popular with cyclists bike shops probably won't appreciate them very much.

Still another problem is that in our "Safety Nazi" and "For the Children" culture we have here I'd expect if some adult was hauling small children on their bike they would end up being reported to the police -- probably repeatedly. In some jurisdictions they might be jailed and their children put in foster care. I am not kidding.

Finally, there is a geography issue. The sweet spot for these bikes is trips of less than about three miles (round trip). If you live in the Netherlands or most places in Japan that 1.5 mile radius probably gets you to the train station and the grocery store. In the States not so much.

There are a couple of features that many people miss when they first see a mamarachi. One is they typically have a beefy kickstand to make it easier to load and unload the bike. Another is that almost all of them have a built-in cafe lock on the rear wheel. And they all (like I noted) typically have an enclosed chain. Which while great for keeping your clothes clean and not needing to service your chain they make removing the rear wheel an infeasible project along the road -- so typically if you have a bike like this you will master "dutch style" flat repair.
 
D

Deleted member 4210

Guest
LOVE Yamaha Japan's marketing photos. I have a middle schooler who ebikes to her activities, and it's clear that Yamaha Japan also has that market in mind! Now, pretty please, bring these bikes to the US??

I agree that Pedego should improve their marketing. They do have marketing materials that show commuters--for example, there's a video about a physician who commutes 10+miles each day to work, and another by another woman who commutes and has a long hillclimb as part of her commute. I don't remember what she does as a job, though .... Pedego also sells Pedego-branded baskets and panniers, and their shops sell other commuter-friendly accessories also. And, they have a cargo bike that has seating for children, and recommend child seats for it.

Pedego ebikes bikes are great commuters, as are those from other companies who you mentioned who also should improve their marketing. They are durable, long-lasting, easy to maintain bicycles that are great for hard use. My local dealer recently saw a cargo bike with 20,000 miles on it that had everything on it still original (except tires and brake pads).

It would be great if they would improve their marketing to show the wide range of possibilities for ebikes, and to better target those who might commute on their ebikes or who are looking for a car replacement, or a way to carry kids and grandkids around. I have 2600+ commuting, errand and recreation miles, and counting. I don't like their new ad campaign that focuses on William Shatner (colonoscopy joke, chased by a cop joke ... I found them very un-funny, and there are more coming in this vein, I'm afraid). I think their "Hello, fun" campaign was much better, and "hello, fun" also describes my 25 mile round-trip commute quite nicely. :)
A colonscopy joke isn't even funny to their primary buyer over 60. Shatner was good for Priceline, but that's now very old news, and there would be many other more pertinent celebs who would be more relevant to a lot more age groups.