Why aren't there CHEAP & RELIABLE e-bikes in North America?

Timpo

Well-Known Member
I have been wondering why in North America we're stuck with expensive e-bikes.

If you have ever been to Japan, their e-bikes are very cheap and reliable. They do sell expensive bikes, but the vast majority of people in Japan are interested in entry level e-bikes due to their prices.

They're not Stromer by any means, these bikes are entry level and typically have 250W to 350W motor with 6.7 amp to less than 10 amp battery, but they do last long enough for daily commute and grocery shopping.

The features are not bad at all, these Japanese e-bikes typically come with fenders, center stand, front & rear lights, grocery basket, rear rack, comfortable seats and handle bars.

Meanwhile in North America, if you are ever looking for "entry level" e-bikes, you're stuck with no-brand Chinese e-bikes with bad customer service and questionable reliability. I think people on this forum were sort of suggesting you need to spend $1,500 to find a decent e-bikes, which I agree.
https://electricbikereview.com/forums/threads/a-novice-needs-sub-900-00-ebike-buying-advice.14776/

I am guessing that's because Japanese companies have been perceiving as North America as car society so they aren't even bother bringing them here? Because I noticed that Japan has lots of small displacement cars that we don't have in North America.

Here are some of the examples, and if you look around you can easily get these bikes for cheaper than MSRP prices.

Bridgestone Frontia
MSRP: 109,800 yen ($1,020)
Realistically, you can find one for 87,000 yen ($808)
img_frontia13_zoom@2x.jpg


Yamaha PAS Natura M
MSRP: 100,400 yen ($966)
Realistically, you can find one for 85,000 yen ($789)
lineup_pict_natura-m_image.jpg


Panasonic Vivi TX
MSRP: 85,000 yen ($789)
Realistically, you can find one for 73,000 yen ($678)
img_product_01_1.jpg


Suzuki Love SNA26
MSRP: 92,366 yen ($858)
Realistically, you can find one for 80,000 yen ($743)
top_img.jpg
 
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keithd

Active Member
Thanks for the info I would imagine that shipping and import would drive the cost up to what many of the bikes already sell for $1500 -$1800. I also believe most Americans want power. As a whole Americans seem to buy bigger and more powerful on all items autos, motorcycles, appliances, tv, well you get the picture. Just on this forum, most are telling us, newbies, to buy bigger motors and batteries. It may have to do with the distances we travel. Where I live the market is 8 miles and for my area that is close. Many people I know travel more than 40 miles to go to work one way.
 

JRA

Well-Known Member
Sales volume dictates pricing along with proximity to the source of manufacturing. We are not close to either.
 

Nova Haibike

Well-Known Member
I rather doubt any of the Japanese bikes are actually made in Japan; they likely come out of China. But anyway, all of the Japanese brands pulled out of the U.S. market long ago; maybe Bridgestone was the last to sell here, and I think they stopped in the early 90's. So there's that...one of them would have to set up shop here again. The other thing is, the American market is different. The vast majority of Americans buy bikes for recreation, not transportation. They buy a bike, use it a few times, let it gather dust, and then donate it to my co-op. :p

Step-thru frames, fenders, racks, baskets, all those things are not cool. This is why we are fed a diet of fat bikes, dual suspension bikes, gravel bikes, etc. Practical bikes...while gaining popularity...is still a very tiny portion of sales. It is not only Japanese brands; you really do not see European style bikes either.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
Great post, with informed concrete examples. I can't imagine shipping costs that much, once you're doing a whole ocean container's worth. Modern shipping is very cheap, cheaper than the trucking that's a fraction of the distance.

I think we're stuck in a low volume vicious cycle:
Ebikes cost $500-1000 more than a comparable bike, but customers aren't convinced of the benefits of ebikes, so they're hesitant to spend more. $500 is a lot for a bike you won't use more, but it's nothing if it replaces a lot of your driving, gym subscription, etc.

So there's few customers, higher prices, and then the market is skewed towards the higher end and higher gross margins.

Also, many of the places where ebikes would make sense, cities and property managers have done a terrible job of providing bike security to prevent theft. Countless people stop biking after their bike gets stolen. More foresighted companies are providing things like bike valets to attract customers. Also, same deal for the safety of riding in traffic. Even supposedly bike friendly places do a terrible job of keeping bike lanes safe and clear.

I own a Juiced CCS and think it's value is unmatched, and comparable in bang for buck to what you've shown here. But it costs more than these because it's more powerful, so still not in the same segment.

I am optimistic about electric bikeshare via Uber/Jump amplifying demand for both rentals and ownership.
 

Captain Slow

Well-Known Member
I agree with Keith regarding North Americans going bigger and travelling longer distances.

As with Asher I also own a Juiced CCS and also think the value is unmatched. I didn't think it was too much to spend for what it is.
 

rich c

Well-Known Member
A lot of the people who reply here are enthusiasts and have moved beyond intro bikes. That’s why you’ll see higher end bikes suggested. I only paid $500 for my first eBike and have over 1,600 miles on it. Cheap bikes aren’t always a disaster. You just need to know how to maintain them.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
A lot of the people who reply here are enthusiasts and have moved beyond intro bikes. That’s why you’ll see higher end bikes suggested. I only paid $500 for my first eBike and have over 1,600 miles on it. Cheap bikes aren’t always a disaster. You just need to know how to maintain them.

A bike that requires user knowledge of how to maintain it (beyond knowing when to take it in for repairs) is not a bike for mass adoption. Practically by definition.

In countries with mass cycling, I doubt many people do much wrenching on their bike beyond pumping air. Just like for cars.

If you already bike a lot (which is not many stateside), an intro bike doesn't really make sense, and will cost more soon enough anyway. You're going to do at least as much traveling in your ebike.

Even if you don't bike a lot already, you'd be better off borrowing an ebike for a month if possible, and then buying a good ebike if you find the rental very useful.
 

slomoshun

Active Member
Just an observation, but it appears that Japan, China, the Scandinavian countries, and others, see the bicycle as a worthy utilitarian device. Such designs, and most especially e-powered units, do not benefit much from low-bar aerodynamic ergonomics. Although there are indications of change, the US bicycle consumer is very much image and peer driven, and has for decades remained entrenched in the go-fast ricky-racer marketing. Those practical and moderately priced bikes you’ve posted look way too comfortable and slow for the US market. For sure they would interfere with the secondary sales of annually changing, colorful and fashionable Lycra duds, and questionably significant techno widgetry.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
Such designs, and most especially e-powered units, do not benefit much from low-bar aerodynamic ergonomics.

Not exactly. The faster you go, the more low bar aerodynamics help. But the Euro bikes are capped at 15.5mph, speed pedelecs excepted. So aerodynamics aren't that relevant. If you like pedaling hard and going fast, especially with a class 3 motor, going aero helps.

The Velo Orange Postino handlebar perfectly suits aero *and* city riding. You just raise and lower your torso as needed.
1524429182347.png1524429090249.png
 

harryS

Well-Known Member
A 250W hub motor is less than $75. The electric controller is $20. Display, brake handles, and sensor are $40. These are retail prices someone would pay in China. Meanwhile, world class batteries are being made in China. A small 36V 10AH battery only needs thirty $4.00 Samsung cells and will work fine for a market where people weigh 50 pounds less than us and only ride for 30-45 minutes to work.
 

Bruce Arnold

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the info I would imagine that shipping and import would drive the cost up to what many of the bikes already sell for $1500 -$1800. I also believe most Americans want power. As a whole Americans seem to buy bigger and more powerful on all items autos, motorcycles, appliances, tv, well you get the picture. Just on this forum, most are telling us, newbies, to buy bigger motors and batteries. It may have to do with the distances we travel. Where I live the market is 8 miles and for my area that is close. Many people I know travel more than 40 miles to go to work one way.
I agree with you about the "more powerful motor" drumbeat. We are a nation of hot-rodders! Kind of reminds me of Tim Allen's old comedy schtick.

90%, perhaps even higher, of the purposes ebikes would most often be used for by average non-hobbyists, a 250 watt motor would be adequate. As it is in Europe.

Bigger batteries, now that's another matter. For many of us, myself included, batteries equal distance, not speed or power. I live 5 miles from the nearest town, so even the shortest errand is at least 10 miles long.
 

Nutella

Active Member
I have been wondering why in North America we're stuck with expensive e-bikes.

They're not Stromer by any means, these bikes are entry level and typically have 250W to 350W motor with 6.7 amp to less than 10 amp battery, but they do last long enough for daily commute and grocery shopping.

As has been said, Americans don't consider bikes to be tools, and only enthusiasts and those who have lost their licenses use bikes to commute or run errands. Coupled with the difficulties in getting around without being run over, and longer distances. For sure there will be an increase in people using an ebike for those uses, but most people still want something cooler looking than a very sensible step through with racks and fenders. Fatbikes will rule, since they also are more comfy for the fat asses that we have to park on an ebike. Plus, we like to go fast, which means we want bigger motors and batteries to feed them.
 
I have a good friend who lives in Tokyo and married a Japanese girl. He says driving is expensive, very expensive, they also have great public transit & utilize ebikes for last mile.

And they don't do much leisure or recreation ebiking. Yamaha has had ebikes in Japan since the 90s.

The ebikes I'm Japan are like 5aH and 150 to 250w, very slow. They wouldn't take the demand we are acustom to providing.
 

JeffMD

Member
Our infrastructure is far more spread out then others so we never had a need for alternatives modes of transport except for a select few highly dense cities. Also our litigation system is far less...forgiving? If you look back at when the electric hoverboards were a thing, lack of proper inspections and certification for electronics and batteries led to fires and then lawsuits. This has not changed for e-bikes. In asian countries the battery and charge systems are still not up to the standards we demand in the US. All you need is a few packs to blow and your business is done for. So that is why for the few big companies that do sell in the US, their battery packs are expensive and well designed because they need to be for all the needed structural and testing demands.
 

Gogogordy

Member
Americans aren’t predisposed to “do more with less” as many other nationalities do. That said, “small”, “micro” and “right sized” aren’t actually features we find compelling, like many other cultures do.

We are a country built on a “the more, the merrier” attitude. Especially when it comes to our personal transportational choices.

Not passing judgement, Im just saying.
 

Mikey-

Active Member
I'm putting my hat in the ring of culture. Americans see bikes as a toy; somewhere between a frisbee and a swimming pool. Japan, China, Europe... to them a bicycle is a tool, the way we treat vacuums. There is no culture to pimp out a vacuum, even though it's loud, has wheels and lights, and can transport a toddler sitting on it.
I think the electric bike is the first major innovation to bring more americans into cycling since the derailer. MTBs are still toys, and all their innovations (as valid as they are) are still perceived as recreational only.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
I'm putting my hat in the ring of culture. Americans see bikes as a toy; somewhere between a frisbee and a swimming pool. Japan, China, Europe... to them a bicycle is a tool, the way we treat vacuums. There is no culture to pimp out a vacuum, even though it's loud, has wheels and lights, and can transport a toddler sitting on it.
I think the electric bike is the first major innovation to bring more americans into cycling since the derailer. MTBs are still toys, and all their innovations (as valid as they are) are still perceived as recreational only.

Americans have built cities that have made bikes into dangerous toys. Attitudes are just the response to this reality.

You can't think sensibly about bikes without discussing the context they inhabit.

Dutch people drive when they come here, and Americans bike in the Netherlands. People use things that are useful. The Netherlands has created places where bikes are useful, the US largely hasn't, unless you have very high risk tolerances.