E-bike superlatives – pushing innovation or price?

From Bike EU March 31st, 2021

BERLIN, Germany – Since the early days of e-bikes, performance and exclusivity justified extraordinary price tags. Today, the product variety in the € 10,000+ class ranges from gems and sports equipment and is as diverse as the clientele itself.

At the top end of the e-bike market, €10,000 is a magic line. Many well-known manufacturers offer their top models just below this threshold. Beyond this mark, the sky seems to be the limit. Bugatti takes the cake with what is currently the world’s most expensive e-bike. Introduced in 2018, the 8.6 kg urban bike made of carbon fibre costs €75,000.

In this league, three groups of suppliers stand out; Ambitious small companies dedicated to superlatives. Large, established manufacturers who round off their broad product range with a top model. And finally, suppliers whose core business is in other industries and who supplement their portfolio with prestige bikes.

Adrenaline Class

As for many top-of-the-range e-bikes, expensive also stands for fast, typically, the products are s-pedelecs or bikes in the motorcycle class above 45 km/h. And what sports car drivers have always known – speed is sexy. It’s not the ratio alone that decides how much money changes hands in the end. Nor is it the technical features alone. In many cases, a bike that costs a quarter of the price would do the job just as good. In the end, it’s all about emotions and exclusivity. Or as Trefecta founder Haiko Visser puts it, “If someone else is riding around on the same bike, you need a really good excuse why you spent so much money.” In Trefecta’s case – €23,500 for the top model DRT Off-road Unlimited with 4kW drive.

The origins of Berlin-based eRockit date back to the 1990s. After the company’s re-launch in 2020, the primary claim to build the fastest bicycle in the world, manifests in the bikes of today’s production series that go up to 89km/h. Over 150 parts of the original product were modified until the first edition went into production. Limited to 100 pieces, this first edition started to be delivered last summer. The price tag of the ‘Tesla on two wheels’, as co-founder Sebastian Bruch calls the pedelec-rocket with 5kW motor and 6.6kWh battery is €11,850. In order to ride the street-legal version, buyers in Germany benefit from a new driving license regulation which allows car drivers to ride two-wheelers in the 125cc class with 9 additional driving lessons instead of taking the full set of lessons for a motorcycle driver’s license.

Powerful is the predicate of M1 Sporttechnik. The icing on the cake of the German company’s sporty product line is the World Cup R-pedelec with TQ motor and 120nm of torque, priced at €15,999. R stands for race, as these models don’t have street approval. What managing director Thorsten Cornils calls his top model though, is the street-legal S-pedelec M1 Spitzing Evolution that starts at €8,999 in the basic version.

S-Pedelecs and SUVs

Stromer from Switzerland set the trend for high-priced s-pedelecs around the year 2000 and has largely defined the 45 km/h class in terms of design, integration and technical features. The current ST5 model starts at €11,190.

While Riese und Müller, known for premium e-bikes, has set a new standard in the travel segment with their Superdelite S-pedelec with dual battery and Rohloff hub, HNF Nicolai targets adventurers of all kinds with their new flagship XF3 Adventure that is based on a full-suspension, dual battery frame made by Nicolai Bicycles in Germany. Similar models are available as S-pedelec directly from Nicolai at € 11,249 in the standard version.

The Scorpion fx S-pedelec trike by HP Velotechnik is a good example to show the variety of products in the league of superlatives. Including all extras, the price tag is €15,000.

Mountains, Trails and Road

The e-bike flagships of Cube, Haibike, KTM, Scott, Specialized are full-suspension eMTB for the extreme. Carbon frames, ample suspension travel, CX Bosch drive and electronic components are inherent parts of this class. Price-wise, Specialized takes the lead in this class with their S-Works Turbo Levo SL, released in 2020. The 16.9 kg lightweight gem is available for €13,999 and with a new drive concept clearly at home on the trail.

Road bikes are a marginal segment in the e-bike sector. Optimised down to the last gram, Scott and Cube offer 25 km/h models around €9.500.

CNN Trefecta eBike

Who buys the e-bike superlatives?

And what for? Whether as a status symbol, for daily commute, fun or extreme sports, the customers are individualists with high demands. In the luxury segment, Trefecta reports about yacht and land owners who buy their bikes, as well as sheikhs in Dubai who like to take a spin through the desert. “But this market is very small,” Visser says. “Generally, our customers are people with special needs who use their bike for their work, hobby or daily commutes––a hunter for example, or a banker.”

eRockit sees itself as a mobility provider. The buyers are early adopters––technology fans, engineers, connoisseurs of photovoltaics, and people with a green mindset. Collectors of the first limited edition are also willing to pay the price for their trophies.

The mobility market holds a gigantic potential. Corona-related social distancing, more and more driving bans for cars in inner cities increase buyers’ willingness to invest in alternative and individual mobility. What helps are e-bike leasing programs that make a bike around €12,000 affordable for under €200 a month. This budget then covers the entire monthly mobility cost; no more gas, no more parking fees, no more public transportation. As a substitute for cars, cargo bikes are increasingly being targeted for private and commercial use, and their variety and price range are steadily growing.

The top-end, full-suspension eMTBs, road bikes and co appeal to athletes who are serious about it or simply pay the price for their dream bike. In the commercial sector, rental companies and tourism providers are increasingly interested in e-bikes. Trefecta has specialised in military applications, and the police has shown interest from various countries.

The small suppliers sell limited numbers of units individually and directly. Service is partly provided by a dealer network. For customising in larger quantities, online configurators play an increasingly important role. Big brands use their established dealer network to also sell their flagship bikes.

It’s not about money

It’s like with clothing: Some wear designer clothes because they appreciate upscale quality, outstanding function, good style and premium materials. Others wear expensive brands to stand out from the masses. Some pay for sustainability and fair production. Others pay inflated prices for clever marketing and cheap manufacturing.

For the manufacturers, it is the labour that costs its price, the responsibility for the product. For the customers, predicates such as handmade, made in Germany or Switzerland matter. They pay for a maximum of features, top quality, the love for detail, modern materials and technical finesse. It’s a decision about the uniqueness of specifications, the personal touch, about passion, image and exclusivity. This puts the responsibility into the hands of manufacturers and retailers to offer the customer a fair deal.

Read the whole article here at the Bike Eu website

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We like to believe the latter.

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