Across big cities across the globe, the rise of e-bikes has been known, seen, and felt for some time, establishing themselves as part of day-to-day life - even as an annoyance to some.
Despite the continued growth and improved sales numbers since the pandemic, and a projection that sales could reach $120 billion by 2030, the industry solidly remains in the domain for small-named companies, well-established cycling giants, and even a few motorbike and car brands.
But with the added inclusion of smart technology and ever-impressing new devices, why haven’t the Big Tech companies got involved yet? Will they ever?
Horace Dediu, a micromobilty specialist and advocate, has been thinking of these questions for a long time. Speaking to Bloomberg, Dediu made an interesting and well-thought argument for the world’s largest company Apple to get involved. Dediu said, “I fundamentally believe there’s no better product for Apple in mobility than micromobility. It is so Apple, so Jobs-ian that it just smacks you in the face…Steve [Jobs] would have been all over this.”
E-bikes are replacing carbon-emitting vehicles, and sales are booming globally, faster than other electric vehicles, so for Apple to step up with their own product would go hand-in-hand with their eco-friendly mantra. It makes sense when thinking of the smart tech aspect. Apple has already produced AirTags, and clearly has the abundance and ability to produce high-tech devices for e-bikes, and the bikes themselves.
Of course, it’s not just Apple who have the potential to enter the ring. Amazon, who itself has not been hitting its own climate goals, would been in a great position to take over an existing micromobility company or set up its own. Having already tested an e-bike cargo delivery range in the U.K., and investing in Rivian, an electric van upstart with 100,000 vehicles in its fleet, they have a basis to work from.
As mentioned, some major European car giants like Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and BMW, who have the manufacturing capabilities, brand recognition, and an overall drive towards being green and cleaning up their image, have been getting involved in the micromobility business - albeit with high price tags.
Ed Benjamin, chairman of the Light Electric Vehicle Association, speaking to Cycling Industry News said, “Carmakers have always, in my experience, had an interest in bicycles. But they have not been well-equipped to compete in the very cost-conscious, very quick-moving, bicycle industry. Electric bicycles have changed that. Car companies have capital, a willingness to invest in engineering and technology, and expectations that they will deliver a level of quality that is not easy for the bike biz to match.”
However, before we get carried away at the prospect of an easy production line for e-bikes, there are a few reasons why major tech companies are hesitant to invest for now.
Compared to high-volume electronic devices and hardware, e-bikes are not yet that lucrative and attractive proposition for Big Tech. With the large increase of e-bikes on the roads, there have been a large number of accidents to go with it, something that a company like Apple doesn’t need added to its reputation.
Could it be that e-bikes are just a fad? A gimmick that will fade away? Although we have good projections for the future and recent growths that suggest the future is bright, Big Tech will cast doubt over such ambitions - again, perhaps just for now.