China’s electric progress
One of the effects of the ban on traditionally powered motorcycles in China’s urban centres is the growth of the electric scooter, electric motorcycle and electric bicycle industry. This growth has had a noticeable effect on the export of EV and the research and development of new technologies attached to it.
After coming out of a difficult economic time, demand for Chinese produced electric powered two-wheelers (e-PTW) (electric motorcycles [e-motorcycles] and electric scooters [e-scooters]), has been increasing gradually over the last few years. On the export market, sales volumes are always likely to be lower than the traditionally powered 2-wheelers, due to the continued higher costs for better quality components and the lower levels of demand yet the market seems poised for growth in many countries and regions and this is reflected in the increase in product quality and the number of electric vehicle suppliers that are able to manufacture EV to export quality.
China now has an in excess of 130 million ‘e-bikes’ (electric bicycles, scooters and motorcycles) on its town and city roads creating enormous EV production bases with over 2000 separate companies producing electric vehicles and parts in areas such as Wuxi (which has a business park that it the biggest centre for the production and research and development of electric bikes in the world). The majority of these manufacturers produce principally for the home markets although a noteworthy minority has manufactured EV’s of export quality and in 2013, 579,000 electric bikes and scooters were manufactured in China for the export market. Export represents fewer than 3% of total Chinese EV production but the development is shifting with several of the top tier EV manufacturers choosing to devote a good chunk of their research and development budgets on improving the charge and range capabilities of the lithium ion batteries that have replaced the lead acid batteries of previous generations.
In terms of sheer numbers the electric scooter, motorcycle and bicycle production market is led by the Chinese industry. China is the country where the most electric bikes (of all sorts) are manufactured and sold and this has its own effect on the export market.
The Chinese electric motorcycle industry has been targeting the European market over the last few years and has had considerable success in Holland with imports over one hundred thousand electric scooters and bicycles from China every year. One of the problems is that out of the dozens of Chinese electric bike manufacturers, only a handful has the technological nous to produce products suitable for the western markets. Summer He of China E-Vehicle explains “In the past Chinese electric bikes have not had the ranges suitable for the type of commuter travel distances necessary for London, New York, Paris etc. Another factor is the availability of charging points in major cities, they aren’t really totally geared up for longer distance electric travel and anyone riding a standard Chinese EV scooter may well find themselves without enough range to get either to the next power charging point or to their destination. This is something that’s being addressed by the bigger and more progressive EV manufacturers such as Yadea who are one of the leading electric bike makers in the world now; we are hoping that others may follow their lead to make the Chinese EV industry as a whole more competitive in markets outside of Asia.”
The Chinese EV industry is hoping that its relative success in Holland will be followed by further successes in other EU countries. Summer He continues “it’s the top European Union countries such as the UK, France, Belgium and Germany that the more technologically savvy Chinese electric bike makers want to target as they tend to have a more progressive attitude to environmental issues that other less affluent countries have. This is in stark contrast to the traditionally powered two wheeler factories who are more likely to target Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and similar countries in which the vogue for all things ‘environmentally friendly’ has not reached the heights of that in what we would call more ‘western’ countries.”
Although Yadea are typically considered the flagship EV brand in China it is one of the giant Chongqing motorcycle manufacturers that leads the way in terms of research, development and marketing. Zongshen have developed an electric racing bike which is taking world records and winning world championships. On august 8th the MotoE racing championship was held in Assen, Holland; Zongshen’s ZSE002R led from start to finish. The following day saw Zongshen win the sprint race with consummate ease.
China EV magazine recently published a report by Navigant Research which forecasted that global annual sales of e-motorcycles will grow from 1.2 million vehicles in 2014 to 1.4 million in 2023, while sales of e-scooters will grow from 4.1 million to 4.6 million.
China’s EV push into export markets is reflected in its noticeable presence at exhibitions both in China and internationally. Canton fair (held in Guangzhou every year in April and October), which is only for the export market, features over 20 different EV manufacturers and China’s more traditional 2 wheel expo CIMAmotor has seen an increase in EV exhibitors over the last 3 years. On foreign shores the Chinese EV finery can be seen the Las Vegas EV expo (when held) and at Eurobike in Germany.
For the biggest increase of exhibited electric bikes a visit to the huge Bicycle Trade Expo (China Cycle in Shanghai in June) is a must as EV now takes up a significant proportion of this expo that has been for many years a showcase of Chinese made bicycles and attracts over 200,000 visitors. Anyone wishing to visit the Shanghai show (or Canton fair) can write to me for further information at the usual address.