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E-Bicycle NewsShanghai Bicycle Show 2001

The Mainland Chinese electric bicycle market is the largest in the world – more than all other markets put together and then doubled. The city of Shanghai is the largest market in China for these bikes (due to government encouragement).

The region around Shanghai is also a rapidly growing area for conventional bicycle production. Guangzhou and Shanghai are now the largest producers of bicycles for export in the world. Many Taiwanese producers have moved their plants to these areas, and the bulk of bicycle components are made in these areas.

This means that the Shanghai Bicycle Show is a major event for electric bikes.

The electric bikes produced for the Chinese domestic market are e-bikes. The rider does not need to pedal. Almost all use lead acid batteries, hub motors of less than 200 watts, and have a similar appearance, which is due to the use of common plastic housings made by only a couple of vendors.

A new factor is the appearance of electric bikes with a small deck, similar to the deck on a motor scooter. The rider does not pedal, and rests his feet on the deck. The deck may also be used for carrying parcels, bags, or children.

Other priorities for Chinese consumers are for the batteries to have a long life in terms of range and cycles. The frames must be very strong, and the vehicles as trouble free as possible. Many units are shown with sophisticated instrument panels displaying speed, battery status, and other features.

Citizens of Shanghai need such vehicles. Governmentmandates and regulations will remove all small two stroke two wheelers from city streets over the next two years, and the old three wheel taxis have already disappeared. Very soon the average denizen of Shanghai will be able to choose between a bicycle, an electric bike, a taxi, or a bus to get around.

Light Scooters at the Shanghai Bicycle Show

While China does not use any small stand up scooters, either as transportation or as toys, there are at least 29 companies manufacturing small scooters in China.

Most are very similar in design and looks to the Zappy. However, there is also a wide range of new ideas and vehicles coming from China.

Since the battery, controller, and motor needed for a small scooter is similar to the equipment needed for an electric bike, the large Chinese electric bike market is spinning off a number of inexpensive components and manufacturers of scooters.

Major electric bike makers were showing scooters at the show, as well as tiny companies with only a small factory and no other product.

What does a Chinese pay for an electric bike?

Prices at the local bike shops range from 2250 RMB to 4800 RMB. (Roughly $280 to $600 US Dollars.)

Conventional bicycles range from 250 RMB on up, with a popular model at 800 RMB. ($30 to $100 US Dollars.)

That sounds like a great buy!

Here are some of the issues that make such bikes not very good buys for a USA consumer.

1. Most Chinese e-bikes are built for a smaller, lighter rider. Motor power, frame strength, battery and even the size of the frame are designed around a person much smaller than the average USA citizen. (I once got looks of horror and disbelief when I told a group of Chinese engineers that I wanted the frame to be able to hold 300 lbs. – a “safe” standard for the USA.)
2. Most Chinese e-bikes are “non-conforming mopeds” in the eyes of USDOT regulations and may not be imported.
3. Most come with a 220 V charger with a Chinese plug that won’t work in the USA.
4. Fit and finish are not usually acceptable to a USA consumer. We tend to value a good appearance. The Chinese value toughness and appearance is secondary.
5. Spare parts are generally not available.
6. Chinese e-bikes do not usually comply with CPSC standards and may not be imported.
7. Most Chinese e-bikes do not have the owner’s manual or safety labeling that a USA consumer takes for granted, and there is no product liability insurance on the part of the maker.
8. Shipping will usually cost more than the price of the bicycle to get it to the USA.

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