Electric Bike Graveyard

November 4, 2012
21,649 Views

The electric bike graveyard stands as a warning to all entrepreneurs who think that the electric bike market is a lucrative easy business. So far there has been lots of investment money, and lots of attempts to start electric bike companies, but no real success stories. Electric bikes remain a hard sell to consumers…but an easier sell to investors.

This is just a sampling of significant electric bikes that bit the dust. There are numerous other companies that did not get off the ground, or barely got off the ground. We will add to this list as time goes on because unfortunately we expect more casualties.

Take a look at our  electric scooter graveyard for a  list of dead products that did have their  moment in the USA limelight, and are now just landfill.  Are electric scooters and electric bikes really that much different? Read our article on electric scooter vs electric bike.

 

Tidal Force

Tidal Force had over 30 million dollars of investment money, a retired army general as its CEO, and an emphasis on grabbing military contracts. (read our interesting story on the Saga of  Tidal Force.) The Tidal Force had an innovative design with a state of the art hub motor, nickel metal hydride batteries built into the front hub, and a purpose built frame which contained all the wires.

 

Mercedes Electric Bike

Mercedes dumped a lot of money into developing this nickel metal hydride  powered, belt-driven electric bike which sold at a hefty $2000. The product never took off, although it did make it to stores across the world. Mercedes is taking another crack at the electric bike market with the Smart Bike (read story)

Read our story about auto makers building ebikes

 

EV Warrior

EV Warrior was started back in 1995 with over $10 million in funding from big name investors such as Sanyo and  Currie.  Containers of these bike arrived from China but the $2000 retail price for a lead acid powered bike was too high, and the styling was dorky and the brand bit the dust shortly after its debut.

 

Ebike (EV Global)

100 million dollars of investment money quickly turned into vapor when Lee Iacocca (former CEO of Chrysler) started an ebike company, and began selling heavy lead-acid powered bikes with Heinzman hub motors.  These bikes made it to market  in the early 2000’s but there was not much demand.  Because they were lead-acid they were heavy, cumbersome, and short ranged. They came in a full sized and a nifty folding version.

The most notable thing this company did was they made popular the term “Ebike” which was the name of the company.

It is rumored that the final straw is when the company started offering the electric bikes with not-ready-for-prime-time lithium batteries and burned down a few garages.

 

Picycle

The Picycle is an extremely unique designed bike designed and made in the USA. (see our tour of the factory).

Picycles originally had a deal with Best Buy to sell hundreds of their bikes, but last minute in 2010 Best Buy decided to stop selling electric bikes.

Picycle like many in this grave yard  stayed afloat with millions of investment  dollars. Picycle now is dead and gone.

 

A2B

Despite 10’s of millions of dollars of investment money, A2B has struggled almost from the offset and has recently declared bankruptcy.  A2B has a decent product which looks and handles more like a small moped than a an electric bicycle. Although the company has now been sold and is under new management, and A2B electric bikes are still being sold at retail outlets. Only time will tell if the A2B can  be resurrected. As of this writing its hard to get A2B on the phone for product support or replacement part ordering. Sad news for what was once one of the bigger players in the industry.

 

Ultra Motor Europa

The Ultra Motor Europa.

The Ultra Motor Europa.

 

Ultra Motor is more well-known for the A2B (listed above), but they also made a model called the Europa. They can still be found occasionally in the “used for sale” listings. They use a high-quality Heinzmann motor and a form that would fit right in with modern E-bikes that are still selling well..too bad. Although the battery (back in 2010) was a very progressive Lithium pack, the motor is old-school brushed.

 

Ford Think Ebike
Ford-Think

The Ford TH!NK was a line of electric vehicles produced by the TH!NK Mobility, then an enterprise of the Ford Motor Company.  (read our article on when auto makers build electric  bikes) Later the company would go under and this ebike is no longer in production.

 

Merida Electric Bike

meridia power cycle

Pedal assist mid drive electric bike, with lead acid batteries…the Merida had a lot of promise. Taiwanese company, in 2001 Merida  bought 49% of Specalized bicycles for $30 million dollars. They apparently gave up on electric bicycles. In 2013 Specialized would introduced the exciting 30mph Specialized Turbo.

 

Giant Lafree
Giant lafree

Giant, a Taiwanese company and one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world, decided to go electric with the Lafree, a mid drive, pedal assist, Nickel metal hydride battery powered electric bike. The Lafree  had a lot of promise, but right before the bike was scheduled to arrive in North America, Giant unexpectedly pulled the plug.

 

The Charger
charger electric bike

The Charger is still another mid drive lead acid powered bike to bite the bullet in the late 90’s.  It has a torque sensor pedal assist.

 

Motobob

The Motobob was an innovative  motorized bike trailer powered by lead-acid batteries and a 48V hub motor which could easily propel a bicycle at 20-MPH thus converting any bike to a cargo electric bike with just an easy attachment. The Motobob sold for a very affordable $500. At this price point, Thunderstruck Motors was not able to make a decent enough profit to keep the Motobob in production. Today a similar Chinese-made product is on the market called the Ridekick which is enjoying reasonable success.

We list the Motobob here because this is a product that could still potentially make it in today’s market and we would like to see it come back from the dead since it is so innovative.

 

 

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.


17 Comments

  1. I think the design and style are very important to an ebike selling well. Many ebikes I have seen look strange or weird. People just don’t want to be on something that going to make them stand out in a ridiculous way. The ebikes that look more like your standard bike seem to sell well. The growing use of geared hubs help make ebikes look more like standard bikes since the motor hub is small and doesn’t attract attention while providing more power at the same voltage. I own a Pedego City Commuter ebike and with Panniers on the back covering the battery. To the average person on the street this bike look normal and doesn’t attract attention to itself. $3000 is the upper limit if you want a successful ebike. Lower price is better if you can keep the quality up. People are used to not paying large sums for bicycles. It is stick shock to many when ebikes are 3 times as costly as regular bikes. To many, just because you added a motor doesn’t justify the large cost increase. The industry need to work on lowering the price of batteries to help lower the price of ebikes.

  2. Are you sure about the pricing on the motobob. Are you saying it was 500.00 for trailer and motor and battery complete as this is what it sounds like. I have payed more than 500.00 just for that trailer alone so I am thinking it a 1000.00 purchase as shown not 500.00?
    Wayne Bergman………….Canada

    • Pretty sure you’re right on this Wayne.

  3. these bikes were ugly,thats why they failed.They have to look cool cruising down the street on a saturday night. the new ones coming out now look sexy as hell, mimicking everything from motorcycle choppers to vespas and dirtbikes, i say the future is gonna be very bright and lucrative for ebikes.

    • In many American communities, the streets are not designed to protect bicyclists from being run down by cars. Also, people commute long distances. For these reasons, I think, ebikes have been hard to sell. In contrast, a huge % of people use ebikes in Beijing, China. Beijing’s streets have physical barriers between the car traffic and the bicycle traffic. Also, people don’t have to travel as far to get to work.

      • I think the most successful places to commute by bike are the places with bike paths physically separate from the traffic lane. Imagine Chattanooga’s Riverwalk but as a series of paths in many different directions making it useful for more than entertainment. Holland/Netherlands is probably still the standard to match.

  4. You are very wrong about the LaFree, I own two of them, and they were bought at a Schwinn store right here in the good old USA. Mine are still going strong ten years later and, needless to say, I love them
    Debi from Utah

    • Right on! i sold hundreds of the Lafree bikes, and still ride one myself.

    • Correct. Also, the Giant LaFree ran on sealed lead acid batteries, not nickel metal hydrides. The LaFree’s smaller cousin, the Giant Lite, ran on nickel metal hydride batteries.

    • I also bought a LaFree in Seattle. They carried them for years. Nice bike.

  5. I think that the Giant Lite (the smaller cousin to the Giant LaFree) is still the best ebike ever made. The newer ebikes are heavy, despite their use of lithium ion batteries. A heavy ebike is not fun to pedal – you’re really dependent on the motor. The Giant Lite was light enough to pedal normally – the motor was useful for initial acceleration, hill-climbing, or when going long distances. Also, the Lite could be carried upstairs without giving yourself a hernia. I wish Giant still made the Lite.

    • Me too! I’ve had 6 new electrics.

  6. Hello. I have a merida 500 electric bike. Is it possible to modify it to a electric moped/scooter? Leif Erik, Norway.

  7. I’m from England, and have a Giant Lafree, 10/20 High Ten in pink and its brilliant, I got it off Ebay from a bloke in Derby. I use it for doing a commute to work of 4 miles, rather than getting my my Jeep Cherokee XJ on the road, cheaper too!

  8. Actually, the Charger was technically a rear-drive model, not a mid-drive. The motor was mounted mid-frame, but it drove a chain that drove a sprocket on the rear wheel. Mid-drive models have the drive mechanism built into the crankset, as I see it.

  9. they just don’t make ’em for short women.

  10. Love the styling of the Taiwanese models, especially the Giant Lafree. Beautiful!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: