As urban transport inexorably shifts towards more sustainable models, the global electric bike (eBike) market is only set to grow.
In 2023, it is estimated that more than 40 million eBikes will be purchased, as more and more cyclists begin to choose electrically powered bicycles. This growing access to eBikes, expected to hit 77 million by 2030, is being driven the desire for smart mobility solutions.
EBikes are no longer novelty items, held back by clumsy, cumbersome designs and limited range. Lighter, high-tech models with growing battery power and range are increasingly meeting the transport needs of everyone from office commuters to hardcore cycling enthusiasts.
Battery tech is also a key driver of eBike uptake. These are relatively cheap to manufacture and recharge quickly, taking three hours on average, meaning a high-quality and simple-to-use electric bicycle can be purchased for around $1,000.
The tech that supports eBikes has also come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years. State-of-the-art eBikes come with USB ports, GPS technology, anti-theft alarms and tracking, heads-up displays and even miniature solar panels to recharge on the go.
The true selling point of the electric bike revolution can be summed up in a single word – speed. With an ebike speeds 30kmh are easily achieved, massively increasing the distance cyclists can cover in less time.
This is all achieved while still maintaining the health benefits of cycling, as users are required to pedal, but with much less effort thanks to support for the motor. This also makes cycling an accessible and feasible mode of transport for people with disabilities and older cyclists.
Sustainable mobility in the frame
For eBikes to provide a sustainable solution for urban and rural mobility, they have to balance lighter weight with the increased mechanical strains from bikes that regularly reach speeds above 25kmh.
This, combined with the higher costs generating higher expectations around reliability and longevity from consumers, makes material choice a key aspect of eBike design.
While the hunt for lighter bikes has gone in many different directions, lightweight, high-performance frames do not require expensive “space-age” materials, rather innovation within reliable, affordable, sustainable classics is providing the answer.
Enter steel. After being a mainstay of bike manufacture since the Penny-Farthing, steel was being replaced by more expensive carbon fibre. However, innovations in manufacture led to super-lightweight steels like 953, which is even used in the frames of professional race bikes.
While the weight considerations of a typical eBike will not be as demanding as a competition frame where every gram has to be considered, the ability to manufacture lightweight bicycles means cyclists get all the other advantages that come with steel around affordability, reliability and recyclability.
Reinventing the classics
Iconic designs like the Brompton Classic All-Steel Folding Bike now come in electric formats. For high-end, hand-crafted designs like this, the reinforced steel frame comes with a seven-year warranty that ensures peace of mind for cyclists.
While on the heavier end of the e-bike scale, the Brompton – which can be folded up, subjecting it to unique strains as a result – delivers high performance and has a range of 75km making it perfect for multi-journey urban users.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, sits the Vector Storm. Light and nimble, the Vector’s high-tensile steel frame is run on an efficient 3kW rear hub motor that means it can hit speeds of 50kmh.
Light, strong, affordable and infinitely recyclable, steel’s value to sustainable mobility revolution is obvious. Whether it’s delivering lightweight, low-cost frames for entry level e-bikes, or providing the toughness, stiffness and flexibility of design for high-end racing bikes, when it comes to cycling steel is here to stay.