Business ideas 2021: E-bikes and e-scooters

Rock down to electric bike avenue. The popularity of e-vehicles is on the up, so why not get involved?

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There’s no denying that 2020 has been the year of the bike. A spring nationwide lockdown saw a surge in sales, with 1.3 million Brits investing in a two-wheeled contraption.

But it wasn’t just the regular bike market that saw a boom in sales. Halfords reported a 230% increase in demand for electric bikes and e-scooters, with 33% of the bikes it sold during lockdown having an electric assist – up from 14% over the same period the year before.

While there are a bunch of big retailers already taking their slice of the e-bike and e-scooter market, we believe there’s a big slice available for you too; whether it’s in the form of setting up a local e-bike or e-scooter rental scheme, developing e-bike or e-scooter safety gear, or having a go at manufacturing these increasingly popular modes of transport yourself.

Want to read about more top business ideas? Check out the full list of the best business ideas for 2021

Why is an e-bike or e-scooter business a good idea for 2021?

It’s not only the people that are responding positively to the concept of e-bikes and e-scooters – the government is, too. Manchester can expect 55 miles of new cycling routes by Christmas 2021, while back in May 2020, Transport Security Grant Shapps announced a £250m emergency travel fund to create more bike lanes and bike and bus-only corridors in London.

Even better, a new government scheme which aims to get more people using e-bikes could see people receive a grant towards their e-bike investment. According to The Times, the scheme will appeal to commuters looking for a sweat-free alternative to travelling to work, and could work in a similar way to existing grants for plug-in cars.

We only need to look at what else is in the government pipeline for the next decade to see that electric vehicles are an evergreen concept. With the on-going introduction of low emission zones in major towns and cities across the UK, as well as the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars planned for the end of the decade, electric assist vehicles are here to stay.

In fact, a study by bike retailer Halfords, which takes into account these government initiatives, reveals that more than 8,000 e-bikes could be sold across the UK in the year 2030, and reach current manual bike sale levels by 2050 – with a UK-wide forecast of 1.5 million e-bikes sold that year.

As for the e-scooter market, well… e-scooters aren’t road-legal in the UK yet. But it’s one of the last countries in Europe to make them legal, and there’s a strong movement pressuring the government to make them so. With e-scooters included in the government’s £2bn investment in green travel, some MPs even believe that e-scooters could be legal by 2022.

Already on the e-scooter scene is LIME. LIME started taking the e-bike rental market by storm back in 2017, and is now one of the UK’s first e-scooter rental companies. The e-vehicle firm is currently heading a government e-scooter rental trial, which has been taking place in smaller cities across the UK since June this year.

If the trial is a success, the government will legalise the regulated use of e-scooters on public roads, cycle ways, and tracks. That means privately owned e-scooters will still be illegal, but town and city dwellers will be able to hire them on a ride-on-demand basis – a bit like ZipCar.

E-bike and e-scooter business ideas

We’ve come up with three e-bike and e-scooter business ideas that you could take advantage of in 2021.

E-vehicle rental shop

We already know that e-bike rental companies are a credible concept. LIME – still technically a startup itself – has already made a success of the e-bike market both in the UK and abroad, placing itself as one of the leading e-vehicle rental companies.

But as seen with the ‘Boris-bike’ scheme that celebrated its 10 year anniversary in July this year, there’s always room for competitors. And you don’t have to stick to cities, either – what’s to say that you can’t operate an e-bike rental shop in towns, or near cycle trails?

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, people around the UK have fallen back in love with local holidays, and with the combination of COVID-19 and Brexit expected to cause on-going uncertainty, UK tourism and e-vehicles could be the perfect match.

E-bike and e-scooter accessories and safety gear

With most new and exciting concepts comes a dedicated market of related accessories and merchandise. You only have to look at the regular bike market to see how many contraptions have been invented – from phone holders to electric horns for road users.

With more people investing in e-bikes, the safety-conscious among us will be looking for products that protect us when we’re navigating city rush hour on an electric vehicle that can achieve speeds of up to 15mph (it’s reported e-scooters will have a limit of 25.5mph).

Whether it’s a specially designed helmet, a jacket with special padding, or mirrors so we can see exactly what that bus is up to behind us, there’s certainly a market for some well-branded products – and it’s super-easy to set up an ecommerce store, too!

E-bike manufacturing/converting

More people are looking to e-bikes as a transport option, but to build and manufacture your own e-bike in response to the increase in demand won’t be easy. It’ll require a lot of initial funding, and then there will be on-going testing, gaining approval from regulators, and working out manufacturing logistics.

You’ll need to have an engineering head on you or a background in product design, and you’ll need to be confident enough to deliver your e-bike from design right through to the sales floor.

While we’re by no means experts in the field, you can listen to this podcast with the lead product designer of EVELO to gain an insight into what it could be like to manufacture your own e-bike.

An alternative – and one that is probably more accessible if you want to go into this market – is e-bike conversion. E-bike conversion involves converting regular bikes into e-bikes. There are lots of conversion kits on the market, but there’s still only a limited number of companies who offer a full conversion service.

E-bikes and e-scooters: Insider opinion

Eliot Whertheimer is the founder of London-based e-bike startup FuroSystems. It specialises in providing elegant, practical, and high performance e-bikes and e-scooters.

“My co-founder and I studied and researched engineering at university in different deep tech sectors. We wanted to use our new technologies to create disruptive, light, aesthetic and functional electric vehicles, starting with electric bikes and then e-scooters.

When we launched in 2017, the e-bike market was fairly small and high-end, but we knew there was a space for a direct to consumer brand making affordable, light e-bikes. At under 15kg and 17kg, our e-bikes are some of the lightest on the market .

E-scooters are an obvious solution to urban transport – they’re more accessible than bikes for a lot of people, and it’s only a matter of time before they become the go-to vehicle for people in cities around the world.

We believe that the market for e-bikes and e-scooters is going to expand increasingly as people’s habits change to become more focused on personal health and respect for the environment. However, it is also becoming increasingly competitive, particularly if the UK legalises private e-scooters.

But there’s a difference between success and selling masses of cheap products. The key differentiator for successful entrepreneurs in this space will be well-built, durable vehicles, and those that skimp on safety and design in favour of high profits will soon be weeded out.”

Written by:
Aimee is Startups' resident expert in business tech, products, and services. She loves a great story and enjoys chatting to the startups and small business community. Starting her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she has a healthy respect for self-starters and local services.
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