Sales of electric bicycles, which have been enjoying steady growth over the past 10 years, have been given a boost by a new cycling boom. Bicycle sales in general soared after the March 11 quake as stranded commuters sought alternative means of transport. The trend has continued as many office workers, wary of being stuck out in central Tokyo again due to cancelled trains, have taken up cycling. Getting back home completely under your own steam might be a bit much if you live way out in the suburbs, so that’s why electric bikes, which give a boost to the rider’s own pedal power, are a great option for longer distances.
According to GfK marketing, sales of electric bicycles from March 14-20 were up almost three times compared to figures taken between Jan. 2-10. Since the post-quake peak, sales have dropped, but have continued to be higher than average. While some of this can be put down to the start of the new academic year, we’re thinking that other new customers are using the bikes to help them cover long distances.
The motor on electric bicycles is powered by onboard batteries and the length of time batteries will hold a charge has increased over the past few years, making the machines increasingly attractive. Sanyo’s Eneloop Bike, released on the market last year, not only charges via the mains, but also recharges while riding on flat roads and down hills, making it one of the most energy efficient models on the market.
The Eneloop Bike costs ¥157,290 and the average cost of an electric bike in Japan is ¥85,000, but the high price tags have not put consumers off. Panasonic (who now own Sanyo), holds a 40 percent market share of the market and sells around 380,000 electric bicycles each year. Before the quake, in February, their sales figures increased 10 percent, while on the month of the quake (March) sales increased 30 percent, according to the New York Times. Granted, charging your bike isn’t really in the setsuden spirit of things, but at least it’s a step toward cleaner commuting.
If you’re thinking of investing in an electric bicycle, how about donating your old model to the Bikes For Japan project, a charity which is repairing and shipping second hand bicycles to victims of the quake?