On November 5 last year Recode Decode published an interview with Elon Musk where he said, “Electric bike, I think we might do an electric bike, yeah.”
Thanks to Tesla’s reputation of coming in from left-field and blowing its competition apart, this caused excitement in the e-bike world.
Though not the first automotive manufacturer to move into e-bikes, there is every expectation that such a machine is going to turn heads – if Musk was being serious of course.
The silence that has ensued over the last 12 months could suggest Tesla is in ‘stealth mode’ designing a new e-bike from scratch. They have track record in disrupting entire industries. What now could they do about e-bikes?
On the same day as Musk dropped his hint, automotive giant GM released news that it was about to move into e-bikes.
Being first to market is something that GM has done before with the Chevy Bolt that has sold well over the years until the Model 3 got into mass production and became the bestselling car in its class in the US.
Other, more niche players have been down this road before.
The supercar manufacturer Maserati has its line of e-bikes, as has high end motorcycle makers Ducati, and Harley Davidson has just shown some late stage concept machines for launch in the next few months. Let’s now look at the space in the e-bike market for Tesla and what others have done before and currently.
Elon Musk excites e-bikers
Musk has caused internet meltdowns in the past with his wild ideas that he has carried out.
No-one has ever really been excited about a semi-truck before yet Musk managed to do just that with the Tesla Semi. Major logistics players around the world have queued up to make orders in much the same way as millionaires have for his Model S and Roadster. Why?
When Tesla does something they do it extremely well, and rethink almost every component that goes into its machines. This could mean the carbuncles that e-bike riders dream of fixing in some way would be ironed out in a Tesla machine.
Could they come up with a groundbreaking crank motor? How would Tesla tackle the weight distribution problem? What about battery location and range? Could Shimano’s new internal gearbox patent be them twitching over Tesla potentially designing one?
If Tesla are up to something, they will do it with style. Speculation abounds as to what Tesla could be doing. Could it be a limited run, perhaps a folding machine that sits in a Model S frunk?
Or could Musk be up to something more serious like blowing his competition apart with his best brains in R&D getting ready to make an e-bike that holds its own in terms of design and build for the next 20 years?
The US & European Union e-bike making world
‘Made in the USA’ is a branding that still sells well. Most US and EU e-bikes aren’t built in those territories, much less their components.
One of the biggest changes that Tesla could make is that it could build them from scratch at its Gigafactories, including their components.
The US does not make any premium e-bike components at substantial levels at present, and though some companies put those components together on the US mainland, nearly all the components are imported.
Major US e-bike brand Pedego have released an infographic that shows just where the parts of its machines come from. As you can see, parts come from the UK, Germany, Indonesia, China, Vietnam and the Czech Republic among many other countries.
Politics has hit e-bike players hard with Trump’s trade war against China impacting the bottom line as prices of parts have had up to 25% added in tariffs in the US. The EU has imposed anti-dumping penalties on Chinese e-bike makers, forcing wholesale prices up by up to 79.3%.
With the exception of Tesla’s China Gigafactory, should the company move into e-bike components then the company could bring e-bike component making into the West with a vengeance.
That could only be a good thing for a growing industry.
What have other automotive players done when they moved into e-bikes?
Nothing of the sort!
They have instead gone into e-bikes in a fairly standard way, putting components from around the world together and branding them themselves. Let’s first look at Maserati and have a quick flick through the other big players.