E-Bikes Continue to Expand in the U.S.

A2B’s top of the Line Shima

In the world of motorized transportation, the global electric bicycle business is a pretty major concern. Navigant research recently published a detailed analysis of the industry, finding that in 2012, sales of e-bikes reached 29.3 million units worldwide, with 90 percent of the market residing in China. Here in America, the market is minute by comparison, with sales of only 53,000 – but manufacturers are increasingly taking an interest in the U.S. market, hoping to build on the potential growth in affordable transportation.

Last month we reported that major bicycle company Specialized was getting in on the action by launching its own e-bike, The turbo – while this month, established electric bicycle maker A2B, is relaunching its range of bikes under the new ownership of India’s Hero Eco Group.

First, a little history. A2B originally hit the market in 2008 in Europe and the USA, exclusively as an electric bicycle company under the ownership of Ultramotor. According to A2B’s new ownership, although Ultramotors were “technically brilliant, the organization did not have the business knowledge and experience to properly support its dealers and distributors.”

Enter Hero Eco – an Indian conglomerate that has been around since 1956, with 24 companies operating in 83 countries with 27 manufacturing facilities worldwide. Already established in the automotive and bicycle industries, and with experience selling electric scooters, Hero Eco took over A2B in late 2011. With the backing of the new holding company, A2B’s presence in the market will now have a little more muscle behind it.

Their range of e-bikes was relaunched in the U.S. in San Francisco earlier this month, and I got to test a few of them on the city streets around their 9th Street, San Francisco, U.S. headquarters – having a ton of fun in the process.

The fit and finish on the bikes is impressive, while the robust unisex frame designs look up to the job of handling the daily rigors of urban riding. A2B are positioned as premium e-bikes, with components like lithium-ion batteries, hydraulic disc brakes and higher-end Shimano gears. These come along with another nice feature: radio frequency (RF) key fobs to activate the bikes for added security.

On all models you get pedal assistance from the rear hub motor, and on some like the “Alva+”, twisting the throttle propels you at speeds of up to 20 mph without turning the pedal cranks yourself at all. Step up to the top-of-the line “Shima” and you lose the throttle control in favor of pedal assistance only, but no matter, this bike hauls – reaching a top speed of 28 mph and handling superbly. Though the aluminum Y-frame design doesn’t look particularly sporty, the Shima certainly feels spirited on the street; easily accelerating on pace with general city traffic and occasionally popping little wheelies from the lights. If your budget stretches to $3,399 – the Shima is the bike on which you’ll have the most fun.

If your commute has you riding part of the way on public transportation, you might want to opt for the folding bike option, the Kuo – and if you don’t want to tax your wallet quite so much, cheaper and less-well-equipped bikes can be had from $1,799 from their sister brand, “F4W.”

Unlike many manufacturers that just sell one e-bike amongst a range of human-only powered bicycles, A2B under Hero Eco instead focus just on e-bikes, while providing a range of different models for riders with different needs. Check them out.

Image courtesy of A2B

Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.

2 responses

  1. We especially love the Octave (formerly the Metro). It’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s tough looking, but with all the creature comforts, featuring low-step-in access and a soft cloud-like ride… and power, lot’s and lots of power! Test ride one today!

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