Raleigh, one of the world’s oldest bicycle manufacturers, hopes to emulate the success of electric bikes among food delivery businesses in the courier sector.
The British bike manufacturer, which was the world’s largest just before the first world war, is eyeing the opportunity to replace polluting vans used by parcel delivery groups, such as DPD and DHL, with greener, battery-powered e-cargo bikes.
“For Raleigh, e-cargo bikes have one of the biggest growth trajectories over the next four or five years,” said Edward Pegram, commercial partnerships manager at Raleigh UK, which launched its first e-cargo bikes in September.
“Raleigh was a brand very much focused on leisure. It’s an every man brand, we’re not exclusive. But e-cargo bikes have opened us up to an opportunity to enter into the business market.”
The pandemic caused the nascent e-bike market to lift off in Europe, as part of a broader global boom in demand for two-wheelers as people sought to avoid public transport and had extra cash to spend.
Pegram estimates 2,000 e-cargo bikes, also known as “box bikes” or “carrier cycles” and are designed to carry more than just their riders, were sold in the UK by all makers last year and that is likely to double in 2021.
The rapid uptake of e-bikes by last-mile delivery workers helped the British electric bicycle market double to £280m last year compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to the Bicycle Association, a trade body.
However, the adoption of e-bikes in the UK still trails far behind European peers with electrically assisted models making up 5 per cent of total bike sales in the country in 2020 versus closer to half in Germany and the Netherlands.
“From our prediction, in the next three to four years, every second bike in the European core markets should be an e-bike,” Claus Fleischer, chief executive of Bosch eBike Systems, said last month.
Mina Nada, chief executive of Zoomo, a start-up that makes and leases e-bikes to food delivery groups, said that a turning point for the UK’s uptake in e-bike sales was the rapid growth of last-mile delivery services for groceries during the pandemic.
“Those companies have accepted that e-bikes are fundamental to their business model,” he added.
Other bicycle makers have raced ahead in supplying last-mile food courier companies such as Uber Eats with the electric bikes that are now a ubiquitous sight outside of restaurants in large UK cities.
Raleigh, which is owned by Netherlands-based Accell, was cautious about entering the fray to gain orders for e-bikes from cost-conscious food delivery groups.
But Pegram said its move into electric cargo bikes — which cost around £4,000 to £5,000 each — has gained attention from the likes of Deliveroo and Just Eat, which are weighing up the benefits of using them.
Last-mile delivery drivers use souped up e-bikes with bigger batteries to last through their eight hour shifts and more powerful motors to cope with heavier loads.
Gig workers often have to buy or rent their own vehicles, whereas employees use e-bikes bought by the company.
However, supply chain difficulties have proved a problem for bicycle makers. Shortages and long lead times for gear and brake components have made it hard to fulfil surging demand for bikes including electric ones.