Kiwis are turning on to e-bikes in their thousands with sales of the machines more than tripling in the last three years.
Cameron Burke, regional technical manager (Oceania) for German-based e-bike systems manufacturer Bosch, says total bike sales in New Zealand have totaled around 230,000 annually over each of the last 10 years, with e-bikes (including pedelec, throttle and speed models) last year accounting for about 10 per cent of that number.
"Three years ago e-bikes would have represented just three per cent of bike sales overall," he says. "They are the number one growing segment and I think the percentage will eventually reflect what is happening in Europe where across all countries e-bikes make up an average of about 40 per cent of total bike sales."
According to Stats NZ data the number of e-bikes imported into New Zealand has more than doubled in recent years rising from 11,424 in the year to June 2016 to 27,646 in the year to June 2018.
Burke says he believes one of the reasons for the increasing popularity here is in part due to the "great strides" being made in cycling infrastructure, particularly in Auckland.
He says Auckland is a good example of planning co-spaces for riders and drivers to allow safe cycling: "We see a lot of opportunity for city commuting, but to progress this development we need the support of industry, government and city partners.
"We believe the more e-bikes that are on the road the better because not only are there strong benefits for the environment (by helping reduce CO2 emissions), they also reduce traffic and parking congestion," he says. "For riders it gives a more efficient and active way to get to work without the sweat factor of a normal bike."
Bosch, who began developing e-bike systems in Germany in 2009, entered the New Zealand market in 2017. Worldwide more than 70 bike brands contain Bosch components.
Burke's comments come on the heels of a case study conducted last year by researchers at the University of Auckland looking at the potential of e-bikes.
Research fellow Dr Kirsty Wild, who headed the project, said in comments to Bike Auckland following the study's release that e-bikes enable people to make more car-like trips.
"Cyclists are consistently shown to be the happiest commuters and e-bikes are a way of making the benefits of cycling available to a broader group of people," she said. "They make possible trips that haven't really been realistic for people on a (conventional) bike because it was too far and it took too long at the other end for showering and that sort of stuff."
Wild said the study showed that it was common for people to ride 15km there and back on e-bikes – a fact opening up places in Auckland like Te Atatu which has access to the northwestern-to-city cycleway.
"The point is e-bikes are tripling our active transport radius," she said. "This really stood out for me because we traditionally think people might be willing to walk 3km and bike 5km – some people more, but most not."
Burke says these findings reflect what is occurring overseas. In San Francisco, for example, the average distance people ride on a normal bike is about one mile (1.6km), but on an e-bike this rises to five miles (about 8km).
"At Bosch, we see the future of commuting and mobility as being electrified, automated and connected," says Burke. The company has invested in the e-bike industry because it saw a need not only for micro e- mobility in cities around the world but because of the health and emotional benefits people get from regular exercise while riding.
Since entering the New Zealand market the company has introduced four different e-bike drive units (including a 32kmh unit), three batteries and three on-board computers. Bosch will continue its innovation, introducing new products in the future to better cater to the New Zealand market.
"Our automotive background allows our e-bike division to invest in research and development to continue to progress the technology we are fitting into bikes," Burke says.
"Through our manufacturing partnerships we also ensure the highest quality parts are fitted with the best quality frame components to make the bike and riding experience premium."