With the rising price of oil, bicycle manufacturers are jumping on the electric bicycle bandwagon, exhibiting e-bikes and an e-bike test track at the Taipei International Cycle Show in Taipei this week to promote the use of the battery-powered bikes.

The biggest bicycle show in Asia and third biggest in the world is also organizing the first-ever light electric vehicle (LEV) forum to discuss the potential market of e-bikes.

According to the fair’s organizer, Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), about 30 booths showcasing electric bikes were registered at the four-day fair which runs from March 13-16.

Manufacturers showing their latest designs at the fair include Taiwan’s leading brand Ideal’s Gocycle, which won two prizes in the Innovative Bicycle Parts and Accessories Competition this year.

But industry insiders said the e-bike still remained an “upcoming trend” in most parts of the world decades after its birth, as only one per cent market share has been recorded in Europe, and less than one per cent in Taiwan.

On the other hand, 60 per cent of the world’s e-bikes, or about 20 million units, have been sold in China thanks to the country’s prohibition against scooters in its major cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, a regulation which consequently resulted in the widespread use of e- bikes, especially among commuters.

“The average price of 2,000 RMB per e-bike has not turned away the Chinese consumers simply because with the ban on scooters, e-bikes seem the only ideal choice when considering a vehicle for short-distance travel”, explained Mo-Hua Yang, director of the battery research project of Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRT).

To make the e-bike more popular in other parts of the world, Yang said the industry needs to exploit the vehicle’s eco-friendly advantage.

“And the key to enhance such an advantage is to make less contaminating batteries,” Yang said.

Yang added that Taiwan is ahead in the race by successfully developing lithium batteries for e-bikes that could replace the lead-acid battery, which poses more of a threat to the environment once disposed.

He said the ITRT and the German e-bike pioneer Extra Energy will jointly announce a test menu for standardized e-bike batteries at the ITRT seminar on March 18.

Established in 1992, Extra Energy is a foundation aiming at promoting electric bicycles through helping manufacturers and users. The product is the latest achievement of the Battery Safety Organization (BATSO) to further promote the safety and eco- friendliness of batteries.

The light electric vehicle forum’s key-note speaker, Extra Energy’s founder Hannes Neupert stressed that although the e-bike industry remains preliminary, the market potential is greater than it appears as the rise of oil prices and eco-conscience will gradually change consumer’s preference.

He echoed Yang by saying if a substantial shift from scooter to e-bike is realized, governments around the world should follow China to implement strict policies.

“In Germany, the government is beginning to reduce the parking lots for scooters to advance e-bike use,” Neupert said.

Taiwan leads the world with the highest density of scooters, a total of 1.237 million units in 2007, and they have become an increasing menace to traffic safety as well as the environment.

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