An increasing number of premium bicycle companies have thrown their hat in the budget-minded electric bike ring lately, resulting in lower prices than ever before from major bike shop brands. So what’s behind this move?
Several of the recent launches from major bicycle brands have included models that undercut their average e-bike prices by several thousand dollars.
While Cannondale has grabbed headlines for its roughly $5,000 Cargowagen electric cargo bike recently, who remembers the much more affordable $1,900 Cannondale Compact Neo urban e-bike? The inclusion of a simpler hub motor compared to pricier and more complicated mid-drive motors helped the company reach its lowest price point yet for an e-bike.
Trek’s electric bikes normally carry hefty price tags as well, but the company’s Dual Sport+ and FX+ also saw hub motors and lower-shelf components bring the prices down to around $2,400 at launch.
Budget e-bikes leading sales
One of the reasons for this focus on more entry-level bikes is quite likely a mere numbers game. While profit margins aren’t as high on lower-priced e-bikes, they sell in much higher numbers in the US. Compared to Europeans that often buy e-bikes as car replacement vehicles and thus are prepared to spend many thousands of dollars for a higher end model, a much larger percentage Americans e-bike riders use their bikes either to supplement car trips or purely for sport/recreation.
Sure, there are plenty of Americans replacing traditional car ownership with e-bikes, and many of them will spend a bit more. But by and large, companies that serve the $1,000 to $2,000 price range in the e-bike market seem to make up the lion’s share of the sales.
That’s a difficult price point for many of the higher-end brands to reach, but several have gotten close. The Ponto Go! electric moped-style bike, launched by Trek subsidiary Electra, rolled out at $2,699 and offered a higher-end moped-style ride than much of the competition. It also had one more advantage going for it: access to Trek’s wide network of local bike shops offering service and support. The bike can’t compete watt for watt against entrenched favorites like the similarly styled Rad Power Bikes RadRunner, but it also comes with the backing of a much older and well-established bike company with hundreds of local bike shops to call on.
Additionally, a growing number of e-bike incentive programs are helping people buy electric bikes that they couldn’t previously afford, as well as helping others afford a higher-quality and longer-lasting bike than could have been possible without subsidies or tax credits.
Lower-cost e-bikes serve as introductions to higher-end brands
When Specialized launched its Globe line, it did so with a calculated decision to reach value shoppers and introduce them to a higher end e-bike company.
Similarly to other brands that have taken a razor to their price tags, Specialized skipped the mid-drive motor and higher-end components when it rolled out its short tail and then long-tail cargo e-bikes designed for budget-minded bike shoppers. But it kept much of its higher quality design and fabrication as well as access to its network of bike shops for service and support.
And in doing so, the company has started getting riders on Specialized e-bikes that likely never would have considered the brand. The Globe Hault ST launched at around $2,700, which is still a few hundred dollars more than value-priced short-tail cargo bike offerings from budget e-bike companies, but it brought the backing of a major bicycle company with it. There are horror stories of trying to get repairs done from mail order e-bike companies (though there are likely more success stories that we simply don’t hear about). On the other hand, taking a bike into a local bike shop for service is usually easy and painless.
Thus, in the process of developing a more entry-level sub-brand, Specialized has started reaching a much wider audience than it ever could have hoped to before.
A shift toward e-bikes is good for high-end brands
Low-cost electric bike companies are still critical for the growing US market, helping hesitant riders get their foot in the door without risking several months of pay.
But as US e-bike ridership continues to grow, more people are shifting a higher percentage of their transportation onto e-bikes.
The US market has long lagged behind Europe, but it has followed a similar trajectory, albeit several years later. Many US cities are currently working on improving their cycling infrastructure with better protected bike lanes, making cycling a more common option. Those that tend to ride their e-bikes for more miles throughout the week often gravitate to higher-priced models that require less maintenance and repair, as well as those that offer more options for local service and support when necessary.
Lower-cost e-bikes from budget companies will always be important. In fact, most of my e-bikes are from budget brands. The nicest e-bike I’ve ever bought was around $3,000, and I bought it already used to avoid paying even that much. But as nicer e-bikes grow their numbers in the US, the higher-end bike shop brands have shown that they’re ready to meet consumers in the middle with entry-level models that split the difference by thoughtful compromise on price and performance.
US grid-scale energy storage installations soared in Q2 2023
The US battery energy storage market added 5,597 megawatt hours (MWh) in the second quarter of 2023, a new quarterly record.
The grid-scale segment of the industry drove the market with a record-breaking 5,109 MWh in Q2, beating the previous record in Q4 2021 by 5%, according to Wood Mackenzie and the American Clean Power Association’s (ACP) latest US Energy Storage Monitor report.
The grid-scale segment achieved 172% growth quarter-over-quarter. California was No. 1 among states with the most grid-scale energy storage installations, with 738 MW and a 49% share of installed capacity.
Wood Mackenzie projects the grid-scale segment to be the main driver of the market in its five-year forecast from 2023-27, accounting for 83% of total installations, or 55 gigawatts (GW).
ACP’s VP of research and analytics, John Hensley, said:
The energy storage market is on pace for a record year, as utilities and larger power users increasingly turn to storage to enhance the grid and improve reliability.
The market is on pace to nearly double annual installations despite supply chain challenges and interconnection delays, and will continue to grow quickly in coming years.
Community, commercial, and industrial (CCI) installations, at 107 MWh, were higher than any quarter in 2022 but couldn’t keep pace with the huge spike in Q1 installations, resulting in a 53% quarterly decline. However, the segment is still up 25% year-over-year.
Residential storage saw its second-straight quarter of decline at 381.2 MWh, behind Q1’s 388.2 MWh. California saw the biggest decline, decreasing 17% quarter-over-quarter and 37% year-over-year.
Vanessa Witte, senior analyst with Wood Mackenzie’s energy storage team, said, “We still project strong growth for the residential segment in our five-year outlook, reaching a total of 8 GW in 2027. However, the CCI segment continues to fail to meet growth projections and we have downgraded its five-year growth forecast by 28% to 3 GW.”
On Friday, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $325 million for 15 projects across 17 states and one tribal nation to accelerate the development of long-duration energy storage (LDES) technologies. The DOE has set a goal to reduce the cost of LDES by 90% by 2030.
Photo: Jupiter Power; Graphs: US Energy Storage Monitor Q3 2023 | American Clean Power Association, Wood Mackenzie
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Tesla releases update on Optimus robot with video looking like CGI
Tesla has released an update with progress on its Optimus humanoid robot with a video that almost looks like CGI.
Optimus, also known as Tesla Bot, has not been taken seriously by many outside of the more hardcore Tesla fans, and for good reasons.
When it was first announced, it seemed to be a half-baked idea from CEO Elon Musk with a dancer disguised as a robot for visual aid. It also didn’t help that the demo at Tesla AI Day last year was less than impressive.
At the time, Tesla had a very early prototype that didn’t look like much. It was barely able to walk around and wave at the crowd. That was about it.
But we did note that the project was gaining credibility with the latest update at Tesla’s 2023 shareholders meeting earlier this year.
At the time, Tesla showed several more prototypes that all looked more advanced and started to perform actually useful tasks.
Tesla has now released a new update on Optimus with a video showcasing the ability of the robot to sort objects autonomously:
Like the latest versions of Full Self-Driving, Tesla also notes that Optimus is now being trained with neural nets end-to-end.
The video shows that Tesla is again making progress with the Tesla bot, which looks more refined in this update. The mechanics look more stable with a prototype balancing on one foot.
The video even looks CGI at times, but everything points to Tesla actually having those working prototypes around its offices.
In a previous update on Optimus, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that the “Optimus stuff is extremely underrated.” The CEO said that the demand could be as high as 10 to 20 billion units.
He went as far as “confidently predicting” that Optimus will account for “a majority of Tesla’s long-term value.”
There’s no clear timeline for bringing the product to market, but Tesla is expected to first use it in its own operations.
Quick Charge Podcast: September 23, 2023
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