A booming market
Thankfully, these confusing legal definitions are mostly in the background and haven’t stopped Europeans taking up pedelecs by the millions. Sales have leapt from 0.1 million in 2006 to 1.4 million in 2015 as pedelec technology has improved and more people have come to appreciate the convenience that they can bring in congested cities. But the boom hasn’t caught on everywhere equally.
Booming Sales: EU Pedelec Sales, 2006-2015 (source: CONEBI)
Pedelecs are far more popular in north-west Europe than elsewhere, with sales in Germany alone topping 0.5 million in 2015. The Dutch buy about half that number each year but, given their much smaller population, this means you’re much more likely to spot a pedelec in Amsterdam than in Berlin. The Dutch are now so keen on pedelecs that nearly one in every three new bicycles sold in the Netherlands has electric assist. It helps that countries like Germany and the Netherlands have well-developed networks of bike paths and cultures where cycling is seen as part of everyday life rather than mainly as a sport.
A practical Dutch pedelec: upright seating and lots of luggage space
We’re also starting to see ebike sales growing in other European countries like the UK for the same reasons that they have caught on elsewhere: they are great for rediscovering the freedom of the road in increasingly crowded cities without risking sweat patches at the office. New specialist stores like Fully Charged in London are great for finding out more about the latest trends in the wonderful world of pedelecs, from practical commuters to eMTBs (electric mountain bikes) or retro ebikes, but there is still work to be done before we catch up with many of our European cousins:
Dutch in the Lead: EU Ebike Popularity vs Prevalence of Cycling, 2016 (source: CONEBI, Eurostat, Eurobarometer)