Who Really Makes Electric Bikes?

mike wakefield

Finding my (electric) wheels
Nov 10, 2009
8
0
I'm looking at buying a new bike after a few years break (had a Yamaha PAS until 2005) but lack of finance is restricting me to the budget end of the market.

Researching different models I can't help noticing how similar some are to each other. For example, compare the Powacycle Milan 2 with Vélos Electriques Lazybikes: VAE, vélos électriques économiques et écologiques. Vente en ligne de vélos à assistance électrique. They seem to be the same, down to the mudguards and rack, with the exception of the frame.

Am I right? Are these bikes coming off the same production line with just a few minor changes?

Mike Wakefield
 

emissions-free

Pedelecer
Oct 24, 2009
176
0
Shanghai
I wouldn't say they are coming off the same production line although that is possible. Bikes are just like any other product that you buy. In many cases the Brand is not a manufacturer and even manufacturers such as Rolls Royce will outsource manufacturing as required and maybe just do final assembly in say UK so that it can be legally declared made in UK. My friend used to assemble Rolls Royce seats in the UK and told me he now has a very different idea about what hand made by craftsmen means :rolleyes: Bikes however tend to be different in some respects as most are primarily an assembled parts bin. Of course the right combination of parts takes good judgemnt and the finished product is massively determined by how it's put together.

You look at any high end non electric bicycle and pretty much all of the components are whichever high end parts supplier fits the price level of the bike in question and will give the prospective customer a feeling of quality and value. The frames are pretty generic unless otherwise stated and will be made by a big OEM manufcatuer in most cases as they have the economies of scale to justify the massive investment for tooling required to manufacture good quality frames at relatively low costs. E bikes are no different in that respect. Not many companies do any manufacturing of parts themselves, especially the electric parts. Many manufacturer do not do final assembly IMO and use OEM factories for this service.

IMO the vast majority of the cost on any bike, whether e bike or non electric is in the components. The frames are surprising cheap once the quantity is sufficiently high. Batteries are often the single biggest cost by quite a margin on most e bikes, less so on the higher end products. The Motors and controllers are generally (typical hub motor) a significant but not massive proportion of the cost. The Panasonic system by comparison is much more expensive than a typical hub motor system.

IMO if you take any ebike, take off the electric parts and take a proper look at it's spec you should be able to give an estimate of the value when compared to what is availablke on the market for non electric. You can see the price of batteries, motor etc by looking at the various suppliers. Add it up, what do you get. If it adds up to the retail or close enough of the e bike, you're not going far wrong. If it more you should think about is that additional cost worth it to me for; peace of mind, service, it llooks nice, whatever...

Value can be achieved at any price level. Hugely expensive items can offer great value for money, whilst the cheap alternative is either poor value or worthless. The opposite can also be true, cheap doesn't mean junk.

It's not easy, but what is till you know how? Buyer beware :)
 

fcurran

Esteemed Pedelecer
Oct 23, 2007
394
0
Bath
www.powabyke.com
I'm looking at buying a new bike after a few years break (had a Yamaha PAS until 2005) but lack of finance is restricting me to the budget end of the market.

Researching different models I can't help noticing how similar some are to each other. For example, compare the Powacycle Milan 2 with Vélos Electriques Lazybikes: VAE, vélos électriques économiques et écologiques. Vente en ligne de vélos à assistance électrique. They seem to be the same, down to the mudguards and rack, with the exception of the frame.

Am I right? Are these bikes coming off the same production line with just a few minor changes?

Mike Wakefield
Hi Mike, to a certain degree what you say is correct. There are many factories in the far east producing the same frame for various companies, these companies then add on whatever accessories (mudguards, racks, gears, brake levers etc). These bikes get branded up for the particular distributor and then are retailed out. So the same looking bike may have a difference in price of £x's which will generally reflect the extra costs of componentry used on the bike. You may be suprised to hear but frames are relatively cheap, what pushes the price up are the components used like gears etc.

Regards

Frank
 

eddieo

Banned
Jul 7, 2008
5,070
6
at 35kg you cant be to lazy.......what a daft name!
 

flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
49,295
27,007
It's both ways. Often it's major parts as Frank says, the eZee Cadence frame also used by the Juicy make for example, and batteries are often identical on different makes.

Sometimes though the whole bike is identical in every respect. The Wisper 805 folder is also sold as the Powacycle Puma for example, unpowered folders of many makes are actually made by Dahon, and some Schwinn bicyles are sold as other makes like Claud Butler. There's also the e-bikes produced by Derby Cycles of Germany, sold as Kalkhoff, Raleigh etc, all company names they have a right to.

This is the sort of "badge engineering" thats always existed in the motor industry, Mazda 2/Ford Fiesta, Ford Mondeo/Jaguar X type, VW Sharan/Ford Galaxy as examples, and the Austin and Morris Minis from the past. Companies also often buy famous names of failed companies to obtain the right to use the names for badge engineering. In the past Radio Rentals bought the Bush and Murphy names so they could use them on their cheap rental TVs and gain the kudos those names gave at the time, and there have been many other examples since in various industries.
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Wisper Bikes

Trade Member
Apr 11, 2007
5,915
1,894
66
Sevenoaks Kent
Manufacturing

Hi Mike

Due to the huge numbers of electric bikes made in and sold in China there are many hundreds of manufacturers all over the country. However there are probably under 100 large manufacturing companies and most of these simply make a bikes ready for re branding and marketing by other companies.

Flecc as always is spot on, our early folder the original 805 was one of these bikes as was our very first 705. We were not making enough money to invest in our own step through or folder in those early days but knew we needed them to enter those markets. Many electric bikes sold in the West are still out of these factories and as pointed out are exactly the same.

Wisper has now made it's own folding and step through bikes and as you know the 905 has always been ours. A slight correction to Flecc's post: The 905 frame was designed by Wisper and I was responsible for launching the earliest model the 905e. Knowing very little about e bikes at the time I embarked on a very steep learning curve and have now completely changed every single component even the frame!

Very often the Chinese frame factories will be asked for a copy of a successful bike hence the clone 905s. All clones and copies were based on the original Wisper concept and most of them are very much more like the original 905e than the new Wisper bikes available for the last couple of years.

All medium and larger manufacturers will have their own frames and add selection of components that are manufactured by other companies to their specifications. So a Bafang motor on a Wisper will be different to a Bafang motor on most other bikes, and amongst other components our controller is our own unit designed specially for Wisper. Wisper employs a full time compatibility engineer to ensure all components work efficiently and effectively together.

All manufacturers use some components such as gears and handle bars and in the case of gear drive bikes the drive and motor, that are bought off the shelf. The "off the shelf" products used in electric bike manufacture tend to be either from huge ranges so we can chose a product that is perfect for our individual machines or are components that would cost too much even for the largest manufacturer to re invent and make themselves.

There is a massive amount of work involved in building a good, well balanced electric bike hence they are not normally available as a re brand product. A small for instance; Nearly all the fixings (nuts, bolts, screws, clips etc) on a Wisper bike are made specially for Wisper by a CNC stainless steel manufacturer so we don't have any parts that rust or are badly threaded. We quite literally take all the fixings off the components supplied to us, sell them to another Chinese e bike manufacturer and use our own, only this way can we give a no rust guarantee on our later bikes.

Wisper bikes are manufactured by an OEM partner but we have permanent Wisper staff in the factory making certain the bikes are being properly made and there are no short cuts being made.

It really is not as simple and straight forward as you would imagine!

All the best

David
 
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flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
49,295
27,007
I was responsible for launching the earliest model the 905e. Knowing very little about e bikes at the time I embarked on a very steep learning curve and have now completely changed every single component even the frame!

David
Such honesty David!

Some would say "Wasn't me guv, it was me bruvver! ;)
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frank9755

Esteemed Pedelecer
May 19, 2007
1,228
2
London
As emissions-free points out, it's certainly the same with non-electric bikes. There is a great article on the web which I can never find when I want to which explains that the frames for most of the Italian carbon fibre bikes that racing cyclists pay £x,000 for are made by either Giant or Merida in Taiwan, and then shipped to Italy for a bit of component assembly and marketing magic!

In the car industry I always remember that a few high end sports cars in the 70's used the door handles from the Morris Marina.

In computing, proven blocks of code, or components, get recycled from one programme to the next.

In professional services, lawyers fall back on precedents and others (including me!) recycle arguments and solutions from previous clients.

Life would be a lot harder if we all had to reinvent our own wheels!