Green Technology from China to World – Electric Bikes from Kinakontakten
As oil prices rise to new heights and the price of fuel for cars to trucks jump each day in the USA and Europe, many are considering the challenges and promises of alternative fuels. Additionally, many countries to organizations are promoting Green Technology and environmentally friendly alternatives to transportation. Bicycles have long been used around the world as an efficient and cost effective way to get from one place to another. In the last few decades and more recently, the evolution of electric bikes (e-bikes) have provided new ways for the public to acquire a cost effective solution for transportation.
For those of you who have been to China, you will recognize the picture above as something you see on the streets by the thousands. In China this technology is not generally considered green technology or environmentally friendly but rather a cheaper solution than gas or fuel powered alternatives like mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles. However, to the countries in Europe to North and South America, the need for such electric bicycles is booming and is seen as both an environmentally friendly option as well as a solution that makes financial sense. SourceJuice recently met up with the team from a Shanghai based exporter and buyer agent called Kinakontakten. The principals of Kinakontakten are Mats and Jens – two great guys who know much about electric bikes and a few other areas where they support medium to large European importers in the textiles and clothing area to sanitary products.
What Mats and Jens noted to SourceJuice was that in many of the European countries they serve, there is a great and growing demand for electric bikes due to the high cost of fuels and the concern by citizens of those countries for their environment and air quality. These citizens want green technology and want environmentally friendly solutions for transportation. That is why Kinakontakten got into the business. Being in China for half a decade with a variety of experiences coupled with the ability to converse and read, the team at Kinakontaken seized on the opportunity and is now supplying a variety of companies and retailers in Europe with electric bikes manufactured by them and their partners. Just how big is the electric market and what is driving it? Last year, the International Herald Tribune (which is the global edition of the New York Times) wrote a story on how electric bikes are growing in demand. In the Herald’s story “Electric bikes are taking off” it is written that…
From California to China, "e-bikes" are taking off as an alternate means of transportation, after years of being overshadowed by their muscle- powered cousins.
Propelled by a perfect tailwind of technology, high oil prices and the vogue for all things green, global sales of bikes driven by battery-powered electric motors have climbed nearly 20 percent since 2005, a trend projected to accelerate especially in developing countries, where the middle class is rising.
"E-bikes have been under the radar," said Ed Benjamin, president of Cycle Electric, a multinational consultancy based in Fort Myers, Florida. "Now 20 million units a year sell. The business is young and growing crazy fast."
How well are electric bikes (e-bikes) being accepted…well thank China again for promoting the adoption of them and whether it was directly intended by China or not, they actually promoted the export of green technology. Some call this clean technology, others call it green tech, but the interesting point is that it is from China. Out of all the places in the world, one wouldn’t expect green technology exports from China, but the facts are that China wants green as much as any other country if not more. We are not going to even go into the depths of the efforts China is undertaking to move towards environmentally sustainable solutions but for electric bikes look how it happened – read below from the International Herald Tribune story again.
But sales, especially in the United States, still fell far short of the 100 million pedal bikes made globally a year: Commuters just couldn't figure e-bikes out.
As gas-guzzling SUVs became fashionable, U.S. e-bike sellers, finding little profit in the niche, started to abandon the industry.
That lull began to subside after China decided to get into the game.
Buoyed by a newly minted middle class and engine bans in some cities, China was producing about 10 million electric bicycles in 2005 for use in domestic and foreign markets, a figure expected to climb to 25 million by 2009, according to Cycle Electric.
Since then, others have sought to grab a piece of the market. Taiwan's top two bike makers, Giant and Merida Manufacturing, are public and growing their e-bike businesses. (Giant plans about one million e-bikes a year by 2011).
Bangkok Cycle, Thailand's biggest e-bike and bike maker, which sells bicycles to Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us, is expanding in Southeast Asia, and may list too.
But it is China that now leads the world in electric bike production and sales. And many of its 450 million bike riders are increasingly trading up to electric.
In the United States, consumers are also migrating in greater numbers to e-bikes, drawn in part by lighter and more powerful batteries and practical aids like bike lanes and lockers. E- bike sales are forecast to double by 2009 to 200,000 from 100,000 in 2005.
Further afield, e-bike sales are up in Vietnam, Thailand, South Africa, Australia and Eastern Europe. And in bike-friendly Holland, cyclists in their 60s are opting for e-bikes to stay in shape with less strain.
And some more info from an article Tim Johnson of McClatchy Newspapers that should add some more context.
SHANGHAI, China—A lot of riders in the bicycle lanes of China's cities and towns have given up pedaling and are zipping along on silent electric bicycles.
Sales have skyrocketed, and China is now the global leader in this inexpensive form of motorized transportation. At least 1,000 companies have sprung up to meet the demand.
Sales have almost doubled every year, said Ma Qingyi, the vice general manager of Shanghai Cranes Electric Vehicle Co., a major manufacturer.
Last year, Chinese bought 16 million to 18 million electric bicycles, up from 10 million the year before. Some see sales hitting 25 million to 30 million this year. But so far, the diandong zixingche, as the bike is called here, is a unique Chinese phenomenon, with limited export appeal.
"`Booming' is maybe too mild a word," said Ed Benjamin, the president of Cycle Electric, an international consulting group based in Fort Myers, Fla. "It's a product that really suits the needs of the Chinese consumer."
In many major cities, electric bicycles now make up 10 to 20 percent of all two-wheeled vehicles on the roads, a trend that could have an impact on the nation's rising greenhouse-gas emissions and poor air quality.
Many Chinese cities, including Shanghai, with its population of 20 million, have banned motorcycles and motor scooters as dangerous and polluting, giving a huge sales boost to what the bike trade has dubbed e-bikes.
Rising gasoline prices, crowded public buses and congested roadways have contributed to the surge in electric bicycles, as has the emergence of a consumer class with climbing income that's still unable to afford cars. The e-bikes enable people to commute longer distances, allowing them more freedom in where they choose to live.
A simple electric bicycle has a battery that can power a rider along for 25 to 30 miles before needing a recharge. Recharging the battery requires eight hours.
Riders find they can recover the outlay for electric bicycles over a year.
"They spend less than 2,000 yuan (about $260) to buy an electric bike, and they don't have to pay for public transportation," Ma said. "Some people pay 10 yuan (about $1.30) a day in public transportation. An e-bike costs just a few cents a day."
Experts say e-bikes can run 30 miles on 5 cents' worth of electricity, a rate of energy consumption that makes them even more efficient than fully occupied buses.
Mats and Jens could tell you a lot more about this industry, the variety of electric bikes and a few things about textiles in China that will having you realize you don’t know much until you deal with experts like these guys. Soon they are launching their new website to support their growing business for electric bikes. Judging from their character, good spirit, and upstanding professionalism, SourceJuice thinks these guys are in the right market.
Check out their site, contact them if you are in electric bikes to textiles and a few other things these guys have mastered – they are worth your time. Finally, SourceJuice was in no way paid for talking about these guys and their business. We contacted them after some research on housing goods to textiles and the men of Kinakontaken took their time to educate us – they shared their insight first and we are happy to know them and share them with our readers. Thanks to Jens and Mats and we look forward to sharing more news about them and some insights they have on China in an upcoming article about China prices how the Euro is getting to be the payment standard now.
1st picture is Mats Andersson
2nd picture (on right) is Jens Christensen
KinaKontakten – “China In Touch” in Swedish.
Stockholm, Sweden (headquarters)
133 43 Saltsjöbaden
Tel: +46 (0) 8 5592 1811
Mobile: +46 (0) 708 433 158
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Shanghai, China (office)
No.182, Lian Hua Nan Road
Min Hang District,
Tel: +86 (0) 21 5481 6311
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Fax: +86 (0) 21 5481 6691