We live in the golden age of electric cargo bikes
Now is the perfect time to buy an electric cargo bike.
Not only are there a bunch of great, low-priced models that just popped out from an assortment of really great companies, but there are also a growing number of states offering incentives to curious buyers that could help cut even more the costs.
It’s as if industry and government simultaneously realized the huge potential of cargo e-bikes to replace car commuting and improve the environment, and honestly, it’s about time.
The planet-saving and community-saving superpower of electric cargo bikes is widely known. They have been shown to reduce car dependency, save people money, reduce carbon emissions and speed up delivery times for businesses. That probably explains why they’re so popular, selling out at a faster rate than traditional bikes and even other electrified models.
The superpower of cargo e-bikes to save the planet and the community is widely known
It’s also why every company under the sun is tripping over itself to release new cargo e-bikes. In the past month alone, we’ve seen new models introduced by mainstream bike manufacturers, like Trek and Specialized, as well as new direct-to-consumer brands like Aventon, Rad Power Bikes, and Lectric.
As more brands cram into the space, the ripple effects on pricing and the secondary market increase. Bikes are becoming cheaper, more used bikes are being offered for sale and, in general, cargo e-bikes are more available and enjoying greater visibility, which in turn has positive implications for infrastructure and the overall reduction in car journeys.
Previously, cargo bikes were only a small part of the used bike market, according to Puneeth Meruva, senior partner at Trucks VC and author of the very large Flying newsletter which concerns the aftermarket of electric bicycles. (Seriously, this is a great newsletter. You should sign up for it.)
Consider this snapshot from January 2022, in which cargo bikes made up just 2.77% of used e-bikes posted on Craigslist that month. Not huge, but that predates the flurry of activity we’ve seen in recent months, with new, cheaper models hitting the road.
According to Meruva, bike manufacturers are becoming aware of several salient points regarding cargo e-bikes; most notably, they are used much more than other types of e-bikes. Used cargo bikes boast an average mileage of 766.5 miles, nearly double that of commuter, sport or performance e-bikes, Meruva found.
Another interesting point to note is that this renewed interest in cargo e-bikes is not being led by legacy bike companies, but rather by direct-to-consumer brands, who from the start have been building a marketing strategy which targets non-cyclists and seeks to convert them to the world of two wheels with a wide range of utility and cargo-influenced models.
“When you look at the DTC brands, like Rad Power or Aventon and a few others, their utility bikes have always done really well because those brands started off selling to people who had never really ridden a bike before,” I said. Meruva said. . “While Specialized or Trek, they sell e-bikes to people who were already road biking in their spandex.”
Legacy bike makers have looked more at the question of how much to emphasize the replacement potential of car rides. It’s never been a core message for most of these companies, and it makes sense that they don’t embrace it as quickly as the DTC brands. It’s divisive, especially as politicians and the media wring their hands on a “war on cars” – as if cars haven’t waged war on cyclists and pedestrians in decades.
“These brands started by selling to people who had never really ridden a bike before”
Of course, it helps that electrification and carrying lots of heavy cargo are a perfect match. If you’ve ever tried to lug a few kids or a couple hundred dollars worth of groceries on a non-electric cargo bike, it’s not easy. But apply a battery and a decent rear hub motor, and those errands become so simple, so effortless, you wonder why you ever used a car in the first place.
“When you think about people who are actually considering cycling for utility, and not just because it’s fun. You need those kinds of features,” Meruva said. “And so I think it’s Honestly, I’m a little surprised it’s taken so long for a lot of these companies to release cargo bikes, but I’m really excited about it.