Dutch electric bike manufacturer, VanMoof, has been declared bankrupt, prompting many to think the wheels have come off the pandemic cycling boom.
The Amsterdam-headquartered company, whose minimal designs and high prices earned the company the nickname of the ‘Tesla of e-bikes’, saw its sales surge in the Covid era. However, it has now run out of road just two years after it raised $128m (£98m) from investors to fuel expansion.
VanMoof was founded in 2009 by Dutch brothers Taco and Ties Carlier. It has around 700 employees internationally and runs stores in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo and New York. It claimed to have sold around 200,000 e-bikes to date.
Its e-bikes cost thousands of pounds in some cases. One of its S5 bikes, for instance, which is billed as being “Perfect for controlled cruising and longer rides”, is priced at £3,298.
Is this the end for e-bikes?
However, rather than this latest news suggesting a diminished interest in e–bikes, the market slowdown could potentially signify a gap in the provision of affordable options.
The enthusiasm for more sustainable and healthier modes of transport has not waned, claim some, with proprietary research from Swytch Technology – which makes e-bike conversion kits – finding that 5.9m Brits say they’ve started engaging in more active modes of transport including cycling, using an e–bike or walking.
A further 3.8m now cycle or use an e-mode of transport to get to their job, representing both a more cost-effective and quicker option than most public transport routes. This also comes amidst a shift away from car culture in the UK, with 6.4m Brits planning on not owning a car in the next five years, and 9.1m no longer using their car for short journeys.
Says Oliver Montague CEO and co-founder of Swytch:
“After the news of some big players within the e–bike industry struggling or even going bankrupt, some are wondering whether the e–bike boom we saw during the pandemic is coming to an end. I don’t believe this to be the case – this societal shift was also driven by a number of other key factors which remain relevant today, such as a desire to live more sustainable and healthy lives, evident in the persisting popularity of e–bike rental schemes seen across cities in the UK.
“I believe the key issue here is in relation to affordability, most ready-made e–bikes retail at around £2,000, and for a lot of people amidst the cost of living crisis this is just too much money. Consumer demand for e–bikes is definitely there, there just needs to be more affordable options on the market.
I think we will see a significant rise in demand for e–bike conversion kits as they address this issue really well, retailing at less than a quarter of the price of a traditional e–bike whilst also allowing the opportunity for people to upcycle their existing bike, providing a solution that is both sustainable and budget-friendly.”
According to Mintel, in 2022, the value of e–bike sales in the UK hit an estimated £310 million – up from just £150m in 2019 – highlighting the exponential growth of the industry and its contribution to the economy.