Brose E-bike Components: Manufacturing on an Industrial Scale
Berlin, Germany – “The production of Brose e-bike components is identical to the manufacturing of any of it products in our huge range of automotive parts,” says Joachim Volland who is responsible for the development and implementation of the strategy to grow Brose in the international bicycle industry.
The factory in Berlin, where the e-bike motors are made, is also the production location for numerous car components of for almost any brand you can think of. Since the market entrance in the bicycles industry in 2013, automotive supplier Brose has been concentrated on Germany in particular. After the initial stage of product development and market penetration, Brose has entered the next phase of internationalisation. Joachim Volland explains.
What is the connection between Brose’s e-bike components and automotive products?
The link with our automotive products is obvious as the steering motor used in cars has been the basis for our e-bike system. Furthermore we are using the expertise of or automotive department to make cycling safer and more comfortable. Though we operate an e-bike dedicated R&D department and test centre in Berlin, Brose’s automotive engineering centre based in Würzburg, Germany is a major source for new product development. New e-bike concepts are being developed for our drive systems but also future ideas, which we presented with our ‘Visionbike’ at Eurobike.
Looking at Brose’s automotive background; is there more possible in terms of technologies that Brose can use for its electric bicycle products?
On (the) product level I think we have made an important step forward with the presentation of our ideas with the Visionbike at Eurobike to show the bicycle industry how automotive technology can be implemented in bicycles. Our background really comes in when talking about our production which is 100% automotive-based. Brose manufacturers more than 100 million electric motors for different purposes per year on different locations around the world. The bicycles industry can benefit from our automotive quality standards and industrial production levels for their high quality e-bikes.
E-bike motors with internal gearing are now entering the market like with the 2-geared mid-motor from Panasonic. How does Brose view this?
Our e-bike system is compatible with all external gearing systems and hubgears. Future development of the mid-motor system will concentrate on the downsizing and weight reduction. The integration of gears, let alone if it would be technically feasible or not, would only make the e-bike motor bulky and heavy, contrary to the current trends in the market.
What are your expectations for the overall e-bike market in the next five years? Where will it stand by 2022?
We expect a bigger differentiation of the e-bike market in price and category. A market growth of 40%-50% for the next seven to ten years as already stated by several parties in the bicycles industry is certainly realistic. The main potential of e-bikes is the possible attraction to the market of consumers who did not cycle before. On the OEM side we see an acceleration of the concentration trend, also because of financing issues. Of course there will always be niche players. The same goes for the supply side of the e-bike industry. Due to the initial investments product development and the manufacturing of e-bike systems can be done on an industrial scale. As a result of these expenses it will be very difficult for followers to keep up the technical developments. The same happened in the automotive industry at the start of this century when the economy of scale proved to be necessary for component manufacturers in order to survive.
Regarding future distribution we do believe in the position of the retailer. The huge growth of on-line sales of e-bikes as predicted in the past did not come. The e-bike is too complex and mass market consumers need the retailer’s service and advice. For sure the fanatics and in niches consumers will buy online, but check-ups known in the car industry will also come for e-bikes, only in a smart way.
It is said that e-bike sales will grow in popularity in markets that have a cultural background in cycling like the Netherlands Holland, Denmark, Germany as well as the Nordic countries. Will it be limited to these countries or do you expect that the southern European countries will also be big in e-bikes by 2022?
The rapid market penetration of e-bikes will also follow soon in markets outside the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, though the reason will be different. In the US the market will take off in the next five years as soon as the legal issue regarding the use of e-bikes on trails will be solved. That is why we are now broadening our international market scope. Spain, France and Italy are potentially big markets for e-bikes. In these countries cycling was always related to sports but with the introduction of e-city and e-trekking bikes a new market with new category of consumers is opening up. The Mediterranean climate is very suitable for e-bike mobility and the popularity of the bicycle rental system Velib in Paris has been a great example of how cycling can change mobility.
What can you say on Brose’s current market position in e-bikes?
For the European market we are a top three supplier, though we do not disclose the number of systems we have put on the market. Compared to our competitors the major advantages for our customers are the production in Germany (Berlin) which expresses quality, the proximity of our R&D as well as the production to the market and the customization options of the system we offer our clients.
What e-bike categories are you aiming at specifically?
At the start we specially focussed on the MTB category in order to show the performance of the system and we did a series of special projects together with Rotwild and Specialized. Now we have established ourselves in this market we will aim more and more at the regular e-bike as that is what we prefer the most and regard as the biggest potential category.
In which markets specifically do you see new opportunities for the next years?
For Brose the main product category will be urban e-bikes as in that product category we can put the most emphasis on the reliability of our product. For the same reason cargo bikes have a big potential for us. I wouldn’t be surprise that even kids bikes will be electrified in the future. Thanks to the electric support it will be much easier for children to ride at the same speed as their parents making traffic much safer.