Demand for electric bikes remains on the up and up. According to a study, some 233,000 e-bikes are regularly seen powering up Swiss hills and this number could rise to 1.7 million.
One out of every six bicycles bought in Switzerland is now electric, according to a new Federal Office of Energy surveyexternal link published on Friday. In 2013 a total of 50,000 e-bikes were sold.
The study said there are now 233,000 electrically assisted machines in circulation and this figure could be multiplied by three to eight times in the near future. Between 450,000 and 1.4 million people of working age and up to 364,000 pensioners may buy an new e-bike, it estimated.
The typical profile of a Swiss e-bike owner is a sporty 53.5-year-old man, who earns an average income and lives with his family in the countryside or in the city. Around one-quarter of e-bike owners are pensioners.
For 80% of users an e-bike is the main or secondary means of transport and 90% also own a car.
The study calculates that if all Swiss e-bikes were put together the total energy saving would amount to 681 Terajoules (TJ) of energy - or the equivalent of 42,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions or 0.4% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite the energy-saving benefits, half of all people questioned in the study felt Swiss roads were not safe and that the battery autonomy of their e-bike was generally inadequate.
Electric bikes have been available since the 1980s and are most popular in China, where nine out of 10 sales occur. But North America and western Europe are slowly catching up. Western Europe accounts for 20% of annual global e-bicycle revenue, according to a 2013 report by Navigant Researchexternal link.
The report projected that global annual sales of e-bicycles will grow from $31 million (CHF28 million) in 2013 to nearly $38 million in 2020.
Sales growth has been helped by significant improvements in battery technology over the past five to ten years, say industry experts.
swissinfo.ch and agencies