A brief history and overview of electric bikes
 Sep 03, 2019|View:830

You may think that motor-assisted bikes are a relatively new invention, but the fact is that the first electric bikes date back from the late 19th century.

So, how were e-bikes invented and when did they become so popular? Here is a brief overview of the history of electric bikes.

How it all began

The Trouve tricycle which French inventor Gustave Trouve introduced in 1881 is possibly the first bicycle with an electric drive in history.  In 1892 another electric tricycle known as the Graffigny electric tricycle was also invented.

Records show that the first prototypes of electric bikes in the US appeared in the 1890s. There are several patents for motor-assisted bicycles in the US Patent office which were registered in that time period, including a battery-powered bike by Ogden Bolton in 1895, a double electric motor bicycle patented by Hosea W. Libbey in 1897 and a patent for an electric motor and roller wheel by John Schnepf in 1899.

Some interesting inventions from those years also include the Humber electric tandem from 1897 which was shown at the Stanley Show, as well as the French electric tandem invented by Pingault and de Clerc which took part in a race in 1897and its riders managed to pass 1 kilometer in a matter of just 57 seconds.

The more modern e-bike models featuring power controls and torque sensors first appeared about a century later – in the 1990s.

In1997, a Japanese inventor patented a bicycle with an electric motor which worked with a feedback loop.

The first electric bike which became commercially successful was named “Select” and was first introduced to the market in 1997. Just a year later, various manufacturers designed and produced more than 49 other battery and motor assisted bikes to the market as well.

In the last decade of the 20th century, manufacturers began using lighter NiCd, Li-ion and NiMH batteries rather than the much bulkier lead-acid batteries which helped reduce the overall weight of the electric bikes and made them much easier to ride.

The mass production of these convenient vehicles began in the early 2000s when the two Japanese giants Panasonic and Yamaha began making electric bikes and started selling them around the world.

The recent developments in the e-bike industry

Today, there are many different types of electric bikes available on the market. In some countries, these vehicles are classified as bicycles, while in others they are considered in the same class as motorized bicycle and motorcycles.

In the last two decades, electric bikes have become the sole transportation device which has been able to take over a significant share in the bicycle market.

Statistics show that in China alone about 14.35 million electric bikes were sold since 2010. The popularity of these two-wheeled vehicles has been growing rapidly in Europe and in North America where the annual sales amount to 1.5 million units.

According to Statista.com, the global sales of electric bikes are expected to reach a stunning 40 million units by 2023, out of which over 33 million are expected to be sold in China.