Our experience with electric bikes: The story so far

The internet is overflowing with reviews of this or that product, usually based on a limited time span or experience. We find few articles which detail actual experiences of using a product over a longitudinal period, within its desired setting. Therefore we thought we would do something a little different and provide an overview of how our electric bikes have fared over the period we have owned them; what we like about them, what could be added to the specification, etc. In addition we have included our general impressions on this innovative form of transport.

We challenged an independent external marketer to formulate a series of questions and contact a couple of our people, namely Alice Nutley, Print Production Manager and Peter Wise, Director, to gauge their responses. Interesting answers were received with some contrasting views which have afforded a balanced viewpoint of using electric bikes during the working week and socially.

So let us head straight in…

What have been the Greatest Benefits of Using an Electric Bike?

Efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly were the sentiments of both Alice and Peter. A key benefit was ease of use within the habitually congested Bristol city centre area. Reduced delivery times, coupled with effortlessness access to client locations were also important and useful facets of the electric bikes.

From the cost perspective, obviously there are no fuel costs, also zero parking charges versus a company motor vehicle. Another factor is maintenance costs, which for an electric bike compared to a vehicle are substantially less. Also in comparison to courier costs there are significant savings.

Add to this the fun and exercise factor, which cannot be underestimated, it seems the electric bikes have proved beneficial.

Are there Features that you feel would be Advantageous Add-ons for an Electric Bike?

This was an interesting question; only after extended use in diverse scenarios would either interviewee be able to assess the requirement for additional specifications.

One feature mentioned was satellite navigation which, in principle, would make sense, especially within a busy conurbation such as Bristol. The facility to enter a destination into a satellite navigation system and be provided directions to rapidly find locations would be valuable.

A facet mentioned was security; electric bikes are inevitably an attraction for potential thieves. Anything that can be added to enhance security would be a bonus; improved alarms, chains, locks and an immobiliser would deter thieves. It was pleasing to note that Volt included a built-in rear wheel immobiliser.

Increased load dimensions were also mentioned by both interviewees. At present the reality is that electric bikes have a relatively small payload capacity, which limits the type of products that can be delivered. An increased load capacity would mean fewer journeys, more deliveries per day and less time expended on deliveries. However to counter this, the capability of the electric bike in terms of power would be diminished, as a greater load would mean increased weight and therefore reduced battery life.

What Brand did you specify for your Second Electric Bike?

Concerning brands of electric bike Freego was the first local electric bike purchase and overall it performed satisfactorily. As a local company Minuteman Press Bristol prefer to source locally, however when initially reviewing available options, there were few local electric bike suppliers, therefore the choice of quality folding electric bikes was limited.

For their second and third electric bike purchases Minuteman Press Bristol selected Volt electric bikes, which were procured sometime after the first electric bike, at a time when they could be sourced through a local supplier. Additional local suppliers have become available presenting a greater choice of quality folding electric bikes, which is testimony to the increased interest in this form of environmentally friendly transport.

What Key Differences have you Noticed between the Two Bike Brands?

Each respondent had opinions concerning this question; however both agreed that Volt Metro accelerates uphill more effectively, demonstrating greater power, whilst the FreeGo accelerated faster on flat. Both bikes offer similar equipment levels and styling options, although differences are apparent; both commended by the interviewees for their performance and efficiency.

Do you think that Electric Bike use would be Beneficial to Other Businesses for Deliveries and if so what do you think are the Main Obstacles to Increased Uptake?

Now this was interesting because from separate perspectives both interviewees mentioned different facets of electric bike use.

One issue highlighted in regard to the reason for the lack of rapid uptake of electric bikes by other organisations was the requirement for a change in organisational culture. Where traditional forms of transport for local travel are established and have been for many years, moving to an electric bike would in reality be a major change and would take time.

Another perceived barrier was initial financial outlay, which would take time to be recouped. Payment plans, hire purchase and leasing could be considered options, which would contribute to increased awareness of and potential uptake in electric bikes.

To stimulate initial interest it was felt that potentially a trial would be a useful option; this would enable prospective purchasers to try the electric bike within their work environment and ascertain if it satisfied their particular requirements.

To recap, as a company, whose ethos is committed to environmentally friendly modes of working, the electric bikes we decided to purchase for commuting, travelling to meetings and making local deliveries fitted the criteria. Since we have had electric bikes, we have made thousands of journeys in and around Bristol, as well as utilising them for social travel.

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