Selling eBliss E-Bikes At Car Dealerships Is The Inter-Modal No-Brainer
- The China Bicycle Association estimates 50 million electric bicycles were sold there in 2022.
- In the US, eBliss wants to sell its Always-branded premium e-bikes at auto dealerships across the country.
- We tested a Radiant Carbon belt-driven model weighing 52 pounds, with hydraulic brakes and a NuVinci CVT that is good at selecting the appropriate gear. The 630-Wh battery is removable—but not easily—with about 100 miles of range.
America has discovered e-bikes in a big way. According to Grand View Research, the US market was $1.98 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15.6% by 2030. More than 500,000 were sold in 2021.
On the global scale, says Precedence Research, an expected 40 million electric bikes will be sold in 2023, complementing the 300 million already in use. China not only makes e-bikes in great numbers but also uses them: The China Bicycle Association estimates 50 million were sold there in 2022.
Bill Klehm, an ex-Ford (1985-1998) serial entrepreneur who is now chairman and CEO of eBliss, thinks cars and e-bikes go together. And that’s why he’s planning to sell his Always-branded premium e-bikes in auto dealerships across the country.
He thinks Americans will want to buy cars with his e-bikes included as part of the deal—a checkmark on the option list. He’s signed up 50 dealers so far, and plans to start deliveries in the fourth quarter of this year. eBliss makes its bikes in Germany, Vietnam, China, and Malaysia.
“There are 17,000 franchised auto dealers in the US, with $1.7 trillion in annual sales,” Klehm told Autoweek. “It’s the largest homogenous distribution of transportation devices. And these days dealers are no longer in the car business—they’re in the transportation business.”
Klehm said Americans take 119 million rides in their cars every day, and 29 million of them are journeys of less than a mile. “And that’s the worst possible thing you can do to a car,” he said. “The oil doesn’t fully circulate, and the catalytic converter doesn’t get warm enough to work efficiently.”
Klehm believes that if an easy-to-use e-bike is handy, Americans would use that instead of a car for short trips. And the eBliss bike is easy to use.
Autoweek was loaned a top-of-the-line $7495 The Ride Radiant Carbon, one of six models (including folding and commuter versions) starting around $2500. The 52-pound tested bike, in a vivid shade of red, tucks all its wiring into its lightweight carbon-fiber frame (others use aluminum). Users looking for a gear shift or a throttle won’t find either one.
No Throttle, No Problem
Although some critics say e-bikes “aren’t really exercise,” without a throttle the rider of an eBliss only makes progress by pedaling vigorously. And doing so sends the bike forward with alacrity into the next gear.
The Class One bike (electric assist up to 20 mph) has a unique NuVinci continuously variable transmission that is actually quite good at selecting the appropriate gear. The bike is belt- instead of chain-driven and also features hydraulic brakes.
With a 630-Wh battery that is removable (but not easily), the range of the limited-edition e-bike is about 100 miles. Charging time is three hours. Shimano supplies the 250-watt motor.
The bike is very quiet in operation, and the absence of a throttle isn’t a big issue due to the available torque for ascending hills. It’s easy to just get on and ride. In short, it’s a good bike for Americans accustomed to cars with automatic transmissions. The majority of the eBliss models are step-throughs, but the tester had a top bar that needed to be negotiated.
Ed Roberts is chief operating officer at Bozard Ford Lincoln in St. Augustine, Florida, home of the Fountain of Youth.
“Our customers aren’t informed about electrification,” Roberts told Autoweek. “Anything that introduces them to it is a good thing. The eBliss bike is a phenomenal piece, and very well-engineered.”
Bozard has a huge accessory store, and the eBliss bikes and the appropriate car racks will be for sale there. Roberts said the Ford F-150 Lightning truck and the Mustang Mach-E “have been good for us, but that wasn’t true until we started educating people about them. It’s essential to put butts in seats.”
Car Dealers Gearing Up for e-Bikes
He said he can see people taking their electric bikes along with their electric cars on camping trips, and extending their mobility. “They can increase their options,” he said.
Troy Duhon is owner and founder of New Orleans-based Premier Automotive, with 35 dealers selling multiple brands across the country, including in both Texas and California. He’s also poised to be an enthusiastic distributor of eBliss bikes. “We’re going to sell them out of the parts department,” he told Autoweek.
Duhon points out that the average price for a new car has soared to $48,000 post-COVID, with high interest rates and insurance, and that’s gotten consumers looking for alternative transportation.
“The e-bike phenomenon is likely to last a very long time,” he said. “And as car dealers we already have the brick and mortar, the salesmen and the financing. Our service department says that working on a battery bicycle should be no problem. We are all-in on selling e-bikes, starting in our California stores.”
There are precedents here. Volkswagen briefly sold a version of the 1990s Jetta and Golf with accompanying Trek bicycles that could be mounted on included roof racks.
These were different times; the Jetta cost $14,500 and came with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The bike’s handlebars had VW logos. A very clean manual 1997 Golf Trek edition, with the bike included, sold for $5900 on Bring a Trailer in 2021.
And automakers have long sold branded bicycles. Around the same time as the VW Treks, you could also buy the Porsche S and FS, the Mercedes-Benz MB, the Jeep Cherokee Sport or SE and Laredo TSI, and the BMW Olympic Games MTB.
Porsche is still in the game, and with e-bikes. It offers the eBike Cross Performance ($14,250) and eBike Cross Performance EXC ($15,350), inspired by the Taycan and 911.
And other automakers are pivoting to e-bikes. Toyota France recently announced a partnership with Douze Cycles to offer electric cargo bikes at 170 of its dealerships in the country, and eventually in all 300.
Jim Motavalli is an auto writer and author (nine books) who contributes to Autoweek and Barron’s Penta. He has written two books on electric cars, Forward Drive (2000) and High Voltage (2010), and hosts the Plugging In podcast.
Motavalli’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, CBS Moneywatch, Car Talk at NPR, Forbes, US News and World Report, Sierra Magazine, Audubon, and many more. In his spare time, he reviews books and jazz.