Why are electric bikes so expensive?


Many of our customers ask about variations in eBike prices and we often use the expression You get what you pay for! Although this adage covers many different products you can buy, it is definitely the case with electric bikes.

As mentioned in the media recently, the price of products coming in from overseas to Australia are being impacted by increased demand, increased manufacturing costs and of course the shortage of containers and the impact this has on freight costs in our island nation. This in turn has a direct affect on landed costs for importers and those costs are of course passed onto the consumer.

To be more specific though, we have seen over the last 2 years a general increase in the base cost of all ebikes in Australia. There are reasons for this, which we will try to explain. At the highest level, remembering that all bikes are complex pieces of engineering regardless of the brand, the type of motor, the capacity of the battery or the type of gearing. But these components all have a bearing on the overall price.

One of the best ways to explain pricing is to take each of these broad components in turn:

  • Motor the cost of the motor reflects size (in watts) and the brand reputation. As nearly all motors nowadays are the same power output. In Australia, street-legal ebikes must be 250W or less and it is quite rare nowadays to find a new ebike which is less than 250W. So the price must reflect other factors and these are best explained by the brand reputation which influences reliability, performance and of course weight. Motors need to perform on hills and some manufacturers like the renowned German company Bosch prefer to offer customers a range of performance levels from the Active Line (45Nm), Active Line + (55Nm) through to Performance Line (65Nm) and Performance Line CX or Cargo Line (both 85Nm). The motors with lower torque (Nm) ratings are usually less expensive than their higher Nm counterparts, but in turn will perform less well on long, steep or rough terrain. You need to buy what suits your budget but also your intended use. Kalkhoff models tend to offer the higher performing motors. With Bafang, a well-known and high-performing Chinese motor manufacturer, they tend to offer a very limited range of options and all of them perform well, towards but not quite at the upper range of the Bosch options. The Bafang motors are less costly than their European counterparts.

Another factor that impacts on the motor cost is hub drive and mid drive motors. We have written another article on the pros and cons of mid drives and hub drives but in summary hub motors are cheaper than mid drives and the bike frame has to be designed to accept the mid drive motor so that makes the frame more expensive as well. A hub drive motor does not require a specially designed frame.

  • Battery costs for batteries can reflect capacity (number of cells) within the casing which influences how far you are likely to be able to travel on a single charge. Costs can also be influenced by the provenance of those cells. Many retailers like ourselves insist on the source cells being only from Samsung, Panasonic or LG due to their renowned quality. Our battery prices start from around $600 and go up to over $1200. The investment in your ebike comes for a significant part from the value of the battery. We also know they perform to a certain standard in terms of capacity equating to average distance expectations. There are other cheaper sources of battery cells and this can influence the pricing of the bike model being considered. Remember, the quality of the battery also impacts the expected lifespan of the power source and replacement batteries are costly!
    There are also different battery cases, some are mounted externally on the rear rack or behind the seat post. These are standard, readily available batteries that are made by a number of batteries manufacturers so the price is lower.  A battery that is integrated into the frame is more expensive as it has to be designed for the specific bike model. Higher priced e bikes tend to have integrated batteries which make the bike look sleeker.
  • Gearing gears are complex components which can make or break the enjoyment of your ride. There are 3 main options: fixed single gear, external gears and internal gears. Not many bikes are the eBike equivalence of a “fixie” but of course where they are available, you save on cost and weight associated with the gearing system but you need to ride accordingly. External gearing for the mid to entry level is usually less expensive than a well-known internal gearing system from Shimano or the company which sells Enviolo. The internal gearing does have limitations in gearing range which does not suit mountain ebike riders as well but for commuting or simplicity, it is so much easier to be able to change gear without having to be pedalling, especially important when starting from stationary! Top end eBikes, like the Kalkhoff range, have external gearing but using high quality components from Shimano (10-speed Deore, 12-speed SLX and Deore XT) and these gearing systems have a much wider range to get you up those hills with ease. Makes granny gear take on new meaning for sure. The cost of gearing is the same for an eBike as it is for a mechanical bike. You definitely get what you pay for!
  • Brand this is where the style component comes into making a purchase. If you have a particular look, it may not matter to you so much which technical components are used. Our Electra Townie beach cruisers have the ultra-reliable Bosch systems with the entry-level performance, but are so gorgeous and iconic in appearance. Many of our customers are happy with a cruisy performance to match their looks. Head to head, a Bosch Performance Line CX belt drive ebike such as the Kalkhoff Endeavour 7.B Belt model out-performs the Lekker Amsterdam GT with the Bafang M420 motor. With both models fitted with Gates Belt Drives and the Enviolo continuous variable transmission, our tests have demonstrated the performance difference. But they do not look the same. The Kalkhoff Endeavour is fantastic for trekking as well as recreational riding. And for those who want the performance without the price tag, the BF Roma has a very similar specification to many other mid-drive ebikes which are far more expensive. Our brand is emerging and for that reason does not command a higher price tag, but we don’t compromise on quality.

So, with eBikes, you definitely get what you pay for. You can find bargains when shopping around but we strongly suggest that while comparing motors, gearing, batteries and brand go some way towards helping make a decision, the best option is to get on the bikes and test ride. All the research under the sun won’t tell you how the bike makes you feel when you are riding, with your unique riding style, your build and the terrain and surfaces on which you plan to ride. The proof is always in the riding. Beware purchasing online for exactly this reason!

And just to remind you all, while cheap components are not necessarily bad, there is such a thing as going too cheap. While you may save money up front buying an eBike with ultra-cheap components, you’ll likely pay more in the long run. Cheap parts are usually more fragile than their expensive counterparts and often lack warranties or customer service.

If you seek further guidance or would like to book a test ride with one of our eBikes or eTrikes, contact our team today on 0409 126 669.