General Motors unveiled two new electric vehicles Friday, but not the kind you would expect from the nation’s largest automaker. Two new electric bikes — one foldable, the other compact — are introduced as part of a broader effort by GM to promote its plans for an electric future.
GM isn’t saying much about the bikes themselves, staying silent on key specs like size, weight, range, and price. The company is seeking input from consumers to help name the e-bikes, offering $10,000 for the top submission in a crowdsourcing campaign, and $1,000 each to nine runners-up. Once it settles on a name, GM will say more about how much and where the bikes can be purchased.
GM’s engineers based in Canada led the development of the e-bikes, a spokesperson said. That’s notable, because there is very little e-bike manufacturing based in North America. Almost all e-bike dealers in the US import their e-bikes from abroad, mostly China — although there are a number of boutique firms located in Europe.
And it shouldn’t be that surprising that GM is jumping on the e-bike bandwagon. In 2023, global sales of e-bikes are forecast to reach approximately 40 million units, according to Statista.com. China is expected to remain the most important market for e-bikes worldwide, as 34.3 million units are predicted to be sold there. And GM’s future is heavily invested in an ability to grow in China.
Automakers in general are trying to leverage their experience in manufacturing, batteries, and powertrains in pursuit of more electric-powered two-wheelers, like motorcycles, bikes, and scooters. BMW is making both electric bikes and motorcycles. Audi manufactures electric mountain bikes. And Ford recently helped launch an electric scooter sharing project at Purdue University.
Most large and mid-sized cities already have bike-sharing services, where customers can rent bikes with a credit card by the hour or day. Meanwhile, many bicycle makers — including Giant and Trek — are already offering e-bikes with pedal assist, which help the rider pedal faster for longer distances, minimizing fatigue.