Did you just start shopping for an ebike and you’re wondering why they are so expensive? Have you always wanted to know what goes into the cost of an ebike? Maybe just bored and need something different to read with your Sunday morning coffee? Well here’s a great blog post for you then. I am going to give you a breakdown and a “behind the scenes” look at the price of an electric bike. This is just raw costs so that you can have an idea of why these machines can get so expensive.3 MAIN COST DRIVERS OF AN ELECTRIC BIKE
Before we get into the detailed cost breakdown of electric bikes, I want to point out the 3 big cost drivers that play a factor in electric bikes:
It should be no surprise that brand name carries with it some additional cost. Recognized brand names that have been in the bike industry for years have built a reputation of design, reliability, and performance that customers can come to expect from their bikes and it allows them to charge a premium for it. Many electric bikes on the market are being sold by new entrants who need to win their customers trust and so they aren’t able to charge the same premium for their name, When you compare the parts list for two similar bikes offered by a well-known brand vs newcomer, the parts may be the same, but the price will be different.
Bikes really are a sum of the parts, and there are a lot of them. Some folks care about every part and detail that goes into their bike, others don’t. But no matter whether you pay attention to it or not, bike manufacturers have to care about every part that goes into the bike and these costs will in one way or another go back into the cost of the bike. Many savvy buyers will compare parts lists of bikes to determine if the bike is a good deal or if it has the parts that they want. Within certain price ranges, you will usually find similar parts on offer with only small differences so it can usually help to understand what parts go into your bike.
Ranging from custom paint jobs all the way to a fully customized frame and parts list, custom-built or customized bikes usually carry a higher price for all of the additional attention to detail. Even a bike that has 2-3 different parts from a "stock" bike still requires any retailer to be staffed to address each order as a unique product, which in the age of ecommerce is not very common.
For the purpose of this article we will take a look at 2 different kinds of bikes, lower cost electric bike and higher cost electric bikes. I know that is a sweeping generalization, but we need to keep this to a readable length. Here’s what I mean by these two categorizations:
Lower Cost: This is electric bikes in the $1000 - $2500 range. I know for some that $2500 may seem like a heck of a lot to spend on a bike, and it is, but bikes in this category have fairly similar breakdowns of cost by component when you look at them from a perspective of how much a certain component is relative to the overall cost of the bike.
Higher Cost: This is electric bikes in the $2500 - $7000 range. There starts to be a lot of different categories in this range, so it is difficult to give a really accurate breakdown as something like the Trek Rail 9.7 (Electric Mountain Bike) is hard to compare to the Super 73 Rx as they are for different purposes. But both of these bikes start to add components like higher end suspension that the lower cost bikes don’t offer.
Looking at the chart below, you can see how the costs breakdown. For these charts we have included the cost of shipping as many of the companies that offer “free shipping” have to end up paying for that and it gets passed on to the customer.
You can see that there are two very large categories in this chart that drive 65% of the cost of your electric bike:
Probably not surprising, but the electrical components of a lower-cost electric bike make up 45-50% of the cost of an ebike. We are including the battery, motor/engine, controller, and display. The price range that you will see in lower-cost electric bikes will be mainly driven by the variety of electrical components: battery size, motor power, LCD/Color display, controller amperage, etc. If you buy a lower-cost electric bike that has a 1000W motor and dual batteries and you get it for $2500 or under, the electronics can be upwards in the amount of 60% of the cost of this bike
Almost all electric bikes get all or most of their parts from Asia. More than 50% of them are manufactured completely in Asia, some are partly manufactured with final assembly in Europe or North America. Needless to say, shipping costs are required to move these parts from Asia to the shores of North America or Europe where they can be distributed to customers. From that point, delivery services are usually required to bring it to your door. Electric bikes aren’t your delivery companies favorite item to move as most of them are 70-150lb boxes. With the size and weight comes a hefty delivery cost even for companies that are moving thousands of bikes, so it is to be expected that this cost is included within the price of your bike.
The remaining cost is the cost that would go into a typical bicycle for the frame, pedals, chain, gears, brakes, etc. What might normally be a $400 bicycle can easily become a $1500 bicycle with all of the additional electronics and shipping added on.
Switching gears (pardon the punn ;) and looking at higher cost electric bikes, you can see how they compare to lower cost electric bikes with the chart below
When compared to lower cost electric bikes, you will notice that the electrical components are still a significant portion of the cost, but less of the overall percentage. Let’s talk about a few of the cost drivers to look for in a higher cost electric bike:
The cost of the electronics in a higher-cost electrical bike will usually be the same, if not more expensive than a lower-cost electric bike. This can include bigger batteries, higher-powered controllers, higher-powered engines and/or mid-drive engines. The only reason that the chart doesn’t show this as a similar percentage of cost breakdown is that other components of higher cost bikes are now comparable.
Good suspension components change the cost of a bike significantly. For high-end mountain bikes, the suspension and how the frame geometry works with this suspension is a major factor in how the bike will perform and it carries with it some cost. A high-end Fox, Rockshox, Marzocchi, or Ohlins fork and rear suspension can be more than $2000 retail, so you can see how it could increase the price of the bike dramatically. Lower cost bikes, when they include suspension this can be as simple as a basic spring, or an air suspension that doesn’t allow adjustment of the rebound which can make the suspension feel more like a pogo stick than an actual absorber. But high-end suspension components are made to take large jumps and drops and handle tree-rooted and jagged rock single track while keeping the bike stable. Most bike riders don’t need this kind of suspension, so evaluate your needs based on what and where you ride. Also note, that simple spring rear suspensions that are included in lower-cost ebikes are more of a marketing trick to get you to think you are getting more for your money and don’t usually help the bike to ride better or more comfortably.
FRAME, BRAKES, GROUPSET
With higher cost electric bikes, you should expect to get more from the frame, brakes, and all of the groupset components (chain, crank, cassette, derailleur). This can include lighter carbon or titanium frames, full-suspension frames, and frames with generally more attention to detail (smoother welds, multi-stage paint, etc.). Brakes is an important consideration in electric bikes because of the additional speed and weight. Higher-end electric bikes will usually use 4-Piston hydraulic brakes by Shimano, Sram, or Magura. It’s our opinion that the first upgrade any lower-cost ebike should make is with the brake system as these higher-end components are worth the additional cost for their additional. stopping power. Finally, the groupset components get more refined with higher-end bikes. This isn’t as noticeable for many riding applications, but precision shifting and function is needed for road, gravel and mountain biking and these bikes will come with higher-end and more expensive components in their groupset.
Shipping is still a factor for higher-end bikes as well. So when you see a $14,000 Specialized Turbo Lenovo S-Works mountain bike and wonder how the price ever got to that amount. Now you know: Brand, Electronics, Suspension, Frame, Brakes, Groupset and for each of these parts the most expensive in the category.
Now you know a little more about how electric bikes got to be the price that they are. Take any regular $400 bicycle and add the electronics to it and you'll be at $1500, add a bigger battery, motor, controller, and brakes and you'll be at $2500-3000 easily. Once you start adding high-end suspension, groupset, and brake components or if you start looking to satisfy your need for electric speed with a huge engine, battery, and controller.... you'll easily be north of $5000. If you manage to find a electric bike that is full suspension and goes faster than 32mph for less than $2500.... there are definitely some corners that have been cut and you should be wary of these bikes. Because there are so many important components that most people don't think about like brakes, hubs, controller, etc. bike manufacturers focus on the parts for some bikes that they know consumers look at. For Electric Bikes this is usually power and "range" which is a manufactured number and a marketing trick for most companies. Get to know some of the other parts to be able to compare apples to apples in your shopping and it will all start to make more sense.
Drop us a note at email@example.com if you need some help. We'd be happy to chat with you about the bikes you're looking at.