To match mainland Europe’s sterling electric bike sales the UK business must educate the consumer about battery-assisted bicycles. Those are the thoughts of Ultra Motor’s Mark Loveridge and he’s not alone. Mark Sutton finds out what hurdles need to be jumped in order for more consumers to take a stroll down the electric avenue…
Tell us about the origins of Ultra Motor?
Ultra Motor was established in 2003 as a developer and distributor of electric two-wheelers. We are a UK company with our headquarters in central London, and an industrial design studio in Berlin, Germany, alongside our main research and development and motor manufacturing plant in Taiwan. We have two business units: propulsion systems sales to OEMs and development and distribution of A2B and Fast4ward electric two-wheelers. We manufacture over 100,000 hub motors for e-bikes per year and this year we are launching our integrated propulsion systems with several OEMs in Europe. With the electric two-wheeler we strive to blend innovative industrial design with our proprietary propulsion system technology.
How have you seen the market develop?
We have seen increased demand for quality e-bikes. There has, and always will be, a lower end of the market, but after retailers and consumers experience the problems with these cheap e-bikes they tend to transition to higher quality products that are much more reliable and are supported with professional after sales service.
How have you overcome the hurdles associated with the early days of electric bikes?
We have used quality components across all models and offer six days a week technical support and training sessions at the dealers’ premises. In terms of dealer interest, we have tried to provide information about the growth and profit opportunities that e-bikes are bringing to dealers in other European markets.
Do you envisage the electric bike ever succeeding in the UK the way it has in mainland Europe?
Yes, but I believe it will take longer in the UK. We have done our own research, which showed that people are open to the prospect of owning an electric bike, especially women. So it’s just a matter of changing misconceptions and really highlighting the benefits of our bikes – not only on their wellbeing, but on their wallet.
What aspirations does the brand have?
We aspire to create products with best in class design and performance. Our vehicles are designed for commuters who are looking for new ways to get from point A to B. In that sense we believe our products are relevant for all markets, including the UK. The same trends that are driving the e-bike market growth in Europe are present in the UK, but are just taking longer to develop. In the future, I hope to see an e-bike in the majority of households. Preferably an Ultra Motor.
What demographics are typically buying e-bikes at present?
Historically in Europe the typical e-bike consumer was over 60 years-old and purchased the product to enable a healthy lifestyle of cycling later in life. The new trend that we see in markets throughout Europe is younger consumers aged 35 to 45 years-old buying into the e-bike category. A high percentage of these consumers are women who are using the e-bikes to ease the daily commute. We believe that this trend will continue to drive the growth in the market over the next three to five years.
How do you market the brand?
We have a PR agency that is obtaining great coverage in many different publications. This summer we also launched a partnership with Hertz in central London, with their branch now renting our the Fast4ward Edge and A2B Hybrid 24 from its Marble Arch location.
What unique technology has Ultra Motor brought to the table in the e-bike market?
We have recently launched iDEP, which is an acronym for ‘Intelligent Dual Electric Power’. This utilises two types of batteries to give a better balance of performance and price, as well as creating more flexible electric scooters that do not require the rider to depend on street-level charging stations. iDEP will be debuted with our first electric scooter, the Excel, later this year. Finally, we will launch our new bottom bracket torque sensor, which will be featured on several OEM products at Eurobike.
What can Ultra Motor offer dealers to encourage them into the sector?
Ultra Motor offers a high quality product, support and guidance. We have been working in over 20 countries with many different types of retailer ranging from a single outlet of a few hundred square meters to market leading retailers, and we have learned a lot. We share this knowledge with our retailers to ensure they don’t repeat the mistakes of others. We also offer our ‘Try before you buy’ scheme which provides one of our demos to the consumer FOC for up to three days. This has resulted in 100 per cent of people actually buying and is a great ‘no cost’ tool for a dealer.