Electric bicycles continue to enjoy strong demand, fueled by the latest technological advancements. This rapidly expanding market has long attracted enthusiasts, and now car manufacturers, who begrudgingly acknowledge the benefits of bikes for city transportation, are joining the fray.

Auto brands like Porsche, Mini, and Lamborghini are capitalizing on the e-bike craze to expand their customer base and boost their green credentials. Porsche, the most ambitious player in the field, already offers bikes for more than €8,000 and is planning a serious push into the cycle industry. The company invested in the Croatian e-bike brand Greyp and acquired the German electric motor specialist Fazua in 2022.

As a result, Porsche eBike Performance will develop and market cutting-edge motors, batteries, and software for bicycles, launching a new line by 2025. The sports car maker aims for 80% of its vehicle sales to be electric by 2030, and its spokesperson told the AFP, “the number of wheels doesn’t matter,” adding that the company sees itself as a “pioneer of sustainable mobility.”

Mini has also entered the game. On Thursday, the connected bike start-up Angell announced that it would design and manufacture a range of e-bikes for the British brand in France. The BMW-owned Mini, revived in 2000, aims to strengthen its urban and electric identity as it seeks to sell 100% battery-powered cars by 2030. According to Xerfi, a research institute, “with the electrification of bikes, the upscale market attracts new players from other industries.”

The Link Between Cars and Bikes

At its launch in 2019, Angell’s connected bikes (priced at around €3,000) “took a hard hit at individual and gas-powered cars,” according to founder Marc Simoncini, just like its rival VanMoof. “But once cars become electric and less individual, we believe the battle is won. Mini is very urban, which is our target market and our expertise.”

There is a “cousinage” relationship between bicycles and cars that stems from the history of the Industrial Revolution, says designer Jean-Louis Fréchin, curator of the Bicyclette(s) exhibition in Saint-Étienne until May 1. But after World War II, the bike, “the first tool for individual mobility,” was overshadowed by the car, which relegated it to “sport and cycling tourism,” Mr. Fréchin notes.

Auto brands have remained present in the bike market, with mixed results. Peugeot, once the world’s top bicycle maker, and Renault (which owned Cycles Gitane) faced off on the roads of the Tour de France in the late 1970s. Peugeot still offers a range of bikes, but they are assembled by a partner. Audi and Honda have also offered revolutionary bike concepts, but they were never commercialized.

E-Bikes Rule the Urban Roads

Countless automakers have launched bikes (or more recently, scooters) under their own brands, such as the ultra-exclusive Lamborghini and Bugatti. Renault successfully launched a carbon-fiber racing bike (priced at €9,000) with manufacturer Lapierre at the end of 2022 to promote its Alpine sports brand, and an off-road model is planned for the summer.

“Many brands have launched limited edition bikes to go with their cars in showrooms, but we’re starting to see more serious initiatives,” commented Adam Tranter, director of the British marketing agency Fusion Media, which specializes in bicycles. “We’re starting to realize that cars aren’t suitable for cities, even Ford and Volkswagen bosses have asked for more space for bicycles and walking.”