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NYT's Electric Bikes

NYT's Electric Bikes

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Published by LauraNovak

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Published by: LauraNovak on Dec 10, 2009
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12/8/09 1:11 PMHis Passion Gets You Past the Gas Pumps - New York TimesPage 1 of 4http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/21/business/businessspecial2/21ebike.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
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His Passion Gets You Past theGas Pumps
By LAURA NOVAK 
SAN FRANCISCO — WhenLance Armstrongsaid in the title of hisautobiography, "It's NotAbout the Bike," heclearly hadn't had coffeewith Steve Roseman.Mr. Roseman, who du bshimself the "chief power source" for the electric bikeindustryandradiates the wattage that his title implies,feels it is about the bike. Thee-bike, that is. And for closeto five years now, Mr.Roseman, 48, has beenriding an uphill battle tochange how Americans getto the office or the grocerystore by promoting andselling e-bikes."My view is that e-bikes aretruly evolutionary vehicles,"said Mr. Roseman, founder of the Electric Bike Network  
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12/8/09 1:11 PMHis Passion Gets You Past the Gas Pumps - New York TimesPage 2 of 4http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/21/business/businessspecial2/21ebike.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Finding Gold in the Garbage
One company works withmunicipalities to givehouseholds coupons for recycling.
(myebike.com), a Bay Area business that sells e-bikesthrough a collaborativeagreement with several retailshops.Electric bikes are designedto extend human energy, instead of replacing it. Their motors are battery-powered and operated by pedaling or with a throttle, allowing riders to determine how much, or how little, they want to work. And they can thumb their nose at the gas pump.The beauty of the beast is both in its simplicity andcomplexity. Electric bikes do not require a license or tagsfrom the Department of Motor Vehicles. The bikes canreach 20 miles an hour, and faster with extra pedaling.And, according to some estimates, the total cost per mile(including energy cost, purchase price and the cost of running the vehicle) is less than 5 cents for an e-bike versus71 cents for a car.For e-bike fans, the thrill of the ride and the machine'secopurity are widely praised, yet no one knows the actualnumber of riders in the United States. Electric BikesWorldwide Reports, an industry newsletter, estimates that100,000 electric bikes were sold nationwide last year. TheLeague of American Bicyclists, an advocacy group inWashington, puts that number closer to 25,000,highlighting the lack of precise data."It is a still a niche market," said Andy Clarke, the league'sexecutive director. "And my suspicion is that e-bikes arestill going to have a tough time competing while they arestill heavy," he added, referring to weights of up to 80 pounds. "But for people who need extra assist, it is a greattool and resource."Mr. Roseman bought his first electric bike in 2001. After 20 years working in strategic development for Hewlett-Packard, he had time on his hands and terrain to conquer."I didn't have time to get into shape or get into the physicaldiscomfort of having aches and pains just to get around thecity," he said. "But with an electric bike, suddenly it's like 
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12/8/09 1:11 PMHis Passion Gets You Past the Gas Pumps - New York TimesPage 3 of 4http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/21/business/businessspecial2/21ebike.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
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having a fairy godmother tap you on the shoulder."Mr. Roseman got busy writing a business plan for sellingthe bikes. The lack of e-bike retailers gave him theopportunity to carve out his own place in the market."What I'm after is making these bikes available," he said."But what I do is different. It's part distribution, part salesand part evangelism." To spread the word, Mr. Rosemanentered into what he calls a cooperative business modelwith three independent bike shops around San Francisco.He gets to put a few of his models in the stores' windows.He stocks a total of 11 models from four makers and storesthem in warehouses. Mr. Roseman then trains sales clerks, prepares sales materials and handles troubleshooting andreplacement parts. The bikes cost $1,000 to $3,000. A 33 percent margin is split.By working with a cooperative, Mr. Roseman avoids therisk of a bricks-and-mortar commitment in the Bay Area'sexpensive retail market. And the store owners get the latesttechnology in their windows without committing to themanufacturer."I've always wanted the shop to carry alternativetransportation devices to take the business past what we've been doing," said Justice Baxter, the owner of Wheels of Justice Cyclery in Oakland, Calif. "This way we can try outdifferent vehicles, but the sales risk is on Steve."Mr. Roseman declines to discuss his annual revenue, butdescribed his profit last year as in "the five figures." Hesaid he expected a surge in sales now that his newestimport, the eZee bike, had arrived from Shanghai. (Most of the e-bikes are from China and Taiwan.)"An e-bike is the most efficient way on a permanent basisto transport yourself," he said. "It's not just transportation.It's transformation."
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