If you’re interested in purchasing an electric bicycle but happen to live in the United States, you may have noticed that nearly all your options involve importing bikes from overseas.
Have you ever wondered why that is, exactly? Or if there was a more local option you were overlooking?
Well, if so, keep reading, because these are exactly the questions we hope to answer today!
Here’s Why There Are So Few U.S.-Made E-Bikes:
A variety of factors contribute to the lack of E-Bikes made in the U.S. Reliance on automobiles is part of U.S. “Car Culture,” which does not exist in Europe, making bicycles less popular overall in the U.S. Additionally, U.S.-based E-Bike companies exist, but find it cheaper to import their bikes.
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What Electric Bikes Are Made in the U.S.?
According to the Federal legal definition of “Made in the U.S.,” there are no e-bikes made in the country at all.
But that’s only because the Federal definition is rather narrow, and prohibits the use of parts made elsewhere.
According to the Federal Government, for a product to be “made in the U.S.,” all or nearly all of its component parts must also be made in the U.S.; it’s not enough just to assemble it here.
So, by that definition, there are exactly zero e-bikes made in the U.S., case closed.
However, if we expand our definition to include “e-bikes assembled in the U.S.” (even if they are made fully or partially with foreign parts), then we have a somewhat longer list.
One great example of such a manufacturer calls themselves simply “The Electric Bike Company.”
Based in Newport Beach, California, The Electric Bike Company builds their bikes with as much locally-sourced material as they possibly can.
They still import parts they can’t get locally, but their bikes are as “made in the U.S.” as they can possibly be while still having all the necessary parts.
Other examples include:
- Bike Friday in Eugene, Oregon
- Boogie Bikes in Wisconsin
- CHRISTINI AWD Bikes in Philadelphia
In fact, if you check out our sources under “The Best Electric Bikes Made in the U.S.A.” for a complete list, you’ll find 12 different companies named.
So clearly, while the biggest names in e-bike manufacturing might be in Europe, there’s a host of small businesses doing it in the U.S.
So long story short, you might be hard-pressed to find a large corporation making e-bikes in the U.S., but if you know where to look, there are more options than you might think.
Besides, supporting small businesses is always preferable anyway when you have the option, and if you happen to live near any of the companies on the list, you can buy local, too!
Even if you’re not terribly close to any of these small businesses, shipping from elsewhere in the U.S. is still less impactful on the environment than shipping overseas.
Please take a look at our article about how much electric bikes cost in the USA.
Why Are the Best Brands Made in Europe?
Calling them the “best” brands is a bit of an unfounded value judgment, but certainly, the most well-known and popular brands seem to be European.
Of course, it’s worth noting that European brands often source parts from elsewhere as well, importing Korean-made batteries, Taiwanese-made brakes, and so on.
This is worth keeping in mind simply to dispel the illusion that European-made e-bikes are any more uniquely “made in Europe” than the bikes assembled in the U.S.
In short, importing parts is par for the course, and as far as we can tell, pretty much everyone does it, regardless of where the final product is assembled.
So, why are all the biggest names when it comes to e-bike manufacturing European-based companies?
Well, this is a complex question to answer because it touches upon sociological factors, and as such, there’s a sufficient nuance that a hard fact-based answer may be impossible to give.
That said, we’ll certainly do our best!
Consider, for a moment, that e-bikes are often offered as a cleaner alternative to automobiles when traveling short distances, such as commuting within a city or to a nearby area.
Now consider that many European countries have robust public transit systems, while the U.S. is severely lacking in this regard.
This is due in no small part to American “Car Culture,” that is to say, the collective fixation with automobiles as status symbols and icons of freedom.
Because of this, there is a strong cultural impetus in the U.S. to own and use a car. As a result, alternatives to automobile transport receive much more popular support in most of Europe than they tend to in the U.S.
For this reason, there just hasn’t been as much demand in the U.S. for alternatives, which include things like e-bikes.
That may be starting to change now, but it’s a gradual process.
For now, the U.S. still has a very long way to go indeed to catch up to Europe in terms of public attitudes towards cars and alternatives to them.
There are probably other reasons at play, and we can’t possibly predict them all, but it seems a fair assumption to posit that American Car Culture has a lot to do with it.
So in that vein, if you disagree with the fixation on automobiles and want e-bikes to become more popular here, be the change you want to see and buy your e-bike as locally as possible!
How Do the American Models Compare to the European Quality?
The details will vary from one company to the next since over a dozen small businesses are making e-bikes in the U.S., but what we see in terms of quality is quite promising.
Take The Electric Bike Company as an example: from what we can tell, the quality of their bikes rivals—maybe even exceeds—that of the big-name European companies.
That’s because, as a small business, they’re actually in a position to pay more attention to detail, and put more of a personal touch on their bikes.
This company, and many others like it, hand-crafts each bicycle to order; nothing is made on any kind of assembly line.
We might typically associate large corporate names with superior products—which is exactly what they want us to do—but the truth is you’ll often find higher quality on a smaller scale.
In fact, e-bikes made by small, independent businesses may even be a superior product to assembly-line-produced bikes from larger companies.
Are There Any Plans for More American-Made Models?
We didn’t encounter any information about anyone planning to start up additional U.S.-based e-bike companies or existing ones planning to expand their operations.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, mind you! Just that we didn’t find any specific evidence.
And to be completely fair, we’re not likely to find such evidence as easily as you might find rumors about a large company seeking to expand.
Small businesses, after all, are small, and thus their machinations don’t feed the proverbial rumor mill to the same degree.
All that being said, at least a dozen small U.S.-based e-bike companies are already going strong, so we see every reason to assume that more might be on the way.
After all, most of the e-bike companies that do exist here haven’t been here for too long in the grand scheme of things, and their existence now may mark the beginning of a cultural shift.
Demand will continue to increase as more people become disillusioned by American Car Culture and seek cleaner, cheaper, and more healthful alternatives.
Thus, if this trend continues, it seems very likely more businesses will appear to meet that demand, in addition to existing ones expanding their operations.
Are European E-Bike Brands Starting Up Production in the U.S.?
We are not currently aware of any plans for European-based e-bike manufacturers to expand their operations to facilities in the U.S.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen.
Just as a cultural shift may lead to higher demand and thus more local companies to meet that demand, so too could foreign companies notice the shift and move to take advantage of it.
That said, this is purely speculation; the facts we have on hand do not point to this happening right at this moment, and that’s all we know for certain.