The trade war between the United States and China officially kicked off this past Friday, with the Trump administration imposing 25 percent tariffs on certain Chinese goods entering the U.S. This is only the first round, though: more tariffs are proposed for the coming months.
One of the upcoming targets? Electric bikes.
E-bikes are normal bicycles – not motorcycles or scooters – with electric motors that make biking easier, and sometimes a bit faster. Because of this, they make bike commuting realistic for more people.
Using an e-bike doesn’t nullify the health benefits of biking: a study from the University of Colorado at Boulder found that e-bikes improved former car commuters’ cardiovascular health (and made them ditch their cars after the study had ended).
The problem is that e-bikes can be prohibitively expensive.
A good e-bike weighs in between $1,500 (at the low end) and $4,000, with really luxe models at $8,000 or more. These prices are bargains compared to car ownership (which AAA found to be $8,500 per year on average), but on top of car ownership, are unrealistic for many people.
These tariffs will certainly make e-bikes even more expensive.
Bicycle Retailer predicts that the 25 percent tariff will feel like a 75 percent tariff when it’s eventually incorporated into the retail cost. (They used the example of a e-bike valued at $1,000 warranting a $250 tariff, which will translate into the bike priced at $1,750 by the American retailer.)
“All customers are going to suffer,” Morgan Lommele, e-bike campaign director at PeopleforBikes told me. “Sales now are consistent between e-bikes, but the tariff will have a worse effect on more expensive bikes.”
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office (USTR) will hold a public hearing on the next round of tariffs on July 24 in Washington DC. Bob Burns, Trek’s general consul, will be testifying against the tariff on behalf of the entire bicycle industry, Lommele said.
” is that because there is relatively no domestic production of e-bikes, these tariffs wouldn’t protect any American manufacturers,” Lommele said.
Lommele isn’t sure if e-bike sales will slow down when the price goes up. “It’s still a lower-price car, but higher price tags deters purchases.”
It’s important to note that the products slatted for tariffs by USTR are cycles with internal combustion engines or electric motors. This leads Lommele to believe that the Trump administration is particularly targeting the motorcycle industry, and that e-bikes might be a casualty.
Photo of a wooden e-bike by Doug Pinter.