Import data shows e-bikes outpacing electric cars in 2021.

By Ira Boudway

The U.S. electric bike market continues to boom according to the latest figures from the Light Electric Vehicle Association. The U.S. imported nearly 790,000 electric two-wheelers in 2021 according to LEVA’s estimate, up from 463,000 in 2020. While not a sales figure, LEVA’s tally is a useful proxy for the state of the U.S. e-bike market. The trade group’s research suggests that e-bikes are the best-selling EVs in the country. Americans bought 652,000 electric cars in 2021, including plug-in hybrids, according to data from BloombergNEF:

E-bikes vs. EVs

Import data shows e-bikes surpassing electric cars in the U.S. market.

*Includes plug-in hybrids

Comprehensive sales data on e-bikes is hard to get. The NPD Group collects point-of-sale data from bike shops, outdoor stores, and other big-box retailers but does not capture direct-to-consumer brands such as Rad Power Bikes and VanMoof. NPD’s data also shows e-bike sales continuing to rise in 2021, with 368,000 units sold through the first 11 months of the year, compared to 273,000 in all of 2020.

Ed Benjamin, founder and chairman of LEVA, sorts through customs data to identify shipments of e-bikes, electric conversion kits for traditional bikes, and other battery powered two-wheelers coming into the country. Since nearly all e-bikes sold in the U.S. are imported and most retailers are selling inventory as fast as they can restock it, the import number is a good stand-in for sales.  

E-bikes were part of a broader pandemic boom in outdoor goods. Their continued growth in 2021 suggests that they will be more than a fad. “The pandemic gave us a boost and that boost resulted in a lot of people finding that electric bicycles have a valid use in their life,” says Benjamin, “and I think that’s now driving the sales.”

As the U.S. climbs toward 1 million in annual e-bike sales, it still lags far behind Europe and Asia, where annual sales are about 3 million and 35 million respectively, according to Benjamin’s estimates.