Electric bicycles in Nepal terrain
Now, here come electric bicycles which purists have problems with, but are catching on despite the steep price tag.
In 2018, Nepal’s oldest bicycle shop Pancha Asta Narayan Cycles (Panc) began to roll out Electric Conversion Kits (ECKs) that turn regular bicycles into e-bikes. Now the shop is also importing battery powered bicycles.
This year, Kuzu Nepal, the distributor of the Chinese electric vehicle company Yadea’s two-wheelers, introduced four of its all-terrain electric mountain bicycles in Nepal: the Yadea SS1000, SS800, YS500, and YT500.
Yadea Nepal’s customer base has grown steadily since then. It has sold 30 electric bicycles in recent months. Interestingly, the higher-end SS1000 and SS800 are bestsellers, says Ritesh Shrestha of Yadea Nepal. Most customers are avid Kathmandu-based long-distance cyclists, doctors, and expats.
However, the company recognises that the reach of e-bikes is limited and that they may not be for everyday Nepali users.
“Our customer base is largely people who know their bicycles, and people over age 35 who want a less taxing mode of a healthier lifestyle,” says Shrestha.
He recalls some recent feedback from a young client who purchased an e-bike recently, but his father has been using it to commute to and from work:
“The Dad told us that despite not being in top form, the rides are not stressful or tiresome, and his commute is helping him to exercise.”
The primary objective of an electric bicycle is to enable a healthy way of travelling and enhance one's performance. Cyclists need not exert nearly as much energy pedalling, and can ride further without taxing their bodies.
Among the four all-terrain e-bikes, the Yadea SS1000 and SS800 mountain bikes are for Nepal’s off-roads, while the YS500 and YT500 models are more suited to urban and city roads. The high-end Yadea SS1000 is the most expensive at Rs430,000, while the two city bikes are priced at Rs250,000 each.
Yadea e-bikes use a Samsung lithium-ion battery attached to the down tube of the bicycle frame, which takes four-and-a-half hours to fully charge for the SS1000 and SS800 bicycles, while the YS500 and YT500 models take six-and-a-half hours to charge fully.
The bicycles are equipped with the company’s independently developed 350W Fusion mid-motor located near the bicycle’s bottom bracket, which provides a maximum torque of 85NM.
The controls of the bike, which allow the rider to manage the motor input according to levels, are on the left handlebar, with a display monitor at the front. The bikes have 11 gears that can be changed using a tab along the right handlebar.
Nearly 80% of all registered vehicles in Nepal are privately owned two-wheelers, most of them polluting fossil fuel guzzlers, and contribute 8% to total emissions from transportation.
And while battery-powered electric scooters and motorcycles significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, some point to the “redundancy” of e-bikes, as bicycles require no fossil fuel to begin with.
“Electric bicycles, and electric two-wheelers in general, haven’t made an impact in Nepal like electric four-wheelers,” says Lokesh Oli of Olizstore, who has tested and reviewed several electric vehicles, including Yadea’s SS1000 e-bike, and posted videos on YouTube.
The expensive price tag is a drag. Many viewers commented on Oli’s review of the Yadea SS1000 that they would rather buy new motorcycles than spend so much on electric bicycles.
Other companies that promote e-bikes in Nepal agree with the public consensus and sell the bicycles without much exposure or promotion.
“Considering the costs as well as exposure, e-bikes in Nepal, whether they be for the daily commute or more long-distance off-road travel, are currently for hobbyists,” he adds.
However, Oli, who grew up cycling to and from school and around his village, as well as for a few years after he relocated to Kathmandu, is optimistic about the future of battery-operated bicycles.
“This is true especially as bicycles remain the primary mode of transport for much of Nepal’s population outside the Valley,” he adds.
People across Nepal own bicycles for travel and business, and access to e-bikes would reduce their effort as well as make them more efficient.