China Study Trip, March 2015

When I was asked if I wanted to go to Taiwan to visit the Taipeh Cycle Show and then take part in an experts study trip to China. It didn’t take long to say:  „Oh YEAH!!!, I’m going“. I always wanted to see what the world and mobility looks like in China, where millions of LEV (Light electric vehicles) are already in use. A special joy is to be able to hold a brief presentation about the perspective of cargo bikes and their potential in Europe in the next years at a conference at the end of this week. Cargo bikes are my favorite topic these days!

Role of the Trip

The study trip visits a series of key Chinese e-bike and light electric vehicle production sites. The tour is organized by ExtraEnergy from Germany and the Chinese Bicycle Association (CBA). It is set in the framework of one of the famous „5-year plans“ by the Chinese government – running from 2014-2019. Its goal is to increase the quality of LEV export products and develop the domestic market further. Namely goals are a third of the products shall be Li-Ion powered by 2019, the average price of export bikes shall rise to 1000$ and the high end market in Chinas e-bikes in China is planned to get a kick start. See this „Bike Europe“ article for more details).

What we will see

Now I am a bit late with the article; we have already visited Tianneng Battery company, Giant Bicycles, Bafang Motors, Yadea (produces scooters and ebikes) and Phylion Batteries. All those are young companies, never older than 1990, growing at the speed of light (normally around 15-30% per year) and producing quantities that make most German and European companies of the same branch look like cute little-high-tech dwarfs! Click on the links above to find pictures (at least) and some text (to be filled up these days)

Tianjin from the 19th floor

Today we arrived in the luxury Hyatt Hotel in Tianjin, I have never been to such a fancy hotel – floor 19 -and therefore allow myself to post picutres of the delicious and flabbergasting hotel and dinner instead of evermore ebikes…!


In the next days we have a full schedule to go still, so in the end we will have seen these places: Electric Motor producers: Bafang; Bike Producers: Giant, Flying pigeon, Yadea, Golden Wheel Bicycle Company, Aima electric bike company; Frame producers: Tianjin Alloy Frame company; Display Producers: King Meter.

The group

Travelling with me (Wasilis von Rauch) is a fabulous group of e-experts that without going anywhere would be worth chatting with for several days: Hannes Neupert, Jean Chen, Reno Heßlich, Carolin Springer (all ExtraEnergy), Marco Klimmt (Head of Brose e-bike project), Rüdiger Nierescher (EnergyTube Holding), Susanne Brüsch (Pedelec Adventures), Sascha Nachtnebel (Greenfinder, N8 Business Development), Tilmann Künzel (Cyberwan Ingenieurbüro/ETTRAK), Peter Albert Prebus (Electric Bike Report), Donatas Nekrasius, Justinas Cerniauskus, Tora Harris, ShiGuang Yu (technology development of CBA).

The e-Bike Tour in China and Taiwan

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E-Bike batteries from China – Visit at Tianneng company

With our group of around 20 international e-bike experts we arrived this morning from the Hotel in Changxing at the headquarters of Tianneng Battery company – welcomed by the CEO and several high level representatives of the company we first we saw a battery museum that covers a brief history of batteries and their production starting in 1600 in Europe. The companies history was of course also in the focus.

Tianneng and the Chinese market

Founded in 1986 the brand sees a huge growing ever since – today 20.000 people are working in around 25 production sites around China. The company covers 40% of the Chinese market for e-bike batteries. Mainly lead acid batteries (export is not very relevant until now).

Lead acid is of course a threat to the environment, and one main topic of our trip is to discuss with Chinese companies and policy makers from the Chinese Bicyle Association (CBA) how to quickly increase the share of Li-Ion batteries in the market.

At least though, there seems to be a quite well working lead acid recycling system: By law a producer has to take used batteries back and consumers get a refund when they return the battery tot the retailer (around 1/3 of the price). This very high refund value causes a high recycling rate – over 90% as Chinese experts estimate. Tianneng in the last years has started to produce Li-Ion cylindrical cells used in e-bikes, see pictures below. The recycling is in planning and going to start soon.

e-bike Batteries require high quality cells

I learned from our groups experts Hannes Neupert (ExtraEnergy) and Rüdiger Niereschner (Energy Tube) that in Li-Ion battery production, precision and perfect cleanliness are the key to quality. As Humans make mistakes an ideal battery production factory is highly automatized. As you can see on the pictures the production of Li-Ion batteries at Tianneng is still involving a lot of workers and according to the experts in our group, the hygiene is not absolute top level. This may result in quality issues and higher rates of defect cells.

Now why is that a problem especially for e-bikes?

A short answer: Big batteries consist in a lot of cells and, very briefly said, the quality of a battery depends upon the quality of its weakest cell. So the more cells you put into one battery, the higher the risk of a failing one. An e-bike pack usually has 40 cells or more, thus the risk of a bad one is much higher than when you look at a battery pack used to charge a smartphone that has maybe two cells.


Global competition: High quality and good reputation required

Tianneng would like to export Li-Ion round cells to global e-bike markets as their chairman underlined in a chat we had after the tour – the global market is dominated rather by Japanese and Korean products – not only have they got very high quality standards but also a good reputation. And this reputation is the second key to export chances – easy to explain why: When you buy some thousands or millions of cells from, it will take 3 or 4 years until you know if they were good – or if you know earlier, they must have been bad :-).

As Chinese battery producers in general are seen with skepticism, even if their quality was perfect now, it will be hard years for them to get into international markets. However with their strong background in a growing domestic market where 35 Millions of e-bikes are sold yearly at the moment, Tianneng and other Chinese battery brands might as well have that patience.

The e-Bike Tour in China and Taiwan

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    Impressions: Cycling in Taipeh & Taipeh Cycle Show

    Hinweis – Dieser Artikel ist auf englisch verfasst – This articel is in english language, so welcome international readers ;-).

    Cycling is not particularly on the rise in most asian cities. In many places it used to be more popular but now people prefer to have a motorized vehicle if they can afford it. Taipeh in this sense seems a little different, at least in the center and according to what I saw these two days, there are quite some cycle paths, although not everywhere. Besides heavy car traffic, many people cycle and they also do so on sidewalks. The public bikerental system „You Bike“ is apparently very popular, also as a means to get to the next metro station. The first 30 minutes are free, you use the same payback card as for public transport & regional trains and there are many stations – so it is convenient to use (I tried it today). On the streets you also see a lot of e-bikes, very old ones with big lead acid batteries. Modern ones don’t seem to be too present here.

    The Cycle Show

    After riding my „Youbike“ to Nangang Exibition Center this mornig I quickly registred for the fair, got a ticket and had a first walk around the Taipeh Cycle Show. The fair is much calmer than the Eurobike (some colleagues I met today say they fly here to have a relaxed chat with those CEOs that are super busy at the Eurobike).  It teakes place on two floors and the focus is more on bike components, although there are also a good number of ready to sell bikes. Many big producers meet their suppliers here. On the test track you can see some interesting new e-motor concepts… to get an impression, have a look at the first set of fotos I took!


    Further Links

    Taipeh Cycle Show 2015 und E-Bikes in China

    Am nächsten Wochenende geht es los für Fahrradfreaks! Am 21. und 22.3.2015 findet die VELOBerlin statt – mit vielen Neuigkeiten für die kommende Radsaison, parallel dazu kann man die auch die schicke Berliner Fahrradschau besuchen. Wer richtig Lust hat, kann für jede der beiden Messen einen Tag einplanen.

    Normalerweise gibt es auch im e-Rad Hafen immer Berichte zu den beiden Messen. Nicht so in diesem Jahr denn: der e-Rad Hafen besucht in den nächten Tagen die Taipeh Cycle Show und wird aus Taiwan berichten.

    In der Woche nach der Cycle Show wird es Berichte zu Radfahren und E-Bikes in China geben. Ich werde zahlreiche Unternehmen besuchen, bspw. den Motorenhersteller BAFANG,  die e-Bike Hersteller Giant und Flying Pigeon (produziert 1,5 Millionen E-Bikes pro Jahr), King Meters (grosser Display Hersteller) und Gelegenheit haben, mit der CBA (Chinese Bicycle Association) über die Strategie der chinesischen Regierung im Bereich Elektroräder zu diskutieren.

    Freue mich über Hinweise, Anregungen und Fragen diesen Themen!

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