Since the last time BikeBiz spoke to Powacycle, the firm has been hawk-eyed observing changes in various European markets. Director of Ahkter’s bike division Wazz Mughal talks Mark Sutton through his plans to conquer demographics, territories and market share…
Dealers familiar with the Ahkter Group will be aware of that there’s much more to Powacycle than just electric bikes. The Essex firm hails from the computing trade, providing ICT systems for the Ministry of Defence and educational facilities up and down the country.
Having created the off shoot Powacycle business just as electric bikes were beginning to catch the attention of bicycle dealers here in the UK, Powacycle has become one of the largest volume e-bike sellers in the country.
But as director of Powacycle Wazz Mughal recalls, breaking the UK electric market hasn’t been plain sailing. He told BikeBiz: "The UK is far from selling electric bikes in the quantities many firms do in Europe. In the Netherlands customers won’t bat an eyelid at paying up to 4,000 Euros for an electric bike. What is high-end in the UK is mid-range on the continent and emulating mainland Europe’s sales patterns still isn’t likely in the near future. Having said that, business domestically is certainly on the up."
Last year, the firm’s ‘top end’ Infineum line sold a very reasonable 2,500 bikes to Dutch consumers, signalling a ramped up presence throughout the Eurozone, particularly in the Netherlands this year.
Mughal said: "Over there electric bikes are a hobby, not a necessity, as they often are to the typical UK customer. The demographic is different. The customers are often younger and interestingly, couldn’t care for the ‘speed boost’ that this country’s customer enjoys. The Dutch enjoy just ambling along and as such, we’ve modified our drive systems for bikes shipped there."
Domestically, Mughal concedes that numbers of the premium Infineum line sold per year sits around 500, a fraction of the number of Powacycle builds sold.
"We sell around 3,000 Powacycles in the UK annually, with the ever-popular lithium ion- equipped Windsor and Salisbury bikes leading the charge at £780 each. These bikes sit around the low-to-mid end of the domestic market and will be joined by two new models due shortly. These will be the Euro-inspired Valencia and Prague bikes, which will hopefully be around by the time we set up our Cycle Show stand at the NEC this year."
Infineum’s performance in the Dutch market is already at five-fold the figure sold in the UK, highlighting that many Europeans and low-end e-bikes don’t get along. "We’ve not sold any Powacycles into European territory as there’s not really a low-end market. We’ve observed a maturity in mainland Europe where both dealers and consumers alike are now seeking performance electric bikes. Carbon fibre builds are gradually appearing as concepts and the stigma previously surrounding the sector has entirely disappeared."
In a rapidly evolving market Powacycle is right to be thinking on its feet. Creating concepts such as the solar panel recharged electric bike and the modular stackable battery, the firm has a few unique ideas that should ensure it remains at the forefront of electric bike development.
"One key selling point that we felt had to be nailed down early was making all the electrics modular. Dealers don’t want to become electricians, nor do they have the time, so all of our wiring and connections are easily replaced, unplugged or serviced with minimal hassle," says Mughal. "We’ve got all modular attachments in stock here at the Harlow headquarters."
On the subject of rules and regulations, Mughal is happy to give the customer what they want. Where many firms are turning away from throttle usage, Powacycle and Infineum bikes offer both power assist and throttle options on many models.
"We’ve developed a new bike, the Continental, that will be able to be purchased with a torque sensor. It’ll add some cost, but increase the life of the electric components and motor. Consumers still ask about throttles, so in the short term at least we won’t phase these out. Again, market-to-market, preferences differ. Yes electric bikes perform better without throttles, but the demand for this style of electric assist is still there."
Asked whether he feels the domestic market can reach the exciting heights of our European neighbours, Mughal gives the impression that now the quality control issues of old are no longer hang over the trade anything’s possible.
"At home it’s the 50- somethings buying into electrics. But times are changing and with each petrol price increase we see a sales spike. Today’s bikes are a lot more presentable and don’t look out of place on any shop floor. Powacycle and Infineum in particular are at the forefront of pushing the desirability of electric bikes. The consumer can now be pitched an Infineum with built in front and rear lights, mudguards, racks, a strong mileage per charge cycle and many more benefits. We even attach a free pump to our premium lines now."
Retailers interested in a Powacycle trade account can contact the firm on 01279 821243, or contact Jeffreywang@powacycle.co.uk. Representative visits can be organised by appointment.