NIU’s e-bikes could reshape the e-bike market in the US and Europe

NIU’s fame lies in its wildly popular smart electric scooters, which took off in Asia and continue to show strong sales in the European and North American markets. But the company’s technology has also made its way into a wider range of lighter electric vehicles. Now, NIU’s next e-bike may be gearing up to shake up the e-bike industry.

NIU electric mopeds are not only stylish, they are also packed with high performance and high tech features.

The company demonstrated that it could successfully pivot this same technology to smaller vehicles when last year it rolled out a sporty electric scooter known as the NIU KQi3.

But one of the most exciting new products heading to the US and Europe is NIU’s new BQi e-bike.

We got our first detailed look at the bike about six weeks ago at the EICMA Motorcycle Show in Milan, giving us a taste of what NIU has in mind for this radical new design.

Just skip to 6:37 in the video below to see the NIU BQi up close.

The look of the bike turns the script on its head from the usual e-bike market suspects we’ve grown accustomed to.

Although there are hundreds of e-bike companies each selling several different models, nearly all of these e-bike designs tend to follow predictable lines.

Fat tire e-bikes all look like fat tire mountain bikes. Folding e-bikes are largely alike. All stepper e-bikes look like Dutch bikes. All moped-style e-bikes basically look like mopeds.

There are a few exceptions to the rules, as well as sometimes unique e-bikes that pop up from time to time. But overall, the e-bike industry is following predictable paths.

And luckily for us, NIU is not part of the e-bike industry – or at least it joined the industry as an outsider. With a history of building scooters and motorcycles, NIU came up with a different design approach to both the styling and the technology behind an e-bike.

The NIU BQi adopts a progressive design, jumping on the bandwagon of a recent trend that makes e-bikes more accessible to a wider range of riders. But it does this without falling back on a Dutch bike design or something resembling a classic “lady’s bike”.

The U-shaped frame will not only make mounting the bike easier, it should also make handling the bike easier when the rear rack is loaded with heavy loads or children. Getting through the frame will be much easier than swinging one leg over tall cargo.

Another benefit of this unique frame is a unique way to store batteries. Yes, “batteries” as in the plural. While the vast majority of all e-bikes use a single removable battery, NIU’s unique frame design makes it easy to install two batteries. And it does it without looking bulky or out of proportion.

The company hasn’t announced the capacity, but says the dual batteries should offer up to 100km of range. I guess that means nothing less than 500Wh each, which would mean a pair of 48V 10.4Ah batteries. NIU says it will use 21700 format cells, so maybe the capacity will be even higher.

Performance-wise, the EU version will unfortunately be limited to boring speeds of 25 km/h (15.5 mph) and a 250W rear motor.

But in the US, NIU will replace a 500W motor and offer speeds of up to 28 mph (45 km/h).

The bike will be programmable for Class 2 or Class 3 regulations, which are the two most popular (and objectively most fun) e-bike classes in the United States.

A belt drive and hydraulic disc brakes will make the bike easy to maintain, which again takes another page out of NIU’s electric motorcycle playbook.

But perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of all will be the pricing. NIU said late last year it was aiming for a price below €1,500 (US$1,705), and the massive size of the company means that could be a real possibility. Compared to other market entries that offer somewhat reduced performance at higher prices, NIU could gain significant market share.

And that’s before you consider all the additional technologies that e-bikes are likely to include. NIU has an advanced smartphone app that is used across its line of vehicles to monitor diagnostics and perform in-home updates. I use it all the time for my daily driver which is a NIU NQi GT electric scooter. The same app will almost invariably be built into NIU’s upcoming BQi e-bike.

What’s not so clear is NIU’s timeline for the release of the new e-bike.

It’s no secret that the e-bike industry is coming off a roller coaster year when it comes to supply chain issues and shipping crises.

But with NIU heading to CES 2022 next week and set to bring its next e-bike with it, we might get lucky with an estimated release date announcement.

And if not, we’ll all have to keep pestering the company until they give us one.

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