Mr Fleischer, political Berlin dreams of the lead market for e-mobility. But nobody talks about Bosch eBike Systems, even though millions of people are traveling with their engines. For years, the political celebrities at trade shows at the premiere of electric cars over – the breakthrough has not helped matters. Is there political support for you?
We would wish for more. The electric bicycle is the most successful mobility concept, not only in Germany but worldwide.
And it continues to grow and thrive. But what does politics do? Does she help? Are you slowing down?
In any case, the success of electric bikes does not come about with the help of politics. Success comes not through subsidies – neither to the industry nor to the buyer. The success of e-wheels comes only because the product is well received by the customers. Because people enjoy cycling and prefer to ride longer and more often with the pedelec.
In 2010, you introduced the first drive system. How did Bosch come up with the idea of going to the bicycle market?
We celebrate our tenth anniversary in 2019, we were founded in 2009. The idea comes from the year 2008. At that time we asked ourselves: what can Bosch with its technology contribute to the great megatrends of our time? The trends we saw were: urbanization, demographic change, energy shortages, scarcity of resources and emissions.
E-bikes have become an incredible success. Almost a million units are sold this year.
Of course, we have adopted a positive market trend for the electric bikes, otherwise we would not have participated and invested. And today we can say: We are well above expectations. We are pleased that the electric bike has arrived in the middle of the company. It came out of the niche – a bike for older cyclists who want to stay mobile. Today it is a lifestyle product – we are very pleased how good that is.
The electric cars are the other way round. They have a hard time with the end customer. To put it bluntly, it is required that the person who uses a bike or bus and train pays the bill for the charging stations of electric cars with his taxes. But I do not see the enthusiasm of politics about your success.
Let me put it this way: Political decision-making has a clear shortcoming here. What do I mean by that: The provision of infrastructure depends a lot on the development on the roads. And we – the entire industry, all associations – have been appealing to politics for years: we need this infrastructure. We need safe bike paths, we need secure storage facilities – also against theft and vandalism – otherwise the mobility concept bicycle will not reach the penetration that we need for a traffic turnaround. And we will hear new accident numbers every spring.
The accidents are not primarily the fault of the cyclists, but the neglected infrastructure.
We look envious to Amsterdam, and to Portland – Hamburg wants to be the next Copenhagen. But you do not just have to write concepts, you also have to build. Everyone wants to be like Copenhagen, but too few cycle paths are built. Why not? We have a bottleneck in the budget and in the provision of transport space.
I just can approve that too. My career path is the Hamburg Elbchaussee – an arterial road and the only direct connection to the city. There is no bike path at all. Since more than 15 years discussed – but not a single meter was built.
The transformation of our cities is progressing far too slowly. That's our message to politics: We do not want subsidies for sales or industry – we need good and safe bike paths. We want the cyclists to be able to drive safely and park their bikes properly.
When it comes to cycling and e-cycling in particular, politics sees risks and problems rather than opportunities. As a brakeman has now distinguished the CSU.
The CSU has managed to fill the summer hole with the topic of e-mountain bikers. They want to ban e-mountain bikes from the Alps, because there are supposedly conflicts with hikers. Of course, we have overcrowded hotspots in the south of Munich, but the rest of the Alps are empty.
So: "prohibitions instead of solutions".
That's a posse. It would be better if more people with the e-mountain bike from home or the hotel drive off and not only with the car in the mountains and there start from a huge trail parking lot.
Where we are in politics, let's talk about laws or violations of law – that is about tuning. So far it is very easy to cancel the 25 km / h barrier.
I grew up like you with the moped and the moped. "Frize" was at that time a trivial offense. One could now think that tuning a pedelec is also such a trivial offense. That's not it at all. They make a moped that is not subject to compulsory insurance and not insurable and thus lose their status as a bicycle. That's in the range of a criminal offense.
Your new CX engine makes tuning impossible. Not all customers will like this – why does Bosch do it?
Now you can say: what is the industry interested in, what nonsense the customers are doing. For us as an industry, it is important for all pedelecs – e-bikes up to 25 km / h – to maintain the status "bike" with all its rights and obligations. That's why, together with the Zweirad-Industrie-Verband, we have imposed a voluntary commitment against tuning and updated the valid standards. The new systems need to be able to recognize tuning. And that's what we did. If the software recognizes that a manipulation has occurred, the eBike automatically switches to emergency mode.
So then it goes on pretty slowly.
The eBiker can restore the original driving condition when driving for around 90 minutes. Then the manipulation inquiry takes place again. After the third time, the emergency operation can then be canceled only by the dealer.
We want to make our systems for tuning really unattractive, because we say: we want to preserve the freedom of cycling for all pedelec users.
And that is in danger if a minority makes the wheels faster?
Exactly, but pedelec driving is attractive because you do not have to wear a helmet because you do not have to take any special insurance. Because you can use forest and dirt roads and not least, only with the pedelec with its speed limit, you are allowed in town on the bike path. We have to protect this framework.
Basically, the standards of the legislature and a major manufacturer like you should respect them. But again to the 25-km / h.Grnze: Other countries are a bit more generous and go to 32 km / h, would not that be more reasonable?
In theory, that's right. But the challenge is the legislators in Berlin and Brussels.
From the car, the difference between 25 and 32 km / h is low. Both are slow. But that's a big difference on the bike. In the plane I drive with muscle strength much faster than 25.
In politics, there is a clear position: About 25 come automatically the helmet duty and the insurance. But there is the speed e-bike to 45 km / h and then you have all the regulations.
So that you can not go to the cycle paths in town.
Any attempt in Berlin or Brussels with the suggestion to be 30 or 32 km / h, automatically leads to helmet and insurance. Believe me, we've already tested that several times. You can dream of a change, but it is like this: With the 25 km / h you have to accept.
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