The New (Worrying) Trend Coming with Electric Bikes: Features as a Service (2022)

NOTE: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed within may not reflect the views held by all staff at webBikeWorld, and are the express views of this author alone.

In the world of motorcycles, at least at the moment, it is expected that when you buy a new bike, you get access to everything on the bike. You’re already paying thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, for a vehicle, and you expect everything to be there and working as soon as you take delivery. There is, however, a worrying precedent being set in the electric motorcycle market that some of those expected amenities will be locked away behind a paywall.

If you are familiar with the Information Technology business, the idea of offering something—such as a server, a complete computer system, or some kind of software—on a rental-style payment system is fairly commonplace. These are known as “as a Service” plans, and are implemented in case you do not want to hand over the sometimes tens of thousands of dollars for specialized systems and software licenses.

A very common example of this is via Adobe Software and their Creative Cloud Software as a Service, where you “rent” the license to use things like Photoshop and Premiere Pro for as little as $10 per month, instead of the $1,000+ each piece of software would cost to buy outright. But how does this apply to electric bikes?

What Kinds of Things Can Be Locked Behind a Paywall?

This kind of idea does exist in a very limited way in the automotive market—in that if you want to listen to satellite radio, you need to subscribe. In Tesla EVs, if you want to use autopilot on a secondhand model, you need to hand over the cash to do so as the new owner. However, in terms of safety features, you don’t buy a car and then expect to find that to use the ABS, you need to subscribe to the manufacturer’s braking system, as an example.

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Convenience features, however, are quite liable to be put behind a subscription or a paywall. Say, for example, you buy an electric motorcycle and plug it in to a charge point, either in your home or at a charging station in your city. The bike itself is capable of 150 kW charging, but when you plug it in, you find that the bike only charges at 75 kW. Surprise, that 150 kW charge rate needs you to buy the 150 kW charge rate pack, for only an extra $1,500!

The 2022 LIveWire One electric motorcycle. At the moment, it comes fully unlocked to the maximum charging rate that CCS1 Level 3 DC fast charge stations allow, regulated by the onboard controller. This can charge the entire 15.4 kWh battery from depleted to 100% in just about an hour. Image via LiveWire

Other prime targets for paywall restrictions include features like rider-set riding modes, heated grips, electronically adjustable suspension, even connectivity to a smartphone app to track battery usage and average miles per kWh ratings. While they don’t take away from the functionality of the bike to move and be ridden, they are features that most riders would realistically expect to simply be available.

The extremely worrying thing is that the example of the charge rate doubling above… wasn’t hypothetical.

A Case Study: Zero Motorcycles & Locked Features

Zero Motorcycles, as many know, were one of the first manufacturers to leap headfirst into the electric bike market. It could be argued that they helped kickstart the electric motorcycle movement in the Americas, and have had moderate success in changing people’s minds about whether electric motorcycles will actually catch on. However, with the release of their 2022 SR/F and SR/S bikes, using the new Cypher III+ management software and associated smartphone app, they have fully introduced the concept of “Features as a Service” behind extra paywalls.

Charging a 2022 Zero SR/S. To unlock the full speed charging and the entire charge capacity of the battery, you need to fork over nearly $3,700 on top of the already expensive $19,995 base price! Image via Zero Motorcycles

For example, with the 2022 Zero SR/S, if you want to charge your bike 17% faster, that’s $295. Want to use the built-in dash-display navigation system? $195. To double your charging speed, as explained in the previous section, that is $1,495. Live somewhere chilly and want to use the included heated grips? That’s another $195.

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This doesn’t just relate to charging and features, however. The truly worrying paywall is the battery itself, which is marketed as a 15 kWh battery, but is realistically an almost 18 kWh unit. Why? Because if you want to unlock an extra 10% of battery capacity, that is a whopping $2,195! To put that in perspective, to add 10% more capacity to an artificially locked battery, you need to pay just about 80% of the MSRP of a Honda Metropolitan scooter.

It gets even worse with the 2022 Zero SR/F. While the SR/S has rider aides and bonus features locked behind a paywall, the SR/F has actual performance and safety locked away. It is advertised as having 110 HP, 140 lbs-ft of torque, and a 124 MPH (200 KPH) top speed, with lean angle sensitive six-axis stability control and a fully-featured dual-zone ABS system.

You get that… if you buy the premium trim.

The 2022 Zero SR/F. If there is ever one thing that should never, ever be behind a paywall, it’s safety features. Yet, with the SR/F, if you want to get fully activated ABS and 6-axis stability control, you need to pay an extra $1,795, unless you buy the $22,000 Premium version of the bike. Image via Zero Motorcycles

If you buy any other trim, you are restricted to 74 HP, 122 lbs-ft, and 104 MPH (167 KPH). Crucially, you also only get accelerometer-based stability control, and single-zone ABS on the front wheel only. To unlock the true power and safety of the bike, you need to fork over another $1,795.

To lock safety features behind a paywall goes beyond worrying to flat-out concerning, especially when you’re paying $17,500 or more to get a top-of-the-range Zero bike. Want the Premium SR/F with all the power and safety unlocked, but none of the extra features unlocked? That’s nearly $22,000, with nearly $4,300 needed to unlock all the features that you would expect to already be included at that retail price.

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The app that controls it all. Cypher III+ is the newest version of Zero’s app that allows you to unlock all the features of your SR/S and SR/F—if you pay the one-time charge per feature. Image via Zero

To play the devil’s advocate, there is a method behind the madness. By implementing software and firmware locks on features and power, it means that only one basic bike needs to be built. It’s after the bike has left the production line that the locks are put in place (or the bike is left unlocked if it’s a premium model). This streamlines both finances, materials, and production speed to optimize delivery times. Also, the pay-to-unlock features, as they are already built-in to the motorcycle, are nearly 100% pure profit.

It also allows for the possibility of incentivizing the features locked away. For example, maybe Zero will unlock the heated grips for the first week of September, when fall winds are in the air and it would be lovely to have toasty warm hands. It could also have demo days, such as during the summer, the first Tuesday of each month, your bike will be at full power with all features unlocked, and you can ride around to test them out. By showing how convenient the navigation system is to help you find a charge station, and then also allowing you to charge at the full power capability, you might just be tempted to pay to unlock.

To a rider, or potential owner, the complete opposite is true. You’ve saved up as much as you can, you’re really excited to be on the bleeding edge of environmentally-responsible green motoring, as well as looking forward to the immediate torque and power an electric motor provides. Imagine, then, the sour taste that would be in your mouth after buying your shiny new 2022 Zero SR/S and finding that to even charge it at the advertised speed, you need to hand over another full paycheck’s worth of money. Just to charge it at the advertised speed.

There is no way that this will catch on, right?

Will this Actually Succeed? Comparing Features as a Service to Other Paywall Models

The simple fact of the matter is that we, as a society, are already neck deep in “as a Service” models. You have a smartphone plan, an internet/tv package plan with your favorite channels on a subscription, a Spotify subscription, and for every seven coffees you buy from your shop of choice with your plan card or by using your Google or Apple wallet via that shop’s app, you get one free.

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Breaking that down, that’s voice/text as a Service, internet as a Service, entertainment as a Service, music/radio as a Service, and a rewards-based plan to entice you to use that specific coffee shop repeatedly. This is a gross oversimplification, but the point is that we, as North Americans, are already living with most of the things we use day to day on a “as a Service” model, with a rewards-based system for participating in it.

If you or anyone you know also plays any online games—such as World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV—that require a monthly subscription, you can bundle “Game as a Service” in there as well.

Final Fantasy XIV’s information page about subscription rates per month to play. While not in the realm of expensive from a single person point of view, multiply those prices by the approximately 5 to 10 million active players the game has globally at any one time. All of a sudden, it becomes apparent how a subscription system can be massively profitable. Image captured from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV Game Information Page

Again playing the devil’s advocate, the simple truth is that it’s already happening in the automotive sector, especially in the luxury market. BMW has recently introduced a paywall to unlock heated seats in their 3 and 5 Series cars, despite the fact that the physical systems to make them work are in every 3 and 5 Series. As well, the unlocks to all of the items for Zero are one-time payments attached to each owners’ Cypher III+ account, so if your bike is written off in an accident and you get another Zero, once the account is connected, the unlocks will apply immediately.

Realistically, the only way that this type of “Features as a Service” trend will not succeed is if the voting for it is done with wallets—for example, buy a KTM Freeride E-XC instead of a Zero FX. Don’t unlock the heated grips or double charge rate unless you absolutely need them. Don’t buy the SR/F if you can buy the SR/S, because at least the SR/S has full motor power and safety features unlocked.

The truth is, however, that we are a society of convenience in North America. What is $195 against untold miles of toasty warm hands? What is $1,500 if it means you spend 20 minutes at the charge station instead of 45? Time, as the saying goes, is money, and going from 10% to 80% charge in 20 minutes means you’ll already be halfway home by the time the guy that didn’t unlock the double charge rate even reaches 80%.

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So will “Features as a Service” succeed? In the concerned opinion of this author… most likely.

FAQs

Which Ebikes qualify for tax credits? ›

E-bike purchases are eligible for a refundable tax credit of 30 percent, up to $1,500. All three types of e-bikes qualify for tax credits, except for those with motors more powerful than 750W. Since the credit is fully refundable, individuals with lower incomes will be able to claim it.

Why electric bikes are better than normal bikes? ›

Electric bikes allow you to travel faster, and over longer distances. They're great for commuting, and you can arrive at the office feeling fresh. You'll still get a great workout on an electric bike as you still need to pedal.

Why are e-bikes becoming more popular? ›

E-bikes are widely seen as one of the best ways to reduce urban traffic, especially in cities without effective public transit systems. Even in cities with solid public transit, e-bikes are often more convenient alternatives as they allow riders to commute on their own schedules and without route constraints.

Is there a tax credit for electric motorcycles in 2022? ›

At the federal level, there is an electric motorcycle tax credit available in 2022. This is called the E-motorcycle Federal Tax Credit. Otherwise known as the 2-wheeled plug-in tax credit, this incentive gives buyers 10% off towards the purchase of a brand-new electric motorcycle.

Will an eBike save me money? ›

Cutting down on Fuel Costs:

With an eBike, your average 10-mile trip will cost just one to two cents in terms of electrical recharging, with minimal maintenance cost if you show proper care while riding. As a result, the typical 10-mile bike ride will save you two dollars when compared to using a car.

What problems do electric bikes solve? ›

I quickly learned that e-bikes solve the three worst problems of bicycle riding: 1) Pedaling up steep hills, 2) Pedaling into a stiff headwind, and 3) Riding too hard and getting too sweaty on a longer ride. In 2004, I purchased my first of five electric bikes, an Emotion Erace rear-hub-drive with hybrid tires.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of electric bicycle? ›

Therefore, the main advantage of an electric bike over the regular one is, of course, the electric motor, which helps you pedal and makes it easier to ride. You can travel longer distances — from 40 to 75 miles per charge. The main disadvantage is the higher price and greater weight.

How much do electric bikes help? ›

Almost everyone also burned about 30 percent fewer calories while e-biking than road riding — 344 to 422 calories per hour, on average, on an e-bike, versus 505 calories per hour on a regular bike — which may be a consideration if someone is hoping to use bike commuting to help drop weight.

What's the difference between an ebike and an electric bike? ›

The main difference between a normal bicycle and an ebike is the motor. Pedaling an ebike is less work because they give you power while pedaling, but ebikes let you go further using less effort.

Are e-bikes good for seniors? ›

The answer is: Yes! E-bikes are better for elderly/senior riders as they make biking easier, safer, and more enjoyable. They can allow you to get the exercise you need without straining your muscles or joints. But in that case, you need to choose an e-bike with specific features that make it easy to operate.

How long do batteries last on electric bikes? ›

How long does a battery last on an electric bike? Generally speaking, a high-quality eBike battery can last anywhere from 2 – 5 years. Of course, that depends on a number of things including the type of battery itself and just how well you take care of it.

Is electric bike the future? ›

Electric bikes are the solution to many transportation problems in the world today. It is safe to say, the transportation sector will experience an exponential growth from e-bike in the nearest future. They are easy to move around, and reduces congestion rate in the society, it is right time to own one now.

Are electric bikes becoming popular? ›

These are a few reasons electric bikes are becoming more popular. Others include a growing interest in getting more exercise and finding ways to make cycling less of a chore. Precedence Research reveals that the number of e-bikes around the globe is expected to climb to 300 million by 2023.

When did electric bikes become popular? ›

One of the first commercially successful e-bike models appeared in 1997 with the name “Select”. Year after that there was over 49 different e-bike models available on the market. In the early 2000s, two big Japanese companies Yamaha and Panasonic became their worldwide mass production.

Can you get the EV tax credit more than once? ›

Can a household receive multiple EV tax credits? If two members of the same household purchase electric vehicles for themselves, they will be able to separately claim the credit for their individual cars. If the two buy an EV together, the credit may only be claimed once.

Are e-bikes covered by insurance? ›

Homeowners, renter and auto insurances offer very limited e-bike coverage. Traditional homeowners and renter insurances typically offer limited coverage (if any) for theft, damage, or liability related to e-bikes because an electric bike is considered a motorized vehicle.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car? ›

The average cost of charging an EV at a commercial charger, from almost empty to almost full, is between $10 and $30. Keep in mind that charging your EV on a road trip—that is, at a commercial charger—costs significantly more than charging it at home.

How many miles do e-bikes last? ›

The motor for an electric bike will generally last up to 10,000 miles at its minimum; this could be longer if properly cared for. If you are riding ten miles per day, that means your e-bike motor should last you for approximately three years before it needs replacing.

Is getting an ebike worth it? ›

Well, electric bicycles offer the same great benefits as traditional bicycles including cost savings (no licensing or insurance required), improved well-being, and connection with community. The real advantage to ebikes in my view is efficiency in climbing hills or fighting the wind combined with better range.

How fast do electric bikes go? ›

So, how fast do electric bikes go? Most ebikes stop providing electric assist while pedaling up to 20 mph (Class 1 and Class 2 ebikes) and 28 mph (Class 3 ebikes). The fastest electric bikes on the market have higher top speeds, but they do not fit into the current classification system.

Why is my eBike battery draining so fast? ›

If your eBike hasn't been charged for a more extended period, it would be a good idea to give it a top-up - and see how it goes. If you notice that you're charging your battery, but it still discharges quickly without being used, you might have a short circuit somewhere or a faulty battery at your hands.

How environmentally friendly are electric bikes? ›

An e-bike emits 40 to 140 times fewer pounds of greenhouse gases than a 30 mpg gas car, assuming it is charged with California's electric energy mix. E-bikes are incredibly cost-effective. Most bikes cost less than a penny per mile to charge.

Are Ebikes safe? ›

The Increased Risk of Injury Associated with E-Bikes

Here are some facts from the study's findings: E-bike riders are more likely to suffer from internal injuries. E-bike riding injuries are three times more likely to involve a crash with a pedestrian. E-bikes riders are more likely to suffer from concussions.

Is riding an electric bike good exercise? ›

Ultimately, the study concluded that electric mountain bikes appear to be an “excellent form of aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, even for experienced mountain bikers who regularly engage in this fitness activity”.

Can you ride an electric bike in the rain? ›

Can You Ride an Ebike in the Rain? Yes, riding an ebike in the rain is perfectly fine. However make sure your ebike has been tested for riding in the rain (not all manufacturers/models are). You should also avoid riding in puddles or standing water, as this can damage the electronics on your ebike.

Can electric bike go without battery? ›

Yes, all electric bikes function as normal bicycles when the motor is off, so you can simply ride your electric bike the same way you would a traditional bicycle, whether the motor is switched off or if the battery is dead. You can also ride the bike normally by simply switching the pedal-assist function to zero.

How much does an electric bike battery cost? ›

Generally speaking, a premium e-bike battery retails for around $500-800, but this is obviously determined by many factors, including the brand, the quality, the capacity, etc. The before mentioned price would is typical for a battery with parameters between 400wh and 700wh.

Can you write off bicycle on taxes? ›

The bicycle is not a motor vehicle as defined by the IRS, so it's not entered in the Business Vehicle Expenses section at all. Your expenses to repair and maintain the bicycle are entered as a general business expense.

Are electric bikes taxable? ›

The Cycle to Work scheme was introduced in 1999 – the aim being to encourage people to make healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyle choices. The scheme allows employees to spend on bikes and equipment, tax-free, making a claimed saving of up to 42 per cent on the overall value.

Is there a rebate for electric bikes in Canada? ›

Looking to purchase a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV) or electric bicycle (e-bike)? You could qualify for rebates available through Electrify Nova Scotia Provincial Rebate Program and iZEV Program from the Government of Canada.

Are e-bikes covered by insurance? ›

Homeowners, renter and auto insurances offer very limited e-bike coverage. Traditional homeowners and renter insurances typically offer limited coverage (if any) for theft, damage, or liability related to e-bikes because an electric bike is considered a motorized vehicle.

Can you claim an electric bike? ›

Items that are salary packaged, such as e-Bikes cannot be claimed as an income deduction as well. Remunerator will organise payment of your e-Bike novated lease to the supplier.

Can I buy a bike self-employed? ›

Buying a bike

Maintenance and service costs will also be claimable through the business. You not only avoid paying for these with your own funds. The value of the bike and related expenses will also help reduce corporation tax for your company. The restriction is that the bike must be used mainly for commuting.

What is the e-bike act? ›

Introduced in House (02/11/2021) This bill allows a refundable tax credit for 30% of the cost of a qualified electric bicycle. The credit is limited to $1,500 per taxpayer less all credits allowed for the two preceding taxable years.

How fast do electric bikes go? ›

So, how fast do electric bikes go? Most ebikes stop providing electric assist while pedaling up to 20 mph (Class 1 and Class 2 ebikes) and 28 mph (Class 3 ebikes). The fastest electric bikes on the market have higher top speeds, but they do not fit into the current classification system.

Do you need a licence to ride an electric bike? ›

You can ride an electric bike if you're 14 or over, as long as it meets certain requirements. These electric bikes are known as 'electrically assisted pedal cycles' ( EAPCs ). You do not need a licence to ride one and it does not need to be registered, taxed or insured.

Are e-bikes worth it? ›

The short answer is yes, they are safer than regular bicycles due to how they are designed. They utilize an in-line electric motor powered by a battery, which takes the place of the traditional pedalling, and this makes them very safe to ride on the road, and ultimately gives you even more control.

How much can an individual save on a new e-bike by participating in the BC SCRAP-IT program? ›

$750 from SCRAP-IT when you purchase your new electric bike from a Participating Electric Bicycle Retailer. The minimum retail price of the e-bike must be $1,200 BEFORE taxes. For a detailed description of a qualifying electric bike, claim details and related FAQs, please visit this page.

What provinces have EV incentives? ›

Provincial incentives
  • British Columbia. × Government of British Columbia. ...
  • New Brunswick. × Government of New Brunswick. ...
  • Newfoundland and Labrador. × Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. ...
  • Nova Scotia. × Government of Nova Scotia. ...
  • Ontario. × Ontario. ...
  • Prince Edward Island. × Government of Prince Edward Island. ...
  • Quebec. ×

What is EV rebate? ›

The EV tax credit is a federal incentive built to encourage drivers to purchase an electric vehicle. This incentive is not a check you receive in the mail following a vehicle purchase, but rather a tax credit worth up to $7,500 that you become eligible for.

Are e-bikes self-propelled? ›

Response 4: Some e-bikes are truly self-propelled, but most are "power-assisted" and don't go unless they're pedaled. Here's an excerpt from a recent class of mine: E-Bikes. E-bikes are bicycles with an electric motor that can provide propulsion, either solely or by assisting with pedaling.

Does homeowners insurance cover electric scooters? ›

Your home insurance should cover your mobility scooter. Since your mobility scooter would qualify as your personal property and theft is a covered peril, you should have coverage under a standard home insurance policy.

What is a Type A motorized bicycle? ›

Type A. A motorized bicycle under CVC 406(a) has an automatic transmission and a motor that cannot produce more than four gross brake horsepower. Type A models cannot exceed 30 miles per hour. They may or may not have pedals.

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