The introduction of another crowd-funded e-bike by Storm Sondors – this time called the Sondors THIN Electric Bike – has generated a lot of new interest from those researching e-bikes. The attractive price point – starting at $499 (plus shipping and taxes) – is definitely an attention-getter, particularly for those working within a particular budget.
Sondors isn’t the only one with e-bikes showing up on crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but his incredibly successful first campaign for an electric fat bike last year has encouraged others to post similar e-bike models in development.
The price looks great, the bikes look cool, and some even offer interesting solutions to common problems. But if you haven’t yet experienced the excitement (and sometimes disappointment) of participating in a crowd-funded project (usually called a campaign), here are a couple of important things to consider before you put your money on the table.
Know What to Expect with Crowd-Funding
First, crowd-funded projects enable someone with an idea for a new product to collect enough money from those willing to take a chance on the project so he/she can continue research, design, prototypes, testing, and final product production.
These campaigns do NOT guaranteed delivery of a final product – you are investing in an idea and hoping that enough others invest to reach the “goal” and that the product turns out to be viable and capable of being produced as the originator describes it. Crowd-funding projects do not always wind up providing anything to those who placed what are often called “pre-orders”, and refunds can be tricky. Even if a refund is offered, initial costs up to the point of cancellation are deducted prior to issuing a partial refund.
Second, crowd-funded projects almost always encounter some degree of delay in the optimistic initial timeline. A short timeline encourages people to invest, and delays in receiving the product you already paid for commonly occur due to unforeseen problems in development, manufacturing, testing, shipping, etc. Even campaigns that are incredibly successful in terms of generating way more money than asked for may face delays and problems precisely because of that success – sourcing materials and manpower for that increased demand may not be possible within the initial timeline.
Know the True Price
After looking at the details of a campaign, let’s say that you’ve decided to participate in a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign for the new Sondors THIN electric bike or something similar.
It’s important to be aware that the added “perks” offered (early bird, pay later, upgrades, “optional” parts like an LCD display) plus estimated taxes and shipping costs can wind up ballooning the final cost way beyond the initial bargain price! And you’ve still got some other details to consider before pushing the “submit” button and spending your hard-earned dollars on an electric bike.
Are All E-Bikes the Same?
Just as with traditional bicycles that can range from a $200 bike at Wal-Mart to a $2,000 bicycle at a local bike shop, there are a lot of factors that go into the price of an electric bike.
Although a higher price is not always a guarantee of better quality, it helps to understand what can drive the price difference. For example, EVELO electric bicycles all come pre-equipped with a NuVinci N360 internal drivetrain and a mid-drive Motor, both of which dramatically improve the riding experience – but also affect the final price.
About a year ago, we wrote a detailed post outlining what goes into the price of an electric bike. Take a look at it in "Transparent Pricing: Where Does Your Money Go When You Buy an Electric Bike.
A quality, comprehensive warranty is an important part of any e-bike purchase. These are complex machines composed of a lot of different parts. EVELO Electric Bicycles include a full 18 month warranty, which covers all mechanical components and electrical components -- even including the battery.
Sondors e-bikes have no warranty and no refunds. Support for customers has improved somewhat over time, but it is limited and only available by email. For example, if a simple test shows that your charger is working but the battery isn’t fully charging, the solution offered is to buy a new battery for $297! At EVELO, we pride ourselves on our level of customer service, with prompt answers 7 days a week to questions around both sales and service of our electric bikes.
We’ll walk you through a repair or, if you prefer, we have relationships with a nationwide network of existing bicycle repair shops, and can work with any local bicycle shop of your choice to handle any aspect of service. From simple flat tires or brake adjustments, all the way to a worst-case-scenario type of problem, EVELO can handle the situation. With thousands of bikes on the road, and more than 5 years in the business, we're seasoned professionals at handling any kind of issue and know the ins and outs of all of the parts that make up our electric bikes.
With the Sondors bike, and virtually any crowd-funded product, there is no option to return the bike. Even new bike companies hitting the regular market often won’t accept returns – crowd-funded efforts like the Sondors e-bikes justify no returns because “funds have already been paid to vendors.” In contrast, EVELO offers a 7 day risk-free trial period, and has a tried-and-true return policy and process in place.
One additional aspect vital for anyone thinking about an electric bike is the location of the motor. EVELO offers a mid-drive motor system, while most others (including the low-priced Sondors and other crowd-funded options) use a rear wheel hub-drive system.
There’s nothing wrong with the rear hub-drive system, but a mid-drive motor has some significant advantages – easier service (since there is no motor to deal with in the wheel), gearing reduction of the motor system itself (hub drives are inherently one-speed direct-drive motors), and significantly more efficient operation. A mid-drive system is always the best solution if you're looking for assistance up hills, as well as the longest range possible in more level neighborhoods.
Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns usually have the goal of proving a concept or a new solution to a problem, and if successful, they may lead to the establishment and growth of a new business. But the existence of inventory and proven distribution of a product is key to ensuring that customers will have confidence in what they are purchasing.
EVELO stocks all of their current models in facilities right here in the United States, and although the Sondors THIN bike is a follow-up to a successful first campaign, there are no bikes in the US available for sale, nor does that appear to be in the long-term plans.
Sondors campaigns and similar ones have done much to spread the word about electric bikes and raised a lot of interest in them, which everyone involved in the business is extremely happy to see. But if those bikes come without warranties or adequate service options, buyers may wind up having a very short relationship with that bike. Some comments on such project pages show a disturbing picture of people saying “oh well, it was cheap so it’s OK if it doesn’t work. I’ll get another one.” But how many electric bikes do you really want to buy? If that answer is only one (or two – one for you and one for your partner), don’t forget the age-old adage of "you get what you pay for."
An attractive price and a shiny paint job can catch even the most informed consumer’s interest, but sometimes things can be too good to be true. Those who understand the manufacturing processes and additional parts (motor, controller, and battery to mention just a few) it takes to produce a quality e-bike, see red flags when a complete e-bike is being offered at a price comparable to a quality non-electric bicycle.
Can quality products and dedicated long term support come from an Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign? Perhaps, but it can’t be counted on – indeed, not even a final product is promised, no matter how well-meaning the people behind the project may be. In contrast, existing companies like EVELO have a full inventory of bicycles, parts, and components in stock year-round, ready to support both existing and new customers at any time. EVELO has a stake in the long-term, rather than focusing on one goal.
Over the past few years, the number of new electric bike companies competing for customers is staggering. The goal should not be to make the cheapest electric bike possible as part of a short-term business plan, but to produce a quality electric bike that comes with long-term service and support.
At EVELO, we want to see more people on electric bikes because we know it’s a fun way to get some exercise, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy the outdoors! If we can help you decide on the options best for your situation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.