Imagine commuting in the fresh air, avoiding busy roads while cruising along at 45 kilometres per hour, arriving at work fresh and ready to go. If it sounds too good to be true – like a cross between a motorcycle and a mountain bike – you may be ready for a new form of transport.
Welcome to the wonderful world of e-bikes, as created by one of the world’s leading premium brands. There are good reasons why Stromer has been described as the Tesla of cycling. Its products are powerful, silent and capable of long-distance, high-speed urban commuting, fitted with state-of-the-art technology worthy of the most advanced vehicles on the road.
Made in the small village of Oberwangen, just outside Bern, they can travel 180 kilometres at speeds of up to 45 kilometres per hour on a single, two-hour charge. As the undisputed market leader, with more than 10,000 bikes sold last year alone (no mean feat given that they retail for between €4,500 and €9,500), Stromer has come a long way from humble beginnings in a rural Swiss farmhouse.
Riding an e-bike has a similar fitness impact to cycling and also contributes to stress reduction”
‘Commuters by car often complain about lack of exercise, but riding an e-bike has a similar fitness impact to cycling, and also contributes to stress reduction,’ says the company’s CEO, Jakob Luksch. ‘It is silent and better environmentally than public transport – and it provides an unrivalled riding experience.’
Ten years ago, when Thomas ‘Thömu’ Binggeli designed the first Stromer prototype, e-bikes were regarded with disdain by most in the cycling world. Not particularly fast and with looks that could best be described as ‘functional’, they were the clunky ugly ducklings of the road.
So, in 2009, Binggeli launched an e-bike that was faster and more elegant than the competition, inspired by new technologies and global brands such as Tesla and Apple. Crucially, he shifted the motor from the pedals, which most manufacturers preferred, to the rear wheel hub. This direct injection of power immediately created more speed, while improving the look. Then he integrated the battery and all the cabling inside the frame for a more streamlined appearance.
He sold the bikes for around €3,230 each and his small cycling company was elevated overnight to the status of a premium, luxury brand. After Andy Rihs, the Swiss billionaire and owner of the World Tour cycling team BMC, threw his financial weight behind the company a second, improved model hit the production line. This was capable of speeds up to 45 km/h, and was followed in 2014 by the first connected e-bike, the ST2, which integrated a GSM card that could perform similar functions to those available with a Tesla car.
The ST2 allowed the owner to locate the e-bike using an app on a smartwatch and to lock its rear wheel to prevent theft. It can also be used to download software updates to the bike in the same way that Tesla can for its cars. The company now has four models, with the latest being the ST5 priced at €9,490.
The top level ST5 can be compared to a motorcycle or sports car in terms of its performance”
“Each model is targeted at a particular group of people, from the comfort-oriented bike at the entry level to the top level ST5 which can be compared to a motorcycle or sports car in terms of its performance,” Luksch says.
“Nine and a half thousand euros might seem like a lot of money for a bike, but a Stromer e-bike is for commuting around 15 kilometres and is therefore competing on price with cars. If you rode a normal bike for 15 kilometres you would have to change your clothes at work. But you can commute to work on a Stromer without breaking sweat.”
The connected nature of Stromer e-bikes has proved to be a solid selling point. In Zurich, a sharing company called Smide has a fleet of 300 Stromers which can be rented by the minute and left at any public place inside the city limits.
You can commute to work on a Stromer without breaking sweat”
Stromer’s headquarters in Oberwangen houses its management, design, research and development, assembly and customer service functions, as well as a flagship store. The entire facility’s energy – including battery charging – is provided by rooftop solar cells.
After ten years finding its feet, and now owned by new Swiss investors, Stromer announced at the start of 2019 that it had become profitable for the first time. The ugly ducklings of the road, then, may finally start to get some admiring investor glances.