Tipping Point for Electric Scooters in China? SARS

The tipping points for trends can sometimes turn out to be the most unusual things. At the Always On Green event in San Francisco this week venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, managing partner with Draper Fisher Jurvetson, said that one of the tipping points for the explosion in electric scooters and motorcycles in China was SARS.

That’s right, the contagious disease (visually marked in the media with all those face masks) seemed to indirectly lead to a growth in sales of EV scooters, bikes and motorcycles because people started to build up an aversion to riding public transportation when it came to light that people sitting in the vicinity of people that came down with SARS had gotten the disease. And combined with the fact that the Chinese government has banned the sales of internal combustion engine motorcycles in many places in China means Chinese consumers that didn’t want to ride public transit, but didn’t want to buy a car turned to EV 2-wheelers first before traditional ICE 2-wheelers.

For anyone that’s read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, you know these types of phenomenons well. But no, I haven’t personally studied this market case myself, so I’m relying on Jurvetson for the anecdote.

But expect China’s electric motorcycle and scooter market to be the leader for years. It is dominating the minds of electric bike and motorcycle business owners from Zero Motorcycles, to Mission Motors, to Brammo, to Zap. According to some statistics the market for electric motorcycles in China is expected to grow 11 percent per year through 2014 to 31.6 million units.

For more research on the intersection of green and IT check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Image courtesy of DearTerisa.