“A lease option is more important than a government incentive”
Driven by the slogan “the new car is a bike”, speed pedelec and e-bike manufacturer Stromer is trying to persuade employees and fleet managers to adopt a more sustainable but not necessarily slower approach to mobility. We chat with co-CEO Tommi Viiala about Stromer’s success in the fleet market, its rental potential and how their customers survive harsh winters.
For more than ten years, Stromer has been trying to replace company cars with bicycles. So where is the brand today?
We see big regional differences. For the fleet, large Swiss companies found their way to Stromer quite easily and quickly. In the Netherlands, for example, it is much more difficult. Belgium is picking up again, thanks to leasing. At first we were hovering around 10% of the fleet, then the numbers went down and these days we’re back to 20%. But the potential is enormous. We’re only scratching the surface right now in the professional market. But, in general, it has become easier than five years ago.
Are companies a turnkey solution to make speed pedelecs an alternative to cars?
They do. Take the example of Philip Morris in Switzerland. They have decided to no longer invest in cars for employees living within 20 kilometers of the head office, with the exception of sales representatives. Instead, they turned the parking lot into bike stations with chargers. Big companies like this understand that with cars they can only partially meet their CO2 reduction targets. Much cheaper e-bikes are well suited to appeal to those who live closer to the office.
You mentioned, a European example of corporate e-bikes is Belgium. How do you explain that?
One is B2B leasing – which we are currently introducing in other markets. Besides that, Belgium has attractive tax advantages for speed pedelecs which are 100% tax deductible, same for changing rooms, showers etc. that a company must accommodate. Speed pedelecs are also exempt from the benefit in kind and, thanks to a favorable bicycle allowance, these employees earn a net salary by traveling with their bicycle.
Are these government incentives crucial for speed pedelec adoption?
Not always. They help, but if you take the case of Switzerland, it proves that even without government support, e-bikes and speed pedelecs can be a success. Rental options are more important than official incentives because companies don’t want to buy and are only interested in outsourcing service and maintenance, without having to worry about insurance and land.
How much time does a commuter save by switching from a car to a speed pedelec?
Good question, but difficult to answer because of the variables. I commute 20 kilometers, I live just outside Bern. My time is the same as with a car on a typical day. However, in heavy traffic, I am ten to fifteen minutes faster.
The advantage of a company car is that the driver does not catch cold in bad weather. Do Stromer customers sneeze more?
I see where you are coming from. We did a study on that with 5,000 people involved. These were business people who discovered the benefits of a bicycle, not athletes in need of exercise. We concluded that 67% of our commuters use their fast pedelecs all year round, regardless of the weather. But ask yourself: how many bad weather days are there in a year? I tell you, the number is very low. But, nevertheless, we are working on a subscription model, where customers can have a speed pedelec for seven months replaced by a car during the winter.
Do you have any advice for fleet managers on how they can motivate employees for fast pedelecs?
Fleet managers themselves also need persuasion as they tend to be very electric car oriented. A demo drive, also for employees, works wonders in this case. As for objective arguments, speed pedelec riders are healthier thanks to an improved immune system. It also helps employees’ concentration levels. And punctuality. With a high-speed bike, you don’t need to check Google Maps, your estimated time of arrival is guaranteed. My daily commute is always 30 minutes – always. This kind of predictability translates into a better quality of life.
Each client has a choice and must provide consent in order for us to comply with privacy laws. But they approve since the refusal entails the loss of interesting advantages such as GPS location and anti-theft. Fewer than three to four people ask not to be followed each year. In this case, we remove the card. With the exception of after-sales service, no one in our company has access to this data, which is secured in a cloud.
Along with the share of speed pedelecs, safety concerns are also growing. Can technology do anything?
Safety has always been a core value for Stromer. For example, we were the first bicycle manufacturer to integrate ABS braking. Looking ahead, we can learn from the automotive industry and adopt the warning sensors you see on cars these days to help with possible distractions or avoid obstacles ahead.
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