Brompton has announced the P Line Electric, an electric folding bike that borrows technology and features Brompton first debuted on its P Line and T Line bikes.
Brompton says the P Line Electric is its lightest-ever electric bike and the most compact electric folding bike on the market.
The bike is said to give you “next-level freedom” and makes “moving around the city and beyond as easy and as fun as possible”. This is due to the lightweight frame, 4-speed drivetrain, and motor and battery that can assist up to 70km on a single charge.
Not for cyclists
Will Butler-Adams, Brompton’s CEO, says electric bikes can play a role in making cycling accessible to more people, enabling them to travel greater distances and make journeys by bike they might otherwise not have.
Speaking to Butler-Adams ahead of the P Line Electric launch, he says Brompton’s primary aim isn’t selling bikes to cyclists.
This might be surprising given the P Line Electric costs from £3,695 / $4,700. But Butler-Adams says ‘cyclists’ are a minority, especially outside northern Europe. The more exciting opportunity for Brompton is the number of people who know how to cycle but don’t, rather than the people who already do.
To Butler-Adams, electric bikes are a great way to appeal to this majority because they offer a way of cycling without having to conform to the preconceived idea of what regarding a cyclist is, particularly capability and image.
“For a lot of people, there is a fear of fitness. Every image you see on television of a cyclist is someone super-lean and people think, ‘that’s not me’,” he says.
“The great thing about the electric bike is you put someone on one who knows how to ride a bike, but hasn’t ridden one in a long time, and it’s just glee.
“Suddenly, the intimidation falls away. You’re not going to be struggling up a hill or embarrassed by someone who comes whizzing past, looking down on you.”
Ease of a motor
The motor on the Brompton P Line Electric was developed in collaboration with Williams Advanced Engineering.
The complete motor system is a refined version of the motor used on the previous Brompton Electric and it works a bit like a Swytch kit.
The compact hub motor in the front wheel is said to deliver 250kWh and is powered by a removable battery pack. A torque sensor in the bottom bracket signals when the motor needs to kick in.
The battery pack has an on and off button, and you can select one of three settings that provide different levels of assistance. It is held in a bag, which comes with a front pocket and a shoulder strap.
You can turn on the bike’s in-built lights via the battery pack, or set them to automatic mode, where they turn on as soon as you start moving.
The motor system can be paired with an app, so you can control it via a phone mounted to the handlebar rather than reaching down to the buttons on the battery pack.
Butler-Adams says the motor has benefits beyond enabling people to make more journeys by bike.
“The motor is giving about 40 per cent of your power,” he says, “and that 40 per cent is working a lot harder for you when you hit a hill.
“What’s cool about that is if you get that in the hands of someone who knows how to ride a bike but isn’t cycling, now they’re on a product doing exercise. 60 per cent is a hell of a lot more than the none they were doing before,” he says.
Light and manoeuvrable
Despite the potential for electric bikes to provide access to cycling away from preconceived ideas of what a cyclist is, they tend to be large and heavy objects.
Many electric bikes will tip the scales at 20kg or over, and will likely require you to have plenty of space for storage. Using them for a leg of a commute, which involves a train or the underground, is probably out of the question.
The P Line Electric gets around this issue by using lightweight design features developed for the non-assisted P Line and T Line Bromptons.
Like the P Line and T Line, this new bike has a titanium rear frame to keep weight down and is specced with lightweight components.
The 4-speed drivetrain is also said to be lightweight, helping the P Line Electric achieve its claimed weight of 12.7kg (or 15.6kg with the battery pack).
This is still heavier than a non-assisted Brompton, and many other bikes. But Butler-Adams stresses how Bromptons are always about compromise.
“The bikes have hinges and smaller wheels. But that comes with some fantastic benefits: freedom and flexibility. The electric Brompton is an extension of that. It brings this wonderful pocket rocket into your stable of capability.”
The weight of the Brompton P Line Electric is a trade-off for those who want or would benefit from motor assistance. Conversely, others might deem the lack of assistance on a non-motorised Brompton worth it if it means their bike is lighter and easier to carry up flights of stairs.
To make the weight of the P Line Electric easier to live with, Brompton says it has used large roller wheels on the bike so that it’s easier to tow and roll once it’s folded.
Butler-Adams says this makes practical sense when you think about it. “No one carries a suitcase around, because their arm would fall off.”
The bike is also available with Brompton’s ‘Roller Rack’, intended to make manoeuvring even easier.
‘Electric bikes will be the majority’
In a Guardian article from 2019, Brompton said it expected at least half of its business to be made up of electric bikes by 2029.
Butler-Adams is more tentative about this prospect now. He reckons half of Brompton’s turnover will eventually be generated from electric bikes.
This won’t square up directly with half of the bikes it sells being electric, because electric bikes are a higher revenue product for Brompton. Instead, they would be roughly 30 to 40 per cent of units sold by the brand.
At an industry level, Butler-Adams reckons electric bikes will eventually make up the majority of non-folding bikes.
Butler-Adams says Brompton will produce between 15,000 and 20,000 electric bikes this year.
This is a significant increase from the 2,500 electric bikes Brompton sold in the year following the launch of its first electric bike in 2018.
However, this is reflective of the growth Brompton has seen more generally. Butler-Adams says it took Brompton 45 years to produce 50,000 bikes per year. But nearly three years on from that achievement, it now produces close to 100,000 bikes annually.
Brompton is set to open a new factory in Ashford, Kent, in 2027. This facility will eventually succeed the brand’s current site in West London and will provide the capacity for Brompton to up production further.
This growth can be put down to what Butler-Adams sees as an attitude shift in what people want from cities and urban environments.
“The most exciting opportunity we’ve seen globally [in recent years] is this urban realisation of how we want to live. Covid unlocked a vision of what life could be like in cities, and that isn’t going to disappear,” he says.
Butler-Adams says people want urban spaces for living and being rather than have them dominated by cars.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole career: when cities wake up to active transport,” he says.
The next challenge for Brompton is getting people to realise the value of investing in a bike such as the P Line Electric.
“If we’re creating useful tools, which means you don’t need to take the tube, go to the gym or have a second car, then we need to be talking to people, saying it doesn’t cost thousands of pounds – it costs £45 a month,” he says.
Getting the price of its electric bikes down is another challenge for Brompton, especially because it has seen its costs increase by 20 per cent over the last 18 months.
“At the moment everything is going the wrong way. The price of everything is increasing. We’re protecting the customer and taking it on the chin because we hope in 18 months it will stability,” he says.
Brompton P Line Electric price and spec
The Brompton P Line Electric is available in two models. One comes with Brompton’s standard roller wheels, while the other has its ‘Roller Rack’.
The Brompton P Line without the Roller Rack costs £3,695 / $4,700 / €4,195.
The Brompton P Line with the Roller Rack costs £3,775 / $4,810 / €4,290.
The bikes come in either Storm Gray or Midnight Black, with mid or high handlebars to cater for different-height riders.