Navigant Research Blog

Dockless Systems Creating Better Business Case for E-Bike Sharing

— February 20, 2018

Just as electric bicycle (e-bike) sales in the US have not been as robust as in Europe, e-bikesharing programs have been similarly slow to develop. However, a number of dockless e-bikeshare programs have recently been deployed in the US—removing major costs and user friction points traditionally associated with dock-based bikesharing.

Over the last several years, a combination of urbanization, city policy, and bicycle lane expansions have driven new growth in the global bikesharing industry. As a result, bikeshare companies have been raising enormous sums of money, particularly in Asia. Chinese bikesharing companies Mobike and Ofo have raised over $2 billion so far for their operations.

In comparison to conventional bikesharing, e-bikesharing is much newer and far less widespread—largely due to the higher associated costs and added complexities of recharging e-bikes (which is generally done by fleet teams). However, the business case and user experience for e-bikesharing is improving considerably through the advent of dockless sharing programs that avoid the need for expensive new infrastructure and can be provided without government subsidies (unlike dock-based systems that generally receive public funding). In terms of user costs and convenience, many public bikeshare programs mandate a day pass purchase with a price tag of $7 or more for a single ride and keep the bikes at special docking stations where the bikes must be returned. Conversely, dockless programs charge as low as $1 per half-hour rental and customers have the added convenience of dropping off their bicycle wherever they please when finished.

Major Dockless E-Bike Programs Being Deployed

In 2017, the first dockless e-bike share program was launched in the US from New York-based JUMP Bikes. The company’s program is currently available in San Francisco (roughly 250 e-bikes deployed) and Washington, DC (150 e-bikes), with plans to expand to other cities such as Sacramento, California and Providence, Rhode Island by the end of 2018. In early 2018, the company raised an additional $10 million in funding for its expansion plans (along with an original $7 million investment). JUMP is also partnering with Uber to provide San Francisco residents and visitors with the ability to rent JUMP e-bikes directly from the Uber app.

LimeBike is another dockless bikeshare (and now e-bikeshare). Called Lime-E, the e-bikeshare service is expected to be available in Seattle and Miami in early 2018. At the end of 2017, LimeBike raised an additional $50 million in funding on top of its initial $12 million seed round.

Dock-Based Programs Now at Risk

Dockless e-bikeshare companies are leveraging smartphone technology (which is used to unlock the e-bikes) and existing infrastructure (e.g., public bicycle racks, parking meters, etc.) to replace the expensive new docking infrastructure traditionally required for bikesharing programs. Additionally, improving lithium ion battery technology is resulting in e-bikes that have longer ranges, are lighter, lower in cost, and remarkably similar to traditional bicycles. Together, these trends are directly enabling e-bikes, which are generally more expensive than regular bicycles, to be increasingly used in sharing schemes. Dock-based programs (for any type of bicycle) are now facing a significant threat to their market share unless they can add more docking locations to match the convenience of dockless systems, keep their user fees competitive with dockless programs, and reduce their reliance on government subsidies.

 

Two and Four-Wheel EV Sharing Programs Growing Rapidly

— August 8, 2016

E-BikeConsumers around the world are increasingly searching for new products and services that will enable improved mobility in and around city centers. A key challenge for cities in the 21st century is how larger numbers of people can be incentivized to move away from personal cars for motorized transportation and toward cleaner mobility devices and services.

Shared EV programs reduce vehicle emissions and noise while simultaneously improving mobility in cities—something personal EV ownership cannot achieve on its own. As the EV industry continues to evolve and help address some of these concerns, vendors are experimenting with shared EV programs that utilize an array of vehicle types.

Increasing Interest from Automakers

In early August, BMW announced that it will be expanding its ReachNow carsharing program to cover Portland, Oregon after successfully deploying the service in Seattle, Washington in early 2016. The service attracted more than 13,000 members within its first month of operation. BMW temporarily matched Car2Go’s per-minute prices and eliminated its membership fee for increased competitiveness. The automaker uses a mix of vehicles for the program that includes MINI Coopers and the all-electric BMW i3.

Additionally, Nissan is collaborating with San Francisco-based electric scooter-share company Scoot Networks to deploy a fleet of 10 mobility concept cars (the Renault Twizy) in the Bay Area. Beginning August 2, new market entrant Green Commuter is launching a carshare and vanpool fleet in Los Angeles using entirely all-electric Tesla Model X SUVs.

E-PTWs Continue Broad Implementation

In the electric power two-wheel vehicle (e-PTW) market, Bosch is launching an electric scooter (e-scooter) sharing program in Berlin, Germany. The company is using 200 e-scooters from Taiwanese-based company Gogoro, which implemented a battery swapping network business model for its e-scooter deployment in Taipei. The battery swapping model from Gogoro is being adapted to be more of a traditional carshare model in Germany. E-scooter sharing services are expanding quickly across Europe, with iconic cities such as Paris, France and Barcelona, Spain having already implemented similar programs.

Globally, an increasing number of bicycle sharing programs have also been turning toward electric-powered technology as of late. Most recently, it was announced that the largest electric bicycle (e-bike) share program in North America (roughly 200 e-bikes) will be implemented in Baltimore, Maryland in the fall of 2016.

Whether it’s on two wheels or four, the plethora of new on-demand mobility programs sprouting up across the globe indicates that transportation is moving toward a future that is both shared and electric. Vendors looking to capitalize on this rapidly evolving business will need to offer high levels of vehicle accessibility, affordable hourly usage rates, and differentiating product options. For more information on electric mobility devices and their impact on cities, look out for Navigant Research’s upcoming Electric Mobility in Smart Cities report.

 

E-Bike Technology Improving Dramatically

— September 17, 2015

As recently as 1 or 2 years ago, most electric bicycle (e-bike) models had a modest electric range of between 15 and 25 miles. Although there are many contemporary e-bikes boasting 40 or more miles of range, Samsung SDI recently blew other products out of the water through the release of its new e-bike battery pack at Eurobike 2015 in Germany. The 500 watt-hour (Wh) battery pack runs 62 miles (100 km) on a single charge and is equipped with Bluetooth compatibility, allowing users to monitor battery life via a smartphone. This new range capability means that a bicycle commuter could ride their e-bike from Boulder, Colorado to neighboring Denver and back without needing to recharge the battery along the way. For those unfamiliar with the route, the Boulder-to-Denver commute takes about 40 minutes (just under 30 miles) without traffic each way by car.

Innovative emerging trends such as improved battery life have helped position the e-bike industry for increased market growth. In addition to increased battery range, combined throttle-control and pedal-assist models, electric cargo bicycles (e-cargo bikes), all-in-one retrofit kits and wheels, 3D-printed bicycles, and the increasing use of e-bikes in police patrol and various security industries have all contributed to a growing market with strong potential. According to Navigant Research, global annual sales of e-bikes are expected to grow from nearly 32 million in 2014 to over 40 million in 2023.

Autonomous E-Bikes

Also started to be tested are autonomous—or self-driving—e-bikes. At the 2015 Eurobike event where Samsung SDI announced its battery pack, startup company CoModule displayed a smartphone-controlled, three-wheel e-bike prototype. The company believes that in the near term, the e-bike could be used to help postal workers with deliveries or park cleaners with garbage collection. The long-term vision is for the vehicle to provide autonomous deliveries in urban city centers.

Although undoubtedly intriguing, autonomous e-bikes appear to be a potentially unnecessary technology that somewhat defies the purpose of a bicycle itself. If no one will be riding it, why even make it a bicycle in the first place? The general philosophy behind e-bikes is that if a rider has long distances to travel, physical limitations, or simply want a faster mobility option, then an electric-powered bicycle is a great way to get some exercise without getting exhausted or pushing physical limitations too far. While the idea of a small autonomous delivery device makes sense, making that device a bicycle with pedals (which presumably no one will use) perhaps requires some rethinking.

 

E-Bikes Take Center Stage at Colorado Bike Expo

— May 14, 2015

The Colorado Bike Expo on April 25 showcased the latest products in the industry to kick off the fresh 2015 cycling season. The event, held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, had around 100 exhibitors. The presence of electric bicycle (e-bike) manufacturers and distributors at bicycle events like the Expo has grown substantially over the last few years as interest in the technology continues to grow at a rapid pace.

Improving Technology

Several notable improvements have been made to 2015 e-bike models over previous years. The range capabilities provided by e-bike batteries have dramatically improved, with most models at the event providing a lengthy 40–60 miles of range per charge. Previous e-bike models generally had a range of 15–25 miles. The weight of the bikes has also dropped, making them easier to ride, transport, and store. 2015 models generally weigh between 40 and 45 lbs, while models just a year or two ago typically weighed between 50 and 55 lbs. Additionally, a new model from Pedego allows the e-bike to be charged directly from an outlet, eliminating the need to remove the battery from the bicycle before charging.

Upgrades have been made on the software side as well. Some e-bike models are now Bluetooth compatible and can connect with a riders’ smartphone. The rider can customize and save the pedal-assist power settings of the e-bike to avoid having to reprogram the settings each time the bike is turned on and off. New safety and security features have also been added through this new level of connectivity. If a rider believes their e-bike has been stolen, a press of a button on their smartphone instantly locks the bike in place and a GPS tracker shows the rider the exact location of the bicycle. While some new advances in the regular bicycle market were also showcased (such as ultra-lightweight models), e-bikes stole the show in terms of technology capabilities.

Future Outlook

Navigant Research’s Electric Bicycles report forecasts that annual sales of e-bikes in North America are expected to rise from 179,000 in 2015 to nearly 300,000 by 2023. Longer electric range, reduced vehicle weight, and advanced software capabilities are all helping to move the market in this high-growth direction. Steadily reducing lithium ion battery costs left most e-bike representatives at the Expo believing that the cost difference between similar quality bicycles and e-bikes will be negligible in just 2–3 years.

 

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