The second generation of Paris' bike-sharing fleet will see 20,000 bikes hit the streets next year, and 30% of those will feature an electric drivetrain.
It's becoming more and more evident lately that cities and countries in Europe are taking urban mobility and clean transport pretty seriously, as seen in programs and policies that are supporting a diverse mix of car-free days, pollution-based fees, cycling superhighways, and commercial electric vehicle fleets. On the personal mobility level, we're seeing announcements that Sweden is offering a 25% subsidy for electric bike purchases, Oslo is offering a $1200 cargo e-bike incentive, and France has a €200 electric bike subsidy, plus the news that Stockholm's bike-share system will include 5,000 electric bikes.
Following hot on the heels (or wheels, as it were) of these stories, which support the theory that bikes are good for the city (and the people who ride them), and that adding e-bikes into the mix could transform our cities, comes the news that the new iteration of Paris' bike-share fleet will include 30% electric bikes.
The Vélib’ Métropole system, a self-service bicycle rental service serving the French capital and surrounding area for the last 10 years under the management of JCDecaux, will be soon be replaced by one operated by Smoovengo, which will see some 1,400 rental stations and about 20,000 new bikes in service by the spring of 2018. One-third of those new Vélib bikes will feature an electric motor in the front wheel and the battery capacity for about 50 kilometers of riding range per full charge, and because it's simple to retrofit a front wheel motor onto the conventional Vélib model, it gives some flexibility to the fleet. Smoovengo is a consortium of the mobility companies Indigo, Moventia, Mobivia and Smoove, and currently operates a self-serve bike-sharing system that includes e-bikes and conventional bikes.
The 2018 version of Vélib’ Métropole will cover some 60 municipalities in the Greater Paris Metropolitan Area, with half of the 1,400 bike-share stations slated to be commissioned by January 1st, 2018, and the rest put into service by the end of March, 2018.
According to Bike Europe, "The new Velib’ has some others features of which connectivity is the most important one. Thanks to the electronic V-Box, with RFID and NFC reader inside, the Vélib’ 2018 is fully connected and will be recharged by a dynamo. This V-Box allows the rider to activate and lock the bike on the padlock. The V-Box can be connected via Bluetooth with a smartphone providing information like the rental time, riding distance, navigation indications and so on."
The new docking system for the bike-share program is also said to include a feature that will allow for the return of bikes even if the docking stations are all full, and the inclusion of electric bikes may solve an issue that affects the current bike-share program. According to Road.cc, "Users in areas such as Montmartre would ride downhill into the city centre in the morning, but return home by other means, causing a logistical headache for the operators, who needed to replenish docking stations each evening." Electric bikes can offer a huge advantage in hilly areas by 'leveling out' the terrain with their electrified drivetrain, so having a significant percentage of e-bikes in this new program might also attract those who want the benefits of cycling but who need a little boost going up hills or covering longer distances.
The Vélib’ Métropole 2018 website states that both bikes, the conventional and the electric, will include a front basket capable of carrying up to 15 kg of cargo, a front "padlock fork" for securing them, and an anti-theft cable threaded into the handlebars of the bike. The e-bike will also feature a USB port in the basket for charging devices, and will be limited to a maximum speed of 25 kph per EU regulations, with an estimated range of about 50 kilometers per charge.