This "shop-in-a-box" could be a model for a self-contained and low-carbon electric mobility business.
The founder of one of the longest-running electric vehicle sites on the web, EV World, is building a spin-off that will directly enter the electric mobility scene by offering e-bike rentals from a self-contained solar powered shipping container. Bill Moore's Quikbyke system just finished a successful summer trial in Omaha, Nebraska, and will soon be in St. Petersburg, Florida, where it will serve cruise passengers and other tourists (primarily targeting baby boomers) with an affordable and renewably-powered local transportation option.
The system that was trialed this past summer, which fits inside a side-entry 20-foot shipping container, used a rooftop solar array to feed a 400Ah lead acid battery bank, which charged the six Prodecotech Stride 300 electric bikes and provided all of the electricity to run the point-of-sale station, the wireless network, and the interior LED lights, with no external energy inputs. Moore wrote that the Quikbyke container setup had "adequate energy reserve, enough I am confident to go to the full dozen bike configuration without having to add additional panels or storage battery capacity," and that the system was engineered to be able to double the number of solar panels if needed.
While a pop-up e-bike rental shop might be a good fit for many markets, Moore is looking to the cruise ship market, where an older customer base would be an ideal fit for e-bike rentals, and where stops on a route can disgorge hundreds of passengers who need local transportation but who want an alternative to a taxi or bus. The standard size and self-contained design of the shop makes them easy to handle by ship or truck, and the solar array and battery bank avoid the need for any power hook-ups or other infrastructure once in place.
Moore told Silicon Prairie News that the system worked so well in Omaha over the summer that its biggest problem was just "keeping the tires inflated," which resulted in a single flat tire, but the next phase of Quikbyke, in St. Petersburg, will put it to the test "under high traffic conditions." If it performs as desired, and has a good response from customers, the shop-in-a-box system could be rolled out to other popular vacation destinations as well.
"We deliberately designed the Qiosk and its support systems to remain fully ISO certified. Apart from four small 1.5 inch holes in the roof through which we pass the solar power cables, we made no structural modifications to the exterior. This allows us to ship the container by surface (truck or train) or by sea anywhere in the world. All we need is sunshine and a good cellular phone signal and we can be in business in a couple hours time. We designed the solar array to be disassembled and stowed securely inside the container for shipment. It gets its first long distance test this month when we ship it to St. Petersburg, Florida for the winter. This will bring us closer to our business model of serving high traffic tourist areas frequented by "snowbird" baby boomers and vacationing families." - Moore
The company is currently working on an accompanying app that will not only track the bikes and monitor the battery and other systems, but could also serve as a virtual tour guide through the use of physical beacons that can augment a user's bike ride with additional information, and may branch out into electric scooter rentals in the future.
"While anyone can enjoy riding a QUIKbyke, I really created it for aging baby boomers like myself. I still enjoy the pleasure of riding a bicycle and have for more than a dozen years thanks to one key difference: my bicycle benefits from electric-assist. I still pedal my e-bike for the exercise, but when I need help on that hill or against that headwind, I get assistance in the form of a quiet, non-polluting electric motor built into the wheel. And trust me, it makes all the difference in the world. It turns my bike from just another dust-collecting toy I might ride occasionally into a practical and efficient errand-runner. In fact, much of the time my automobile sits and it's the bike I take to the grocer, the bank, the post office, and yes, the pharmacy." - Moore
The ultimate Quikbyke goal is to turn the business into a franchise that could be set up across the Caribbean and beyond, where it can serve as a turnkey option for a local clean transportation business serving tourists and travelers, but it's still early days yet. As Moore said, Quikbyke is "very much an embryonic effort with much still to prove and lots to learn." More info is available at the company website.