Citibike expands its ebike fleet to 4000!

Lyft/Motivate released a couple of hundred bikes in the streets of the Big Apple in August 2018. Caroline Samponaro, Head of Bike, Scooter & Pedestrian Policy at Lyft, published an article providing some interesting conclusions from this pilot.

  • Ebikes have been used for 15 rides/ebike/day, vs 5 rides/regular bike/day! Wow, 3 times more. It confirms a big interest, although it has to be balanced with the small quantity of ebikes (200 for the whole city is nothing). Few bikes + high demand = high ridership.
  • Ebikes are covering longer distances, +10% in average. I was honestly expecting a bigger difference, looking at numbers from other cities.
  • Ebikes are flattening the cities: in NYC, eCitibikers have ridden over East River bridges twice as much as regular Citibikers. Ebikes are therefore filling some territorial gaps.
  • More surprisingly, ebikes seems to delete the ridership seasonality. The ridership stayed still for ebikes during winter months, while it dropped by 60% for regular bikes.

This positive feedback from this first experience strengthened Lyft for the launch of a bigger eCitibike fleet in march 2019. This launch was planned for a while, in order to compensate the L train shutdown, but raised from 1000 to 4000 new ebikes (+13 new stations)!

But these good news came with bad ones: each ride on a ebike will cost an extra US$2 (50 cents for those who qualify under the reduced fare program), and that will apply to members as well. It is a bit higher than the Parisian Vélib’ (+1€/30min). This noticeable rise will help to cover the operational costs of the system: as Motivate’s stations are not (yet) charging the bikes batteries, workers have to swap batteries after… 45 minutes of ride only! People are afraid that the cost increase will have negative effects on the ridership, but I quite agree that ebike will address different needs after the launch frenzy.

This pricing evolution confirms that shared electric vehicles are indeed expensive to operate if not charged automatically. Many find that dockless escooters are too expensive to last, but we know that this income still does not cover the operational costs. It is therefore no surprise to see many operators developing charging stations for their vehicles (Jump, Lyft…) and turning to “hybrid” solutions, between station based and dockless. I strongly believe that the battery charging management will be a central question for shared micromobility in 2019.

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