How electric folding compact bikes will change the landscape of bike sharing!

How electric folding compact bikes will change the landscape of bike sharing!

October 05, 2018

Urban Drivestyle was originally founded in 2015 on the island of Mallorca as an electric bike rental company focused on hotel bike rental stations, scooter rental and public share bikes.

Today, UD is a cashflow positive company selling unique electric bikes worldwide and operates out of Berlin, with test rides stations all over Europe, USA and Asia.

Our now famous UNI Moke utility electric bike was designed in 2016 as a rugged workhorse for our own bike rental business and soon became our best selling product in B2C and B2B markets.

The 5 fatal flaws in free float sharing

Free floating bike rental systems are a great way to position lot of share vehicles into an area in a very short time, as they mostly take advantage of the still free-to-use public space to park and rent out bicycles from.

Some companies decided to even ignore local laws not allowing the "spamming" of cities with free floating fleets by simply putting masses of vehicles into public space despite protest from the public or city councils.

In the long run run though, business models based on the free use of public space may be great for branding and expansion purposes, they have some inherent fatal flaws:

1.) Overkapacites in assets needed for free floating

Operators need to put extreme overcapacities on the streets to reach a critical service coverage, leaving hundreds of vehicles out in open space that are chronically underused assets. Collecting and relocation of unused bikes may JUST be justifiable in very low wage countries like China, but simply are prohibitively expensive for operations in Europe or the US.

Some large bike share companies even simply decided to abandon dislocated or damaged bikes and leave it up to the public to dispose those bikes.

2.) Public perception and results of dumping free floaters into cities

The originally positive public perception of free floaters has suffered tremendously from those "dumping" practices and cities are working hard on creating new rules and limitations to the free float bike share industry, either limiting space dedicated to these players or asking for fees to be granted a "licence" to run such a system.

3.) Electric the future of light vehicle sharing

Electric vehicles will soon outnumber simple and often hard to ride share bicycles. With the introduction of the requirement to keep the more complex electric bikes and scooters safe and maintained as well as the necessity to charge them after usage put new challenges to the free floating concept. 

4.) Electric vehicles need charging infrastructure and more maintenance

Electric bicycles designed for share riding are often clumsy, heavy and can not not be taken inside for charging in an office or apartment, requiring staff and surplus batteries to keep bikes operative at all times.

Only clearly defined charging/ battery exchange stations solve this issue!

5.) Asset cost and protection

The average shared bicycle costs between 70-100 USD, while the average electric share vehicle is more in a ballpark of 300-1000 USD.

Parking electric bikes and scooters in the outdoors creates huge problems with temperature control of the batteries, weather influence, tampering and sabotage.

Unlike share bicycles, electric vehicles are too expensive and too maintanance intensive to be simply left out in the open.

How compact, station based self-service rental schemes will come out as winners in the race for the electric bike/ scooter share market

Already in 2017, we decided to design and build a unique and innovative UNI Micro Electric Bike share station system based on our experience in operation over 500 vehicles in one of the most popular tourist destinations of Europe.

UNI Micro share and rental folding e-bike

Our experience with hotel based bicycle rent stations soon led to the decision to create our own electric bike rental system, based on 3 designs elements: First a rugged and lightweight compact, semi-foldable bike we dubbed the UNI Micro. Secondly, a smart and connected charging and storage station. And last but not least, our own IOT/connectivity device with a very flexible App to allow for very customised share/ rental operations based on the demands of the market.

1.) Super compact, weather protected and charger included

Our rental system is extremely compact and based on a vending machine system. You can fit over 32 vehicles into the same space normally required for only 7 standard size bikes!

Electric folding share bike station

UNI Micro share bike station

2.) Independent from public space

UNI Micro Rent/ Charge Stations will be strategically positioned in Hotels, train stations, shopping centres, co-workings, campuses and other non public spaces, avoiding problems with city councils and overcapacities of assets.

3.) All charging infrastructure issues solved: home, office or in-station 

Self-charging at home, in the office or in stations eliminates the effort of running a team of "charging agents" to replace or charge batteries. Users can get a discount for returning charged bikes and bikes are automatically charged while in the station!

4.) User decide how long the want to keep the e-bike

UNI Micros can easily be rented for days in a row and taken home or to the hotel without the need to "leave" the bike at a station or in the open when not needed. Especially tourists like to have "their" bike for a couple of days without needing to look for new bikes all over again!

5.) Public transport/ Taxi ready

Because of their compact, foldable design, UNI Micro folding e-bikes can be taken into public transportation at no cost, making them the perfect last mile and commuter solution. Especially tourists love the added value of being flexible in their choice of transport without returning their bike.

Where we are...

We have developed UNI Micro Stations to a production-ready status including share box, tracking technology, bike and app... Right now we are finalising the folds and technical integration and plan to roll-out first pilot projects in Berlin and Barcelona by April 2019!