Here's a novel idea. Want your own e-bike hire business? Quikbyke is the brainchild of the people behind EV World, one of the longest-running electric vehicle sites on the web. It's a self-contained electric bike hire station that's based around a standard 20ft shipping container, using solar panels to provide electricity for charging.
“Like your first ride in an electric car, your first ride on an electric-assist bicycle is revelatory”, says EV World's Bill Moore. “For all their promise and pleasure, eBikes face two significant obstacles: one is cultural, the other is economic. I can't tell you how many times people told me this summer they wouldn't want to ride an electric bike because they want to get some exercise. The other barrier is their cost. You're going to spend a couple thousand dollars for a quality eBike.”
Moore's solution to those two problems is to give people the opportunity to ride an e-bike, and their plan is to target cruise ship ports. There's good reasons for that: the customers are pretty well matched to the e-bike-buying demographic, they have a limited amount of time on shore to explore, and they need to return to the same spot at the end of the day. That combination is perfect for an e-bike hire business.
Getting the bikes there and having somewhere to store them is solved by the container, which acts not only as the transport vessel but also as the hire point. It's now possible to get a container with bi-fold doors which open along one whole side of the container, giving a friendly space for hire and display. It can be offloaded from the ship and simply placed where needed. There's no requirement for a power hook-up, as each container comes with a 1.8kW solar array to keep the bikes charged and the hire station running, with a 400Ah lead acid battery bank storing the solar energy to keep things running. The container has a maximum hire fleet of 12 bikes
The first run of the container has been a big success, though it hasn't been in an exotic Caribbean destination but a street corner in Omaha, Nebraska, near where the Quikbyke offices are located. It was timed to coincide with the US Olympic swim trials and Quikbyke had a steady stream of rentals over the weekend from the fans that were attending. It was a proof of concept: “Quikbyke works. We can power the Qiosk, the point-of-sale station, the wireless network, the LED interior lights, and the batteries chargers using solar energy alone”, says Moore. It's still early days for the company but their plan is to franchise around the world, starting with the Caribbean cruise destinations. Maybe we'll start seeing them in the UK too!