What if I told you there was an electric vehicle company in DC? No, not GM’s motor winding for the Spark EV in White Marsh- the actual District. Not Local Motors‘ site in National Harbor, either. DC is becoming a hotbed for 21st century biking, including a surprisingly powerful electric model, and its assembly.
Washington had already been the first American city to establish modern (RFID-controlled) bikesharing, which we’ve covered. Onstreet, point-to-point rental has since spread through New York City, to smaller markets, and now even Detroit, the “Motor City.” The earlier problems with public bikes have been solved; a rental is so cheap compared to other modes of transportation that cities almost can’t afford not to deploy bikes and stations. In the same manner, the early e-bikes have given way to newer, better, cheaper designs. This includes trials in Paris and in Birmingham, Alabama to evaluate electric bikesharing.
Back here, I visited Riide‘s assembly facility in northeast. In time for Halloween, Riide was moving to a new space, and throwing a costume party in the vacated industrial building. The company’s Kickstarter launch was highly successful, deliveries began in late 2014, and I’ve even seen Riides on the street. For 2016, Riide is offering a monthly $79 plan (“RiidePass”) with maintenance and insurance. At plan’s end, the bike is owned outright, or you can convert payments to the latest model.
I bumped into Daniel, a satisfied Riide customer, at random; he’s had no problems so far. Partygoer Abbie, when pitched with the bike details, got it immediately. Its price is less than what she pays for car insurance alone, and would get her no tickets, either. Vanessa felt the 20 mph electric assist limit is not only sufficient, but “scary fast;” it’s actually illegal in Europe. Chris, into e-bike tinkering, is generally favorable but would soon try to boost the vehicle even further. Riide employee Kyle is enthusiastic- the market for e-bikes is young and developing. In his view, there’s still plenty of room for competition. Different companies are trying different sales and customer-experience models, such as Riide’s new plan.
One competitor is Faraday Bikes, based in the Bay Area. The Bicycle Space (Adams Morgan and Mount Vernon locations) was one of the first “dealerships” for the startup company, and still one of the few in the Mid-Atlantic. As a well-reviewed bike, Faradays have brought in customers from across the region- bikes are something that still can’t be sold over the internet reliably. Manager Eric tells me another strong seller is the Xtracycle assisted cargo bike. The killer app for Xtracycle turns out to be mothers taking their kids to grade school. While the line of cars stretches down the block, mothers can quietly pull in with the kid riding in the rear.
The city of the 21st Century is efficient, on two wheels or four.