Lime’s next-generation electric bicycles are finally making their North American debut. Nearly a year after announcing its plans to spend $50 million on a major e-bike expansion, the San Francisco-based micromobility company says it will deploy its first wave of new bikes in Washington, DC, starting this week.
Lime says the new bikes are significantly improved over the bikes currently in use, which the company inherited from Jump after it acquired Uber’s bike-share business in 2020. The $50 million investment will go largely into design. , manufacturing and assembling the next-generation bicycle, which will hit the market this year. The new model comes with a more powerful 350-watt motor and an interchangeable battery with a range of up to 25 miles.
In addition to a new dual-speed automatic transmission, the bikes also feature interchangeable batteries that are interchangeable with the company’s fleet of electric scooters. This will improve the customer experience, said Lime’s director of Mid-Atlantic and Northeast operations, by making it less likely to encounter vehicles with dead batteries.
“Now we can get the batteries even faster,” Lime’s Paul Holley told: The edge. “You don’t have that many low battery vehicles in the field. The turnaround times for our tasks are a lot faster.”
The interchangeable batteries are definitely the most important new feature in Lime’s next-gen e-bike. Lime considers the ability to swap batteries between scooters and bicycles not only good for customers, but also for its own profit. Lime saves money by simplifying both the production process and operations by reducing the amount of work that needs to be done by the teams working in each city.
“When you unite that battery ecosystem and isolate it into a single battery, that really increases the density of the work that needs to be done in the field,” Holley said. “So now you don’t necessarily have to have two separate teams just running in their own lane and just doing their own thing.”
Not every scooter and bicycle company is convinced. Bird, for example, has taken an opposing position, arguing that interchangeable batteries are typically smaller and hold less charge than non-removable batteries. The company has also argued that interchangeable batteries have a larger carbon footprint because they require more vehicle miles to pick up, replace and charge scooters.
Holley argued that interchangeable batteries don’t necessarily lead to less power or range; Lime can choose to fit larger batteries if they wish. “We can do that within the context and confines of a removable battery ecosystem,” he said. “You can go up and down in size and range and amp-hours and all that sort of thing.”
There are other new features on the bike: the handlebars are replaced with a handlebar similar to Lime’s scooters, there is a phone holder in the front basket and the bike can reach speeds of up to 20 mph (subject to local regulations). It weighs 72 pounds, which is heavier than the 65-pound electric Citi Bikes.
Late last year I had the chance to try one of Lime’s new bikes. As I rode my bike from Brooklyn to lower Manhattan, I was impressed by the engine’s ability to dispense power. The boost was almost instant as far as I could tell, without the jerky or slow motor build of some lesser e-bikes. It’s far from the sexiest e-bike I’ve ever ridden, but it was designed that way, as Lime’s e-bikes are built for strength, stability and durability.
That said, I don’t think people who use shared bikes will abandon their favorite e-bikes and flock to Lime’s new models. Bike sharing is a useful tool and customers generally use the bike closest to their location.
Lime will keep its cherry-red Jump bikes up and running, with no plans to phase them out in favor of the new Lime-branded e-bikes. The company has indicated that it wants to be a multimodal provider of many different types of low-speed electric vehicles. In 2020, Lime has added Wheels pedalless e-bikes to its app in several cities as part of a new effort to integrate third-party micromobility providers. And it also introduced electric mopeds in several markets, including Paris and Washington, DC.
It’s great to see Lime investing in new tech specs in an effort to broaden the offerings it has available in its app. Scooters are good for tourists or people taking a short trip. But bicycles are better for longer distances, and e-bikes in particular are great at replacing car journeys. In that regard, Lime will have a really powerful tool in its arsenal for its wider campaign to promote zero tailpipe electric transportation.