Vancouver startup rolls into vehicle-sharing world with electric tricycles
The vehicles provide cover from the elements and come with cup holders and heated handlebars
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A Vancouver startup says it has found the missing link between car and bike in the world of vehicle sharing.
Veemo is a covered e-tricycle that comes fitted with everything from a cup holder to heated handlebars. They can go anywhere a bike can, at around the same speed, with more storage space than a bike. But most importantly, users do not need a driver’s licence to ride one and that expands the market for the vehicle considerably, said one of the startup’s cofounders.
“We wanted to bring electric vehicles to the masses. That was our goal,” said Kody Baker, CEO of VeloMetro.
“More and more people are not getting a driver’s license. Its important for us to create an electric vehicle that anyone can use…It provides a comfort of a car with the freedom of a bike.”
VeloMetro launched a pilot program with five Veemos at UBC last week. Users can sign up for free and rates are by the minute – $1.50 will get you across campus, said Baker. Workers are able to switch out Veemo batteries in two minutes, which means users do not have to wait for the vehicles to charge before heading out.
Baker says the innovative battery swapping technology and the fact that users do not need driver’s licenses to use the vehicles gives them a leg up in a competitive vehicle-sharing market.
Vancouverites already have the option of at least four car-sharing or car-co-op programs and one bike-share program.
One urban planner is watching VeloMetro’s progress closely.
“There is potentially a condition of too many of these services but I don’t think we’re anywhere near there yet,” said Alex Bigazzi, a civil engineering and transportation-planning professor at UBC.
“If you look at the number of e-vehicles on the road, its still the vast minority.”
The market for non-private vehicle ownership will grow as more options go online, he said. Many people sign up for multiple vehicle-sharing programs and use the one they see fit depending on the occasion.
“I think [Veemos] are really interesting because they fill a specific niche – the gap between driving a car and riding a bicycle.”
Bigazzi will be analyzing data collected from the Veemo pilot project and plans to have a report ready for fall 2018.
From an environmental perspective, the goal is for Veemo to substitute as many car trips as possible, he said. Further analysis will reveal how much greenhouse gas those substitutions will reduce, he added.
Bigazzi predicts Veemo would do well in densely populated areas like downtown Vancouver and other town centres in New Westminster and Richmond. But suburban municipalities will likely need to create a wider network of segregated bike lanes — like Vancouver already has — to ensure pedestrians feel safe.
“Even though the speed is not higher than your average cyclist speed, I anticipate there would be some concern about conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians.”
VeloMetro would also need to negotiate parking rights with various cities, said Bigazzi. Unlike Mobi, Vancouver's bike-share program, Veemos don’t have designated parking stations.