Why is the smartbike (or connected e-bike) the new standard in urban mobility?

Low in energy consumption, more accessible than an electric car, benefiting from massive subsidies, and responding to increasingly important environmental issues, the electrically-assisted bicycle has established itself as an essential means of transport. Today, thanks to connectivity, and relying on the strong growth of the market, the electrically assisted bicycle is reinventing itself to allow a booming practice to become sustainable.

The electric bicycle: A booming market

All the lights are green for the electric bicycle market. The electric segments are developing to offer a complete range of products adapted to all types of use: the electric city bike is in the majority, but mountain bikes and electrically assisted cargo bikes are also growing strongly (+66% of sales in Europe in 2021 for ACEVs and projected annual growth of 11.4% between 2021 and 2031).

Benefiting from purchase subsidise and the emergence of new services such as short and long-term rental, the craze for electrically assisted bicycles has led to major advances in terms of technological innovation, infrastructure creation and safety. Allowing 99% of urban journeys to be covered while reducing traffic and congestion in cities, the EAB has emerged as one of the main responses to increasingly important environmental issues. However, there are still obstacles to the mass adoption of electric bicycles.

Indeed, theft, safety and component wear and tear are obstacles to the long-term use of bicycles. Thanks to connectivity and the development of the IoT, brands, manufacturers and motorists will be able to offer their customers turnkey solutions, in addition to removing the obstacles to purchase and offering them an offer that can evolve to meet their needs. Like all means of transport, bicycles also need to be maintained to ensure the safety of cyclists.

The smartbike: an extension of a connected lifestyle

Today, the question is no longer, “what is connected?” but rather, “what is not yet connected? The Internet of Things is not a fad with gadgets for the very wealthy but has become a tangible way of life. Everything is connected; the home, high-tech equipment, right down to the smallest accessories (“wearables”), new services are born every second thanks to the IoT.

This move towards the interactive, the immediate, the 100% service, does not escape mobility since transport is one of the 5 most connected sectors, just like the Smart City and the security of goods and people (the other sectors being Health and the Smart Grid.) 3 sectors which are linked to the use of the bicycle and its user: the IoT therefore naturally accompanies the dynamics of the cycle industry. Within the Smart City, the smart bike takes on its full meaning. The increase in equipment and internet access within the city, with the arrival and spread of 5G, is rolling out the red carpet for naturally connected mobility.

Commuting to work: priority for e-bike

Faster than a car for trips between 0 and 6 miles, the electric bike is gaining new fans every day. In the city, many people are opting for the electric bike as their main means of transportation for commuting. Driven also by the appearance of new services such as the provision of fleets of bicycles for companies, the smartbike seems to be a real game-changer.

The Smartbike: removing barriers to cycling through connectivity

Anti-theft solutions

Thanks to connectivity, the various players in the bicycle industry will be able to remove the remaining obstacles to the mass adoption of cycling. Indeed, connected bikes will benefit from protection against theft by incorporating remote alarm systems, movement detection, real-time geolocation and will be able to provide key data on their use to improve cyclists’ safety.

Cyclists safety

The connected bike also meets the demand for safety among cyclists. Indeed, there are not enough safe paths or facilities for cycles and new mobility in general. Although some cities and regions have undertaken this change to deconstruct the car reflex, these developments are very heterogeneous. With strong policies in favour of facilities dedicated to cycling, countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have taken the lead over the rest of Europe. Connectivity is a real tool for improving infrastructure, making it possible to trace bicycles on their routes and to draw conclusions to allow the implementation of new facilities or new infrastructure to ensure the safety of cyclists and optimise traffic flows.

Improve bicycles life values

Connectivity also provides information on the health of the smart bike or informs the rider of critical maintenance operations to be carried out before a breakdown occurs. With support for maintenance and servicing, the bike will be able to extend its life through connectivity (predictive, preventive and corrective maintenance alerts and notifications).

A new standard and well-established players

Already equipped with connectivity by Velco, the electrically assisted bicycles in the fleet deployed by the Île de France region with the Véligo rental scheme, make it possible to identify and analyse the times and areas of traffic as well as accident-prone areas to create or rethink existing facilities. The analysis of behaviour and usage also makes it possible to better understand the needs of cyclists and to deploy the right tools and messages to convert people to cycling on a massive scale.

In addition to the economic prospects, mobility stakeholders see connectivity as a way of making cycling more attractive. And this bet seems to have been won. Indeed, in addition to the presence of Pure Players, the big names in the bicycle market such as Bosch, Shimano or Ananda perceive the connected bicycle as being the new standard. Major automotive groups, previously resistant to the idea of increasing the number of bicycles on the road, now also see a great strategic interest in developing this through connectivity.

In addition, the exponential development of bicycle fleets in urban and peri-urban areas is multiplying. Both public (Veligo, Bicloo) and private (Starbolt, Donkey Republic) players are now including connectivity in their offers

Exponential growth in bicycle fleets

Providing concrete solutions in terms of safety and comfort, and allowing data to be collected with the aim of democratising the use of two wheels, connectivity has benefited many start-ups and local authorities. Concerned with offering quality services to cyclists, optimising the maintenance of their bicycles, quickly locating their vehicles and improving the infrastructure for cycling in cities, fleet managers see connectivity as an obvious solution. In order to be competitive and to offer increasingly reliable services to users, data collection is now essential. The idea of bike-sharing within cities has become more and more popular and is constantly gaining new followers. Young companies such as Starbolt or Donkey Republic are proposing to transfer this model to companies.

Major challenges for companies

The role of smart bike-sharing systems in urban mobility? Today, many companies have to be exemplary in the face of ecological and social challenges and are therefore turning to soft mobility to offer their employees an alternative to the car. Starbolt and Donkey Republic offer fleet management services for electric bicycles for professionals. With 25% of home-to-work journeys now made by bicycle, shared fleet solutions between employees have a definite future. Connected, the bicycles offered by these booming startups promise employees to know in real time if the bicycles are available, to program time slots during which to borrow the bicycles, or even to make them their main means of travel, and also allow companies to contribute to sustainable development. At Velco we are proud to be part of this.

The smartbike is no longer the future of cycling, it has become the new standard and is slowly but surely making its way onto the trails.