Bird, the mobility company known for its shared electric scooters, announced it will roll out a new “seated electric vehicle” this summer. The thing’s a little hard to categorize, but it’s somewhere along the e-bike/seated scooter spectrum. The Verge reports it will have a maximum range of about 50 miles, which is roughly in line with the top-line e-bikes currently on the market. Bird didn’t announce any details on maximum speed, but The Verge also reports Bird will comply with local regulations (of course they would say that?) which would limit them to somewhere around the 27-30 mph range.
The company says it will have an “option of pedal-assist or peg to meet the preferences of riders,” although that’s probably more to meet the demands of regulators. Electric-powered two-wheel ride-ons without pedals fall into murky legal territory in many states, so a pedal-assist option ensures the devices get classified as e-bikes, which are widely legal now.
But more to the point, e-scooters simply aren’t that compelling a product in many cities. The roads need to be nearly pristine, which American roads are not. They’re not particularly suited for poor weather, especially winter weather where any level of slipperiness makes them difficult to ride. Hills can be a problem (although newer models handle them better). And relatively low weight limits of around 200 or 220 pounds means a lot of Americans can’t use them. Obviously the devil is in the details, but it sure seems like this e-bike-type thing addresses a few of those concerns.
It’s also where the mobility market seems to be converging. Bikesharing, much of which is now owned by Uber and Lyft, are getting into e-bikes in a big way (once they fix their brakes). Traditional bike companies are going harder on e-bikes. Motorcycle companies are getting into e-bikes. And now one of the biggest e-scooter companies is entering the space.
And I, for one, welcome our new e-bike overlords. E-bikes are great. They take an existing thing and slap a motor and battery on it in a way that exponentially amplifies its use case, making biking available to people with mobility problems, who have commutes too long for a regular ride, or need to arrive at their destination looking presentable rather than a hot, sweaty mess. They’re durable and work well in virtually all weather. And they don’t have weight limits below many humans.