Flywheel | October 17, 2022
Exploring the drivers behind micromobility's rapid adoption in NYC and featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the used side of owned micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight an observation of trends emerging in the industry and feature five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the secondary market.
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The observation of the week explores the two key drivers behind micromobility's rapid adoption in NYC. This week’s featured vehicles are a kitted out delivery bike, two folding bikes, and two commuters.
Observation of the Week
The key drivers behind micromobility's rapid adoption in NYC
I spent this past weekend in New York City, and it was absolutely amazing to witness how prevalent micromobility has become on the streets of NYC. Although ebikes were only legalized in NYC in late 2020, the city is quickly becoming the most important market for ebikes in the US. NYC’s density means that it is truly unlike any other city in the US for micromobility, and it’s decent bike lanes, horrible traffic, and slow average car speeds have even further accelerated light electric vehicle adoption. There’s obviously still many issues around infrastructure (i.e. some streets are too narrow for cars, bike lanes, and parking/parklets simultaneously, so cars often drive in the bike lane), but it’s clear that micromobility is there to stay. I believe the growth of micromobility in NYC is largely due to two key drivers: Lyft’s Citi Bikes and delivery ebikes.
Lyft Citi Bikes:
I believe that Lyft and Citibike have done more than anyone in the US to get new people on ebikes. For most people I know, their first exposure to an ebike (particularly in the context of urban travel) is through a Lyft ebike program. Even my own first experience on an ebike (and the start of my micromobility obsession) happened on a Lyft Bay Wheels bike. In NYC, there’s an incredible density of docks and bikes, and there were countless people were commuting on a Citi Bike regardless of the time of day. Many of these riders weren’t even using helmets. While this is certainly a potential hazard, it does speak to a certain level of safety and comfort riders in NYC feel with the available infrastructure and networks (à la the Dutch). Citi Bike has also done lots to help push pro-micromobility regulation and infrastructure in NYC. The way many docks are placed on a street to form a barrier for protected bike lanes that seem to stem from them (as seen in the image above) is a great example of this.
The most common ebikes you see on the streets of NYC are delivery bikes operated by gig-delivery couriers. These are often cheaper ebikes or DIY bikes cobbled together with conversion kits (I saw a ton of wheel conversion kits in particular). As RPB puts its, they are the “ebike workhorses of NYC.” They’re kitted out to the brim, and it’s clear couriers take pride in accessorizing their ebikes. Most of them have handlebar mitts, loud horns, phone mounts, and decorative duct tape duct tape. I also saw a lot of ebikes with trailers doing larger deliveries (as seen in the image above), many of which I believe were handling Whole Foods deliveries.
The exponential growth of ebikes for delivery has started to point out a major gap in infrastructure: charging. Many of the batteries on delivery ebikes are either cheap and uncertified or are simply not designed for intense, high-utilization use-cases like delivery. This is leading to many battery fires, to the point where the NYC Housing Authority has proposed a ban to charging ebikes in apartments or common areas, and many private real estate owners are voluntarily restricting indoor ebike charging. As such, there’s now a growing effort around public or shared micromobility charging infrastructure. Just recently, Senator Chuck Schumer and Mayor Adams announced a plan to repurpose defunct newsstands and other “underutilized public space” into charging hubs and rest stops for couriers. Similarly, a number of private entities and property developers are proposing the installation of fire-safe battery swapping stations. One startup to note in this space is JOCO, a docked shared ebike network like Citi Bike that is exclusively available to delivery drivers and handles all charging, maintenance, and storage.
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Top 5 Vehicles of the Week
The Ariel Rider Kepler is a class-3 urban powerhouse. Ariel Rider is an adventure ebike brand known for powerful and fast ebikes, and the Kepler fits this bill to a T. Featuring a 1000W nominal (torque undisclosed) hub motor and 1040Wh battery pack, the Kepler has a monstrous powertrain that almost give it the specs of a low-end motorcycle. The Kepler has a few street legal modes for class-2 or class-3 operations, but there’s an unlocked sport mode that has allowed some riders to hit up to 36mph and 75+ miles of range. Given the massive battery pack, strong motor, and a cushy suspension from its front fork and fat tires, the Kepler has become highly popular amongst couriers and delivery riders. In fact, Kepler even sells cargo baskets specially designed for couriers. This listing is a great example of the fully kitted-out delivery ebikes of NYC. The seller (an ex UberEats courier) has upgraded the vehicle with a dual battery set up, rear rack, delivery bag, side boxes, mirrors, extra loud horn, headlights, more comfortable seat, phone mount, radio, bike alarm, and lock. There’s even a 3rd spare battery pack included with the listing. Listing can be found here.
The Tern Vektron D8 is a high-end class-1 folding ebike. The D8’s frame is actually a bit longer than that of most folding ebikes in order to give it the handling of a standard, non-folding ebike. Combined with an 80Nm Bafang M400 mid-drive motor and 400Wh battery pack, the D8 is well suited for light cargo loads and is often seen with parents transporting their children on the rear rack. The D8 is an older Vektron model that is no longer sold new, and the main difference between the D8 and its newer sister vehicles is that they use Bosch instead of Bafang powertrains. While Bosch is a bit higher quality, Bafang is no slouch. Tern is also very highly reputed and has a vast maintenance network, so reliability and upkeep of the vehicle really shouldn’t be an issue. This listing is in like-new condition with only 160 miles of usage, and is selling for ~$1K less than it’s Flywheel Vehicle Value. Listing can be found here.
The RadMission is a class-2 commuter and RadPower’s cheapest bike meant to compete in the ~$1K budget ebike sector. Featuring a 50Nm motor and 504Wh battery pack, the RadMission has a weaker powertrain than other Rad Power models but is competitive with the performance specs of Lectric’s XP 2.0 and other cheaper ebikes. Rad Power held a fire sale last week for RadMissions with a discounted price of $499, likely because of overstocked inventory. In less than 10 days since, the model is already sold out and it looks like Rad Power is discontinuing the model. This listing is for a brand new, in-box RadMission, and there’s a good chance it was bought during the sale. Given the steep discount from the sale plus the fact that RadMissions have an average resale value of $950 in the secondary market, not to mention that RadMissions will also no longer be available new, I suspect that we’ll see a lot of brand new RadMissions on the secondary market bought during the sale being resold for a considerable profit. Listing can be found here.
The Raleigh Redux iE is a sporty class-3 urban commuter. With a 90Nm Brose Drive TF motor and 500Wh battery pack, the Redux iE’s powertrain is pretty weak compared to most other class-3 ebikes. However, it’s lighter-than-average weight of 48lbs and impeccable handling give the Redux iE an agile feeling that has made it extremely popular with road pedal bikers looking for an electric option. Much of this responsiveness comes from the Redux iE’s stiff aluminum frame and front fork. There’s a newer version of the Redux iE that uses a stronger Bosch Performance Line motor and an even stiffer suspension, but this may be a bit too aggresive for everyday commuters. This listing has significant usage at 4800 miles, but it’s motor and drive belt have both been recently replaced and are virtually brand new. Although Brose’s battery packs aren’t quite as reliable as Bosch packs, there’s likely at least a few thousand more miles left on this listing’s battery. Listing can be found here.
The JupiterBike Discovery X5 is a compact class-2 folding ebike. The Discovery X5 has a frame made of a magnesium alloy, which makes it sturdy, light, and sleek, particularly when compared to competing budget folding ebikes. The powertrain is built on a 350W (~60Nm motor) and 187Wh battery pack, and there’s a rear suspension that provides a marginal cushion for city rides. Ultimately, this powertrain is quite weak compared to most folding bikes, or even JupiterBike’s other, larger models. However, the JupiterBike is really meant for portability, and the X5’s excellent folding mechanism and 16” wheels make it easy to carry with you. In fact, the battery pack is even small enough that the Discovery X5 is FAA-approved to fly with you on a plane. This listing has very little usage and the owner is selling the vehicle because she’s switching to a scooter. For ebikes in this size and performance range, I think most people would be wise to opt for a scooter. Scooters are even more portable, and many are also more powerful and thereby more safe. Check out the Taur scooter if you’re looking for an alternative option. Listing can be found here.
That’s it for this week. Thanks again for joining, see you next Monday!
- Puneeth Meruva
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