The University of Tennessee, Knoxville recently announced the launch of the nation’s first automated electric bicycle (e-bike) sharing system. The small-scale program is part of a research study by faculty in the university’s engineering and biosystems engineering departments.
The system will consist of two bike sharing stations with ten bikes each—seven e-bikes and three bicycles. The first station is on the campuses’ Presidential Court. A second station is slated for installation on the Agriculture campus. If successful, the e-bikes may be adopted into a full-scale program by the university.
The sharing station consists of an integrated bike rack with a battery-charging kiosk which distributes batteries to those who check out e-bikes. The system is fully automated. Users simply swipe their university ID cards to check out and return bikes to the station when finished. The pilot test is free to subscribers within the UT community. Currently, the project is recruiting 200 volunteers for two-month cycles for the academic year.
The goal of the UT study is to test the operational and economic feasibility of introducing electric bikes in a shared bike system and also test how users respond to them. “We want to test the technology, operations, environmental impacts, travel demand impacts on physical activity, and economics of developing such a system,” said engineering assistant professor Chris Cherry, who leads the project. “With this being the first fully automated electric bike sharing system in the country and one of the first in the world, we hope to prove or disprove many of the assumptions that are attached to such a system.”