Editor's choice
27 Mar 19

Electric Bikes coming to Brazil

Brazil's large cities are benchmarks of Latin America when it comes to new mobility solutions. First sparked by the growth of ride-hailing services, followed by bicycle and e-scooter sharing schemes, the page is now being turned as electric bicycle (e-bike) sharing schemes have just been launched by two of the country's largest players. 
 
Yellow
 
The e-bike scheme offered by Brazilian bike sharing company Yellow was launched on 11 March and is the first dockless e-bike sharing system in Brazil. "Our initial area in São Paulo will be the same as the 21km2 area provided by our electric scooters," says Yellow co-founder Ariel Lambrecht.

Rather than having a throttle, the vehicle automatically provides peddling assistance when needed. It has a top speed of 25km/h and, unlike regular bike sharing schemes, helmets are required by law.
 
Moreover, although Yellow's conventional bikes operate around the clock, the e-bikes operate from 8am to 9pm to allow for overnight maintenance, recharging, and cleaning. As for cost, it is 5 reais (US$1.32) to unlock the bike and 0.40 reais per minute thereafter. Riders can pay through the app itself via credit card or in cash at news stands and retail partners.

Yellow e-bike in São Paulo (source: Yellow)

Bike Sampa

The Bike Sampa e-bike sharing scheme, which is operated by Tembici and sponsored by Itaú bank, started its services on 18 March. It too is in the city of São Paulo, primarily the southwest region of the city in neighborhoods such as Pinheiros, Itaim Bibi, Vila Olímpia, Vila Leopoldina, Jardins, Paraíso and Vila Mariana.
 
However, of the 2,500 bikes in the system, just 20 of them are e-bikes right now as the company is going through a testing phase. The bikes, which have a range of up to 60km, were supplied by Canadian company PBSC Urban Solutions. 
 
"The test should last from 60-90 days. We will evaluate usage and then expand the scheme accordingly," says Bike Sampa manager Rafael Orlandi.

The idea is to have a two-color bike system in the future, one color for conventional bikes and the other for e-bikes much like what is seen in cities like Madrid and Lisbon.

Bike Sampa is eventually planning to have four packages which can be registered via its mobile app or on the company's website.  They are paid per day (8 reais), three-day (15 reais), month (20 reais), and annual (160 reais). Through these packages, a bike can be used for one hour free of charge. A 5-real surcharge will be applied thereafter.

Bike Sampa station in São Paulo (source: Bike Sampa)

Safety

As the country already faces more than 40,000 traffic related deaths every year, one of the main issues of concern for legislators and ride share companies alike is safety. Many of Brazil's car and bicycle lanes are quite narrow and potholes and other irregularities are somewhat common along routes.

For one, the e-bike fleets being provided in the country currently follow the 25km/h maximum speed adopted by Japan and Europe in 2000. This is said to be suitable for braking safely and giving sufficient peripheral vision.
 
Changes in the maximum speed could be reduced where there are large numbers of pedestrians and even increased along routes where there is a larger presence of cars and motorcycles. However, creating e-bikes with other specifications would likely increase the cost of producing them.
 
To be able to run along side conventional bikes, e-bikes need to abide by the following rules:
  • maximum power output of 350 watts
  • maximum speed of 25km/h
  • motor only kicks in when rider is peddling
  • no independent throttle control
  • helmet is required
  • bike has a speedometer, horn, and rear-view mirrors on both sides
  • bike has well maintained tyres
If not (e.g. higher powered e-bike), the vehicle will need to have a licence plate and a drivers license will be required.
 
Regardless of the specifications adopted, it does look like the electric bike trend will hit Brazil. As to how hard it will hit the country, we have yet to see.
Authored by: Daniel Bland