Earlier this month we covered the bizarre story of the sudden death of an e-bike rental company. The shared mobility brand Bolt Mobility apparently shuttered operations overnight, leaving thousands of e-bikes and e-scooters abandoned in cities across the US.
The move was all the more puzzling as these vehicles likely totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment, if not into the millions.
It began with five US cities that reported an overnight exit from Bolt Mobility, leaving the deserted e-bikes and e-scooters in its wake.
Because the shared mobility vehicles are locked until a user pays to unlock them via Bolt’s smartphone application, they became essentially useless in their abandoned state.
The personal EVs may have been abandoned by Bolt Mobility, but its original manufacturer wasn’t about to let them go to waste that easily.
It turns out they were produced by Element LEV, a company that manufactures multiple models of electric bikes, e-scooters, and e-mopeds for shared mobility companies. And the manufacturer didn’t want to see the vehicles relied upon by so many commuters end up going to waste. So it sprung into action.
We spoke to Element LEV to learn more about what the company was doing to try to help the cities suddenly stuck with hundreds of locked e-bikes sitting on its streets.
Element LEV’s VP of strategic partnerships Pete Ballard explained to Electrek that the company was working to reach out to each city to help unlock the bikes with the goal of relaunching them. However, the process isn’t as easy as it sounds, since Element LEV doesn’t have a direct relationship with the cities. It was merely the manufacturer selected by Bolt Mobility, and it is now left trying to help clean up Bolt’s mess.
As Ballard explained:
As the manufacturer of the e-bikes deployed by Bolt, we hate to see products abandoned and cities and universities left without a functioning shared mobility system. We felt compelled to help and have been in contact with multiple partners across the US. Our team is jumping in to unlock those devices and working hand in hand with these markets to relaunch a healthy system.
He continued by explaining that the primary goal is to first secure the e-bikes.
That is likely a tricky task as the nature of shared electric bikes means that they are designed to freely float around cities, often being parked on sidewalks and in other public spaces without being physically locked like a typical privately owned bike.
Step one is helping to make sure the assets are secure so we are here to talk to any location that needs help.
After securing the e-bikes, Ballard explained that the company is trying to ensure that cities have access to the parts and support to manage the bikes. The ultimate goal is to help the cities bring the e-bikes back into operation.
Step two is making sure these bikes have the right spare parts to safely operate and we are providing that support too. Lastly, we want to help them navigate bringing their systems back to life, especially at a time when communities rely on shared mobility devices in their daily lives.
When I first reported on this bizarre turn of events, I was worried that these abandoned e-bikes were going to either turn into a free-for-all or become a pile of e-waste to be discarded.
I’m thrilled to see that the original manufacturer of the e-bikes is proactively trying to help cities solve this problem in a way that actually returns the e-bikes to use instead of just cleaning up after Bolt Mobility’s mess.
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