Electric Bike Sharing Stations Generating Data

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is
home to the nation’s first fully-automated electric bike sharing station – make that
two stations – thanks to research questions posed by civil and environmental engineering
assistant professor Chris Cherry. “We have electric-assist bikes that have an electric
motor in the hub that allows users to go up hills with more ease. We also have regular
bicycles that are included in the system so if someone has a preference for regular bicycles
they can use those regular bicycles.” One station, located in Presidential Court, uses power
off the grid. The other, on the Agriculture campus, uses solar power. Registered members
of Cherry’s pilot program easily check out bikes with a swipe of their university ID.
“When the user wants to check out a bike, first they have to check out a battery. Here we
have the battery vending system that allows us to distribute the right battery to the
user. The battery that ensures the minimum state of charge – meaning they can go a certain
distance on a single change. We give them the battery – this is a lithium-ion battery,
they close the door. Then we send them to a bike – an electric bike that’s ready to
go. They slide the battery in the back, lock it up and then check the bike out.” Cherry
and his team are collecting data on a number of questions related to safety, environmental
impact, and travel behavior to see if electric bikes could become more popular here in the
US. “One of the main motivations for including electric bikes in a bike sharing system is
I was hoping to expose more people to a relatively very efficient mode of transportation. A lot
of people won’t bicycle around campus and East Tennessee because of the terrain and
weather and other things. Electric bikes can help overcome that.” According to Cherry, electric
bikes also overcome air quality and environmental health issues by displacing other more polluting
modes of transportation.

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