If the strike doesn't delay things the City will be entering into negotiations with Bixi this fall for Toronto's new bike sharing system. Only two companies responded to the City's Request for Proposal of Interest this last spring. Only one of them qualified on technical grounds. Bixi was accepted to enter into negotiations. The loser, the "Public Nature Corporation of Toronto", is calling foul and asking for a do over.
Only the Public Bicycle System Company (as Bixi is called when doing negotiations outside of Montreal) met the requirements and was pre-qualified to make a bid. Weeks after the City announced who qualified and made a request to City Council to negotiate, a National Post article has giving precious ink to the Public Nature Corporation to explain why the whole process was unfair. Matias Marin, CEO of the Public Nature Corporation is claiming the City is not being open because they were excluded and that it should not only re-open the bidding process but also hold public consultations even though this apparently not the regular habit of City Hall.
Mr. Marin said his idea, still at the development stage, would provide Toronto with a more technologically advanced system including regenerative braking, which stores energy and releases it when the rider is climbing a hill. Mr. Marin said other technology could return the bike’s stored energy into the city’s power grid.
Matias Marin, chief executive of Public Nature Corporation, said the BIXIs are too heavy and susceptible to vandalism and theft.
I wonder how a company that doesn't even have a website can make a convincing argument that they have superior technology to Bixi, which made #19 on Time's list of Best 2008 Inventions. Let me make this a bit more transparent. Mr. Marin claims they are developing electric bikes that can be left outside 24/7; will be robust under continuous use and abuse; and will be inexpensive enough to not rely on advertising revenue. The Bixi bikes cost $2000 a piece; are sturdy; vandal-resistant; comes with a smart card system of locking stations; and don't rely on advertising to operate. Those claims are a bit hard to swallow. One only needs to look at the current market for electric bikes to see that the base price starts at about $1500. Given that these bikes need to withstand vandalism, abuse and all weather, the cost will soon skyrocket.
The most ridiculous part of Mr. Marin's proposal is that the bikes will return their "stored energy into the city's power grid". I just hope he's not trying to create bikes where cyclists will end up on hamster wheels trying to keep the city's lights on.
I'm not sure why Mr. Marin thinks why Toronto needs electric motors when all the other cities with bike sharing systems are doing fine with regular pedal bikes. What's wrong with reducing our obesity rate a little?
Technical feasibility aside, Mr. Marin is missing the point: this is supposed to be a functioning system of bikes and stations by next year. The City isn't giving out a grant for a research project. Mr. Marin should perhaps go hat in hand to the feds to ask for funding to get their amazing electric bikes off the ground. And the next time he wishes to respond to a city call for proposals he could first read carefully through the requirements.
matias marin (not verified)
You don't understandSun, 07/26/2009 - 23:14
Yes, electric bikes will cost more in terms of start up cost, but this will pay off! When the users put their bike back into the parking spot, the 4 kg nickel battery will send precious power back into the city grid.
The regenerative braking of going downhill with a 4 kg (approx) battery added to the overall weight will store as much as 2 watt-hours of power. When you subtract the efficiency loss of the battery storage, that brings it to about 0.7 watt-hours of power.
With an expected price of electricity of 20 cents per killowatt hour in the forseeable future, each bike, if used to go down hills with regenerative braking for 8 hours each day, will provide about $1.82 of income to the city per year.
Can the Bixi bike bring in that additional $1.82 of income into the city budget? I don't think so. So next time your taxes go up to meet this shortfall, remember this preemptive statement from me:
told you so.
electricity farm of cyclistsMon, 07/27/2009 - 00:37
You can't be serious. You want us to pretend that somehow every bike will only be ridden downhill with its brakes on continually?
Given a projected electricity price, it's likely to be 20% of that given how much cyclists actually hate to use their brakes. And maybe even less if you also want to use that electricity in giving cyclists a boost in starting up and going up hills. So let's actually make it about 10% since cyclists will most certainly use most of that energy. That comes to 18 cents per day.
Second, I would hazard a guess that the potential income from regenerative braking will hardly pay for the combined cost of the original motors and batteries; setting up the system of pumping electricity back into the grid; replacements of stolen and vandalized bikes; and regular maintenance costs of the complex equipment. At 18 cents per day that only comes to $66 per year to pay for all the maintenance without increasing user fees. Likely, the whole system will cost more than it takes in.
The only way you'd get wide-spread buy-in for an electric bike system is if you could convince people that paying higher rental fees for the e-bikes was in their best interest. And the only way you're going to convince people is if you do your homework. Get working prototypes, figure out the break-even point of your expenses and revenue. You won't find any government willing to bet on your un-tested system with a rollout of next year of thousands of bikes and hundreds of stations.
Were you seriously hoping the city would go with your proposal and let you try to set this all up by next spring? There's nothing wrong with e-bikes, but there are some pretty big gaping holes in your concept.
matias marin (not verified)
First of all, why are youMon, 07/27/2009 - 01:44
First of all, why are you calling it "my" proposal? I am not Matias Marin, I am just a concerned citizen who is not related to Mr Marin nor am I financially linked to his company (legally).
Secondly, I'm sick and tired of this ignorance. Do you think electricity is a free gift from the gods? No, it costs money to produce and therefore has a market value.
I've shown my calculation very clearly, if Toronto puts 4000 of my bikes out there, and each one of them is used specifically to go down hills for 8 hours per day, and the batteries are replaced as needed, we could end up producing THOUSANDS of dollars of electricity in a year. Imagine how happy the mayor will be when there's an extra $2000 at the end of the year that he can put into our municipal infrastructure!
I don't know how many people live in Toronto, but I presume it is somewhere between 1 and 2 thousand. That's several DOLLARS off EVERY SINGLE citizen's tax burden.
Now I know what you are thinking: but it will cost more than that to replace the nickel batteries every 6 months. Well then you don't understand accounting. Batteries are a capital expense, while electricity is OPERATIONAL expense (or in this case, operational asset). They are considered different, so we are making an operational profit, and that's a good thing.
interloperMon, 07/27/2009 - 09:00
Could it be that I'm referring to you as Mr. Marin because you're using his name? If you're not him you should stop using it, you're not helping his case.
I apologize to the real Mr. Marin by assuming he's reading this blog and trying make his case. The City was right to reject the proposal, but we apparently can't attribute to him the weird calculations done by the interloper above.
So I assume that this anonymous interloper has "very" clearly laid out their calculations somewhere else, because they certainly haven't here. As far as I can tell, in their world Toronto has somewhere between 1 to 2 thousand citizens of which all of them will be riding two bikes for 8 hours a day, downhill, while braking. This extraordinary effort will reduce every citizens tax burden by dollars a year! What a deal.
I also never knew that you could simply avoid paying for some expenses by dividing expenses into operational and capital. And here I thought the revenue of the system was supposed to pay for everything. I guess I was wrong.
Okay, I'm going to stop being sarcastic. Mr. Interloper, stop using Mr. Marin's name in the comment threads, or I will change it. And maybe you should try to be a bit more patient and explain your ideas more clearly. Meanwhile we'll keep an eye out for the real Mr. Marin to present bold new ideas in the future.
Perpetual Notion MachineMon, 07/27/2009 - 19:09
There are some serious flaws in suggesting that one could harness the energy used to stop an e-bike, and convert that into an energy surplus for the city, while still powering said e-bike.
It is even more audacious to expect people to support unfounded (and unreasonable) proposals that lack any data.
Bixi is already following a model that has been working well in a number of other cities, which poses the obvious question - Why hasn't anyone else implemented a system using e-bikes that regenerate their own energy with excess to spare?
Ed (not verified)
Who doesn't understand math?Tue, 07/28/2009 - 11:31
So if a battery can store 0.7 watt-hours of power, that's 0.0007kWh of power. At 20 cents/kWh, that's 0.014 cents. Not much of a bonanza. To get $1.82 requires 13000 cycles. Hmm, that's 35.6 discharges every day for 365 days, or 1.484 discharges every hour, 24/7/365. This doesn't sound really easy to accomplish.
[As a sanity check, let's see, a good (heavy lead-acid!) car battery might hold 100 amp-hours at 12 volts. That's about 1.2kWh. Therefore at 20 cents/kWh, a car battery could provide 24 cents worth of power. (This would also ruin the battery unless you got a marine deep-cycle battery, but I digress.)]
There's also the slight problem of riders being unkeen on pedalling this heavy bike uphill without motor assist, given that they'll receive the bike with an empty battery that needs to be recharged.
In sum, this proposal makes as much sense to me as the use of people as "Duracells" in The Matrix. (Well, some people thought that film made sense, too.)
Ed (not verified)
Doh!Tue, 07/28/2009 - 12:04
1 kW is "power".
1 kWh is "energy".
Just about everywhere where I wrote "power" I should have written "energy".
thanks for the reality checkTue, 07/28/2009 - 16:29
I didn't clue into that. I was thinking 0.7 MWh. It's even more improbable then the scenario that I tried to lay out. The basic problem with the ideas of Mr. Marin and the fake Mr. Marin are that they are looking at the whole thing as using people as batteries (as Ed noted) instead of keeping to original program of getting people on bikes.
Go invest in some windmills gentlemen.
Electric bikes will cost more and thus there will be fewerMon, 07/27/2009 - 00:03
... purchased by the city and fewer used by Torontonians.
This argument about harnessing the energy of people going down-hills doesn't make sense.
Toronto isn't that hilly - how on could one bicycle go downhill for 8hrs in Toronto? Wouldn't the charge be drained afterwards on the flats and uphills?
Even if you could generate income, I bet all of it would go to offset the initial costs of purchase and maintenance? Paris is having horrible issues with theft... what is stopping somebody from stripping the motor and battery out of this premium bicycle and reselling them in another country?
Plain old bicycles are relatively cheap, simple to repair and reliable.
The electric assist bikes are a nice idea, but the model seems flawed.
Xander (not verified)
Electric Bikes vs Burning Some CaloriesMon, 07/27/2009 - 09:52
i'm not really into the Prius of the Bicycle world... even though the lack of sweat can be great at times... Also when i ride i try not to brake as much as possible... it slows my momentum..
and E bikes are ugly. nothing beats a classic skirt and heels on a bicycle.. pedals going round and round can be mesmerizing....
Unbiased poster (not verified)
E-Bike are ugly eh!Mon, 07/27/2009 - 10:07
Well E-Bikes maybe ugly to you, but at least we are not dripping with sweat, smelling like a skunk and greasy sweaty hair when we arrive at our job. Our E-Bikes are perfect for commuting to our jobs. Bicycles leave you tired and unclean when you arrive at work, then if there is showers available your employer has to provide the soap and water bill for you to clean up before you can even start your work day. Us E-Bike riders just park are E-Bikes and plug in for about a 5 cent top up charge and go straight to work without having to shower or clean up. Which is less expensive and more efficient for said employer?
Being practicalMon, 07/27/2009 - 12:11
Yes, most e-bikes are ugly cheap-looking hunks of plastic. But other than that, I really don't have anything against them. There are ugly bicycles too...
Anyway, riding to work doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be sweaty and smelly all day, even if you don't have a shower. I ride 20km to work and don't have shower facilities available, but I don't sit around stinking all day. As long as I shower in the morning, wear clean riding clothes, and change a few minutes after I get to work, I'm fine.
Riding my bike to work never leaves me tired. When I take transit to work, or when I sit my fat ass in a car for any extended period of time, that makes me tired. Riding to work is a great way to get perked up first thing in the morning.
As for riding with a skirt and heels...well, that just wouldn't work for me on many different levels. If I had a shorter commute, I could probably get away with wearing work clothes when riding, but not when I go 20km.
When I get old or have some other physical ailments that prevent me from cycling as much, I can definitely see myself adding electric assist to a bicycle to extend my range. In the meantime, it seems unnecessary.
And to get back on-topic.... Having electric-assist in a bike-sharing program seems completely unnecessary and expensive. I'd be curious to see the details and design of that other proposal were. But perhaps if a program is successful, and there is demand for special purpose bikes at a premium price, other options can be considered (cargo-bikes, trailers, e-assist, etc...).
dash (not verified)
It's not necessary to ride soMon, 07/27/2009 - 15:29
It's not necessary to ride so hard when going to work. I prefer not to change or shower after a ride to work, so my "commuter speed" is a nice and easy 20kph. I arrive fresh as when I left, needing only to brush my hair.
Save the intense stuff for the work-out rides.
If you're a sweaty, greasy fool by the time you get to work at even the slow speeds, then you need exercise in your life more than ever.
I don't see this as e-bikeMon, 07/27/2009 - 11:55
I don't see this as e-bike versus bicycle, more like which company has the better bid to supply the city.
Bixi is far more realistic, yet I'm not sure if they can make money in an unproven market like Toronto. I hope they can!
Striker 100 (not verified)
Electric Scooter typesThu, 07/30/2009 - 21:58
If Bixi or anyone else goes ahead with this project, a plan should include a charging system for electric scooter style ebikes. As the owner of a Blue Avenue electric bike called the Striker 100, which runs on lithium batteries, I want to be able to charge batteries if a charging infrastructure is to be built in Toronto. From the photographs and videos of Bixi, I see that they only specialize in their own products. This would be unfair to all scooter ebike owners and should be investigated on how such monopoly could happen. How did a Quebec company get the contract in Ontario anyway? How did this happen? Why is Blue Avenue or Daymak or other Ontario companies not even mentioned in the bidding process? Is this a scam? Who paid who to get this program ahead without any public declaration. Marin is right. We need to do this selection process again.
e-nonsenseTue, 08/04/2009 - 09:41
It's hard to see how a call for proposals on a bicycle sharing program is unfair to ebike owners. One could equally say it's unfair to gas-powered lawnmowers. It's about bicycles. The City did a public Request for Expressions of Interest and only two companies responded, Bixi and Public Nature Corporation; there were no other bids. One of them had a serious bid - Bixi - and the other did not meet the basic criteria. That's not unfair, that's just how contracts work. If a company can't supply what the City requests then they don't have a chance.
There was no mention of any charging infrastructure in the City's Request. The Public Nature Corporation decided to dream up something that wasn't requested, and then cry foul when they were rejected for their pie in the sky proposal.
Striker 100 (not verified)
Fitness or EnvironmentThu, 07/30/2009 - 22:04
Come on people. Fitness is great but the environment is most important. If the air quality is poor then how can we work out?
Electric scooter type ebikes should be allowed even if they aren't practical for pedalling. My Striker 100 can be pedalled but not for a long distance because they are simply too heavy. However, they can carry my weight and has enough storage for my tools and it's better for me to get around in this scooter type ebike than emitting gases in the air with my truck. My bicycle is not realistic and an electric bicycle type cannot carry the weigth of my cargo. If it weren't for these electric scooter type ebikes that can carry my tools, I would be driving my truck to work.
wrong e-bike threadTue, 08/04/2009 - 10:14
I commend your passion for your e-bike but you really have the wrong thread. The post isn't about "allowing" e-bikes. Go ahead and carry your tools on it. The point of this thread is to discuss the bike sharing proposals sent to the City, comparing their plausibility.
As seen in many other cities, bike sharing systems get used well. It would be hard to argue their unreality when they do, in fact, exist and get used all the time. It would take monumental leaps of logic that the City should scrap the whole idea and instead implement one with electric motors that would be significantly more expensive.
I think, however, that you'd be surprised how much you can practically carry on a cargo bike - up to 100 kg.
E-bikes are to expensive toThu, 07/30/2009 - 22:55
E-bikes are to expensive to supply to a city on a rental basis, theft and maintenence requirements all make it impossible.
The malarkey about generating energy out of rental e-bikes for profit is pure bullshit.
I think we should go in baby steps and follow the same path as our euro counterparts that have succeeded with regular bikes as well as our American friends to the south.
Lets keep it simple, we need some more bike love in Caronto!
Robert S (not verified)
E-bikes - aren't all ugly!!Thu, 08/20/2009 - 23:30
Interesting thread and article!!
I wanted to pitch in - my e-bike isn't ugly at all!! I ride a hybrid with a BionX PL-350 system on it..
I LOVE it!! I ride a carbon road bike for pleasure and fitness, but for commuting, I ride my hybrid (which isn't much, but the best thing about BionX is, I can put it on any new bike I buy). It's made in Canada, and the thing allows me to get to work without breaking a sweat.. Yes, I still pedal, but not too much..
There are many hills on my way to and from work (north of the city), but when I ride downtown, umm... there are no hills.. so how would you capture enough energy for this proposed idea to work?
If you've never ridden a BionX, try it.. I can't begin to explain the feeling! (noiseless as well). I would love to see a bike sharing program in Toronto, and especially one with an electric assist.. It might get people of all capabilities on bikes..