Citi Bikes will soon be getting a battery-powered boost to match their electric blue color. Aimed at New Yorkers who find the heavy bicycles a pain to pedal, ShareRoller is a compact new device that can transform any Citi Bike into an easy-to-ride electric bike. The briefcase-like portable motor is about the size of a ream of 8.5" x 11" paper, and is the world's first detachable electric drive system designed specifically for major bike share programs in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. We recently met up with the ShareRoller's inventor, Jeff Guida, to take the device out on a Citi Bike spin of our own. Click through our gallery to see how it went.
Guida, a New York-based engineer and entrepreneur, created the ShareRoller after being turned off by Citi Bikes’ hefty frames. “I kind of felt like I was pulling a trailer,’ Guida told us. “I love them, but they’re 3 speeds and they weigh almost fifty pounds. It’s a lot more work than riding a regular bike.”
Guida feels that the ShareRoller will help increase Citi Bike ridership by opening the bike share system up to those who currently find the bikes too difficult to ride. “A lot of my friends don’t ride Citi Bikes because they can’t afford to get sweaty on the way to work, or because they live because in Brooklyn and they don’t want to cross a bridge everyday because it’s a tough climb.”
The device weighs 6-7 lbs. and comes in two models, regular or extended range, which pack enough power for 12 miles or 20 miles of range, respectively. When the battery is depleted, it can be charged simply by plugging it into a wall socket using the included adapter. According to Guida, the regular model can be fully recharged in about 90 minutes, while the extended range model needs a little over two hours.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Guida
The ShareRoller is small enough to fit into most briefcases and totebags and takes about 10 seconds to clip onto the front on a Citi Bike. The portable motor also features a USB port for charging small electronics like smartphones and tablets as well as built-in LED headlights which add 20 Lumens of light to a regular Citi Bike‘s headlights.
In the interest of safety, Guida has capped the ShareRoller’s maximum speed at 18 mph for use with Citi Bikes, however sensors and software will allow the unit to automatically adjust to the full 20mph permitted by Federal e-bike legislation when mounted on a personal bike. Another reason for Guida’s decision to limit the ShareRoller’s speed is to comply with state and city laws regarding electric bikes. Electric bikes are currently illegal in New York City, but it’s unclear about whether a Citi Bike coupled with a ShareRoller would fall under the same category as a true electric bike.
The latest amendment to legislation about e-bikes in NYC (enacted 5/15/2013) states: “For purposes of this section, the term “motorized scooter” shall mean any wheeled device that has handlebars that is designed to be stood or sat upon by the operator, is powered by an electric motor or by a gasoline motor that is capable of propelling the device without human power and is not capable of being registered with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.”
When we asked Guida about the law, he said that he had already studied it carefully during product development, and pointed out that “since the ShareRoller needs to be going 1-2mph (literally one pedal stroke) before the motor can kick in, it’s not technically capable of propelling the device without human power.”
“And even if one tried to argue that start-up pedaling is not an exclusion, the ShareRoller still doesn’t qualify as a ‘motorized scooter’ since it’s not a wheeled device that has handlebars, and a Citi Bike doesn’t really qualify either since once you take off the ShareRoller, it’s clearly not a ‘motorized scooter,'” he added.
Jeff Guida standing with his invention, the ShareRoller.
Guida is offering pre-orders of the ShareRoller starting at $995 through a Kickstarter campaign that is set to launch tomorrow (February 28, 2014).
The price may sound steep but it includes top-of-the-line batteries (the same Panasonic ones that are used in Tesla vehicles), thousands of hours of research and, according to Guida, approximately $1,000 in Citi Bike late fees incurred as a result of said hours of research.
“I’m really hoping Citi Bike will give me a credit for those,” he told us jokingly.
Photos ©Yuka Yoneda, except where noted.