San Francisco’s new electric bicycle sharing experiment will soon offer an affordable green transit alternative for those navigating the city’s inclines. The e-bike program will offer riders the option to rent bikes by the hour through the website City CarShare. And for those hauling heavier duty cargo such as groceries, e-bicycle trailers will also be available to rent.

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While City CarShare will provide the service, the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley will assess the “impact and lessons learned from the project,” reports the . The program is being funded by a $1.5 million award from the Federal Highway Administration’s Value Pricing Program, with the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agencyon board as fiscal sponsor.

City CarShare hopes that the electric bike share program will expand upon the carbon-footprint reducing success of its current car share service. The organization reports that members drive 50% less, reduce miles and save more than 20 million pounds of CO2 emissions per year compared to individual car owners. And by offering electric bicycle rental alongside car rental at an hourly rate 50-70% lower than that charged for cars, Chief Executive Rick Hutchinson hopes that members will consider using a bike over a car.

In September of last year the University of Tennessee launched the nation’s first e-bike sharing program. Seven e-bikes were offered to students as part of a study by UT professors from their Civil and Biosystems Engineering Programs. One of their founders, Chris Cherry, noted that “about 100 million people use electric bikes in China and very few here [in the United States], maybe 200,000.”

The San Francisco Electric Bike Sharing program will put 45 bikes into service in the second half of this year, and will add another 45 by the end of 2013 as they extend the project to serve the future e-cyclists of Berkeley.

+ UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center

Via New York Times

Lead image © jelloneck