Uber is set to expand its business in New Zealand from February next year, when it rolls out its fleet of electric bikes in Auckland under the brand name Jump.
The San Francisco-based ridesharing company was last month granted a license by Auckland Council to operate both its Jump e-bikes and electric scooters.
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Jump general manager of New Zealand, Henry Greenacre, said the company was yet to finalise the exact date that the bikes business would launch but said all 655 dockless bikes were expected to be on the streets by March.
Uber operates its Jump e-bikes business in Europe and North America, currently. Its launch into New Zealand will be its first in the Asia Pacific region.
Uber acquired Manhattan-founded bike-share start up Jump, which began as Social Bicycles, last year for a reported $200 million. The company had been operating for about 10 years prior to the acquisition.
Like regular bikes, you cycle on e-bikes but as you do the motor kicks in and takes you further (a bit like swimming with flippers). The e-bikes are heavy duty, 33 kilograms in weight with a 300W motor, and like the company's e-scooters have built-in location trackers.
The bikes cost around $1 to unlock and 30 cents per minute to use.
The e-bikes, manufactured in Portugal, were extremely expensive, Greenacre said. He was unable to disclose how much each cost, but said they were cheaper than an a typical e-bike priced around $2000.
Uber does not yet know how far the bikes can travel on a single charge in this country, but on average can travel between 40 and 50 kilometres before the battery needs to be swapped to be charged. The bikes have a 25km/h speed limit.
Greenacre said Uber was confident the bikes would be popular with New Zealanders, and would increase its fleet numbers if required. "We don't know how many people are going to use these bikes, but we're pretty confident a lot of people are.
"If you look at the scooter schemes in New Zealand, they've been really successful from a numbers point of view so I can't see why bikes are going to be any different."
In cities like Paris and Seattle the company has upwards of 5000 e-bikes on the streets at any give time. The company starts relatively small with bike numbers when its launches into a new market but scales up with demand, Greenacre said.
"When we put them on the road we don't want them to be sitting there not getting used, that's not good for us, so we ramp up as demand builds - we don't want to flood the streets with lots of bikes."
Greenacre said the company chose to launch its e-bikes in New Zealand ahead of Australia as the country was "further advanced down the micro mobility path" and from a regulation stand point.
"New Zealand cities are better suited for it, in our view, at the moment," he said.
The company intends for the bikes to be used between four and seven times per day, and hopes they will appeal to those who are not fans of its scooters.
"E-bikes and scooters appeal to very different groups of people for very different journeys. What we've found overseas is that a lot people use these for commuting and longer distances, especially when hills are involved as they travel faster.
"Some people are bike people and some are scooter people just by preference so we think by having both we add to the accessibility for micro mobility for a bigger portion of the population."
Longer term, Jump by Uber wants to expand its e-bike business into Wellington, where it already operates its e-scooters. Greenacre said he would like to see the e-bikes in all major cities in New Zealand.
Greenacre also said he expected sales of e-bikes to increase in Auckland once Jump by Uber e-bikes launched in Auckland, as it had happened in other markets.
"E-bikes have exploded globally, we think that dockless e-bike systems have been a part of that but I think there is an explosion that is happening by itself."