Citi Bike, the bike share company owned by Lyft, has been working with Con Edison and the city's Department of Transportation to connect docking stations directly to the city’s electrical grid — a partnership that would allow e-bikes to charge while parked as opposed to having workers manually swap out batteries.
The upgrade, first reported by Streetsblog, could also provide more New Yorkers with access to the popular, zippy method of transportation.
"Electrifying stations provides benefits for everyone: it means riders will have more charged ebikes available, reduced emissions from battery swapping vehicles, and tangibly decreasing a major operating expense,” said Laura Fox, General Manager of Citi Bike at Lyft.
But securing a power source for the electric docks could be a bumpy ride. Trenching may need to occur to connect stations to the city’s electrical grid. Some locations may be able to leverage existing grid connections, such as wherever there is a street lamp.
The city’s biggest power provider said it was into exploring the idea.
“We are aware of Citi Bike’s interest, and we’re always open to learning more about ways we can help reduce the number of miles travelled in vehicles running on fossil fuels,” Con Edison said in a statement.
While the city currently has a 20% cap on the number of Citi Bikes that can be electric, the Department of Transportation said it was open to helping streamline the charging process.
“We are working closely with Lyft to explore electrified stations and other ways to reduce the environmental impacts of e-bikes by charging batteries more efficiently,” said Vincent Barone, a spokesperson for the DOT.
Although there is no official announcement yet, Lyft is already gearing up for electric docks in the city. The new e-bike model that will be rolled out early next year will have charging capability, and all new docks installed in 2022 will also be charging-capable — just not connected to the city’s power grid.
The company is currently in the process of starting a pilot program in Chicago for early next year and it hopes to use what it learns there to estimate costs and give a rough timeline for the project in New York.
Costs will vary depending on how much trenching is needed and how much existing power sources can be used. According to Lyft, there is “potential for federal infrastructure dollars from the recently passed package to help support this effort, in addition to state grant money, and potentially utility support.”
The company is also hoping for support support from Mayor-elect Adams for subsidies. Aside from being known to ride Citi Bikes to press conferences, Adams pledged to “expand Citi Bike beyond more affluent communities by committing City funding.”
The bike share program is not available in many New York City neighborhoods including the entire borough of Staten Island. According to Lyft, “city support will allow us to add more electrified stations and to do so faster than our existing operating budget can support.”
This story has been updated.