Stuttgart to Deploy Electric Bike Fleet
Call it a sign of the times. As Europe celebrates "Green Week" and oil trades above $120 a barrel, the German city of Stuttgart, home to Mercedes (DAI) and Porsche (PSHG_P), announced it will be among the first in the world to embrace fleets of nonpolluting electric scooters known as "light electric vehicles," or LEVs, a new type of urban transport.
To reduce the number of cars on the road and the pollution they spew, Stuttgart on June 2 signed a letter of intent with Ultra Motor, a six-year-old British company that already sells an eco-friendly cross between a bike and a motorcycle in India and the U.S. The idea is to create a rental system of scooter-bikes similar to the popular Vélib' bicycle rental scheme in Paris used by commuters. LEV parking spots, which will be connected to the electricity grid in Stuttgart and double as charging stations, will be sprinkled every 150-200 meters throughout the city. The plan is to have 1,200 LEVs available for rent at 250 stations in a first phase, and 10 times that many in a second phase, says Ultra Motor Chief Executive Joe Bowman. Launch is expected in about 10 months.
Ultra Motor is currently in negotiations with 12 other major European cities (BusinessWeek.com, 3/21/08). "We are starting a movement," says Bowman. All over the world, concerns over pollution, traffic congestion, and energy costs are prompting consumers, companies, and governments to embrace cleaner, cheaper, and smaller vehicles, including electric or hybrid-electric cars and two-wheeled electric vehicles.
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