Chinese food delivery and services platform Meituan and ride-hailing giant Didi have recently made major moves into the e-bike rental market, each placing bulk orders for electric bicycles to secure a larger share of an emerging market that promises better returns than bike-sharing.
In April, Meituan was reported to have placed an order for millions of e-bikes with a Tianjin and Suzhou-based manufacturers. According to estimates from media outlet Zhitong Caijing, the cost of the bikes and batteries could reach billions of yuan.
At around the same time, the food delivery platform also bought out the design for a model named “Q8” from the Tianjin-based supplier, meaning that the supplier could no longer use the model for no-Meituan orders. Meituan has also been exploring monetization options for e-bikes, including ad placements on the bikes as well as in-app commercials, Zhitong Caijing reported.
Ride-hailing platform Didi did not lag behind. On April 17, the company announced a plan to boost the number of daily orders on the platform to more than 100 million in three years, with rentable bikes and e-bikes playing a significant role. In April, Didi’s bike-sharing arm Qingju was revealed to have received a $1 billion round of funding, of which a considerable portion would be used for e-bikes.
According to Suzhou-based battery manufacturer Phylion, as of April, it has supplied Qingju with 1 million units of lithium batteries for e-bikes. The cells are custom-tailored for bike-sharing use and have accurate displays of remaining battery life.
Bike-sharing app Hellobike is also trying to maintain its lead in the e-bike sharing landscape. With a self-proclaimed market share of 70%, Hellobike has deployed e-bikes in more than 320 cities as of February 2020 and launched a new model of e-bikes in March. The company also said it has started profiting off of its e-bike service in 2019.
The e-bike rental market started to gain traction in China last year. In April 2019, China implemented a new set of manufacturing standards for e-bikes, which gave the green light to shareable e-bikes that meet the requirements. Prior to that, e-bike sharing was largely disapproved in the country due to safety concerns.
E-bike rental in the US is also in its early stages. E-scooter rental service company Lime, which recently received a $170 million investment from Uber, has been burning cash to flood cities with scooters and hasn’t yet become profitable, according to the Financial Times. Lyft’s electric bike-sharing service, which used to be a major player in the field, had to exit a number of cities after a series of crashes and several battery fires.