Why is Uber Importing 8,000 Electric Bikes From China?

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【Summary】Uber is poised to for a major expansion and will begin offering more e-bike options directly from its app for riders in U.S. cities. Shipping records show that Uber imported about 8,000 e-bikes to the U.S. this month alone.

FutureCar Staff    Dec 24, 2018 11:00 AM PT
Why is Uber Importing 8,000 Electric Bikes From China?

When Uber purchased electric bike rental startup Jump for neatly $200 million nine months ago, it signaled that the ride-hailing company was preparing to get into the competitive bike sharing business. Now it looks as Uber is poised to for a major expansion and will begin offering more e-bike options directly from its app for riders in U.S. cities.

Shipping records show that Uber imported about 8,000 e-bikes to the U.S. this month alone, according to data analyzed by Ocean Audit for USA TODAY. It's most likely that Uber is trying to avoid steeper tariffs on imports from China set to take effect on Jan 1 as part of President Trump's ongoing trade war.

"That's a remarkable number," said Steve Ferreira, CEO of Ocean Audit, which provides analysis of freight data to help companies save costs. "They're putting their production on fast-forward."

"It's a huge cost savings for them" to import them now, he said.

Shipping invoices indicate the bikes were made by Hong Kong's ProGear China Co. and imported from China, with many initially destined for warehouses in California.

It's unclear when and where Uber will roll out the e-bikes, which have a small electric motors that makes pedaling much easier and allows biking up hills effortless for riders. However, part of Uber's vision is to become a top urban mobility platform, with e-bikes being a part of that plan. As more people live in cities, there will need to be a broader array of mobility options that work for both customers and cities, he said.

"We see the Uber app as moving from just being about car sharing and car hailing to really helping the consumer get from A to B in the most affordable, most dependable, most convenient way," Khosrowshahi said to TechCrunch last spring. "And we think e-bikes are just a spectacularly great product."

Ferreira said to USA TODAY that it's not uncommon for companies to import items to avoid upcoming tariffs and then store them in warehouses for a short period of time until they're ready to sell or use them.

According to shipping invoices, the bikes were imported through a limited-liability company known as Social Bicycles.

Social Bicycles is part of dockless bike-sharing firm Jump, which Uber is now owned by Uber. Currently, Jump had more than 12,000 electric bicycles available for rent in 40 cities across six countries in 2017.


Uber purchased Jump in July for $200 million

Uber recently started offering Jump e-bikes in certain cities through its ride-hailing app. In the San Francisco Bay Area Uber customers also have a electric scooter option from Lime, one of the fastest growing electric scooter sharing startups.

The partnership between Uber and Lime was announced in July, after Uber and Google Ventures, the investment arm of Google, announced their $335 investment in the Silicon Valley-based e-scooter company.

An Uber spokesperson was not immediately available for comment on Friday. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has directed the company to diversify its services by adding electric scooters, e-bikes and mass-transit connections through its app.

The move is part of the rapid rise in bike and scooter sharing options in urban markets throughout the U.S., especially dockless electric bikes that can be unlocked with a smartphone app. Dockless competitors include Limebike, MoBike, Ofo and Spin.

With thousands of Uber operated vehicles clogging city streets, Uber is being blamed for increasing traffic in some cities. In cities such as San Francisco, Uber is planning an emphasis on electric scooters and e-bikes instead of cars as a transportation option. Speaking with the Financial Times in August, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said more individual modes of transport, such as electric scooters and bicycles, were better suited for crowded city centers.

"During rush hour, it is very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks," Khosrowshahi said. "We're able to shape behavior in a way that's a win for the user. It's a win for the city.

Uber's biggest rival Lyft is following in Uber's footsteps. Lyft acquired bike-share network operator Motivate earlier this year. Motivate's operations include New York's Citi Bike platform and the Ford-branded GoBike program in San Francisco.

The U.S. had more than 100,000 bikes in ride-sharing networks at the end of 2017, more than double a year earlier, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

resource from: USA TODAY

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