Magna Marque, a subsidiary of Canadian autoparts giant Magna International, has announced a four-week bikeshare trial in California that will sees its BionX electric bikes used on the Sacremento campus of the California Energy Environmental Protection Agency. The project is in partnership with Ecotron Systems, which is making the bikeshare stations. I’m a big fan of BionX, which I had the chance to test out for a month in 2008. The BionX system is not a bike, but an e-bike retrofit kit that includes a battery, electric motor and handlebar control panel, all tied together with sophisticated energy-management software. You can put the system on your existing bike or purchase a new bike complete with the system (Trek and Diamant are among the big-name devotees). I wrote about the company back in August 2008 and it continues to forge ahead, preferring to downplay the Magna connection and focus instead of building the BionX brand. At the time, they told me they were working on a bikeshare model for e-bikes, so apparently they’re ready to start showing it off. This pilot in California will be, I’m sure, the first of many to come.
Funny, when I first met Magna Marque CEO Fred Gingl, he told me one of the bikes was sent to California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, a fellow Austrian along with Magna International founder Frank Stronach. Guess Arnie liked them. It will be interesting to see how electric bikes, a much more delicate and expensive product than a typical barebones bike, will be introduced to the bikeshare model. I expect campus environments will be the first market, as these bikes go through tremendous abuse in citywide bikeshare programs.