Meet Veemo — an electric car/bicycle hybrid that may be poised to change the way people get around a city. If a trial run program this spring is successful, you won’t be able to miss these bright yellow vehicles in your city.
Modeled after Velocars used in France 1930s and 40s, Veemo is a three-wheeled covered bicycle that runs on a combination of electricity and good old-fashioned horsepower. Similar to bike and car sharing services, users can see an available Veemo’s location through an app, hop in one, and head to their destination.
The pilot program will launch at the University of British Columbia this spring, with plans to expand to the rest of Vancouver and cities in the Pacific Northwest after that.
Joining Forces For the Future
Veemo’s parent company, VeloMetro, was founded by Kody Baker, Jonathan Fallie, and Sean Boyd. Baker, Fallie, and Boyd ran an engineering firm, but they had ideas about launching a new venture based around an electric tricycle. Since similar vehicles failed on the market when they were put up for sale, they viewed a sharing model as the way to go.
At the same time, entrepreneur John Stonier was trying to figure out how to make a new car sharing service work. The ideas joined forces, and the rest is history.
“I met with John for coffee one day, where he was trying to figure out how to make an electric vehicle car sharing network business plan make sense,” Baker said. “The merger of these two concepts have given birth to VeloMetro and our vision for Veemo.”
VeloMetro incorporated in 2014, but development on Veemo started in 2013. A small fleet will serve about 65,000 students, faculty, and staff at the University of British Columbia this spring.
“I think we're creating a new niche for urban travel,” Baker said. “As such, I think we're going to get people using Veemo who would have otherwise used a car sharing service, bike share, bus system, walking, taxi/rideshare, or their own car or bike.”
How Does Veemo Work?
Baker said Veemo is designed for people who want to use a bike for errands and other short trips, but are inconvenienced by the weather or afraid of riding in heavy traffic. Each Veemo is fully covered and has room for your bags.
Veemo is technically classified as a bicycle, which means that users do not need insurance or a driver’s license to take one for a spin. Its top speed is around 32 kph (20 mph), and it pedals and steers like a bicycle — but an electric motor kicks in to help power up hills or accelerate. Baker compares it to having the strength of two Olympic athletes behind you in the vehicle.
Can’t ride a bike? No problem. Veemo is fully stable, which means you do not need to balance or manually shift gears. Because it does not require insurance, anyone over age 18 can rent one, unlike car rentals that require drivers to be age 25.
“We made it really easy to just jump in and go,” Baker said. “If it’s your first time renting one, we’ll identify that you’re a new user and a tablet inside will show an introductory video.”
Along with the Veemo vehicles themselves, VeloMetro will be deploying service technicians to monitor battery life so that a user never needs to deal with their Veemo running out of juice during a trip.
“Similar to how car sharing services have a team of people going to clean windows and gas them up, we have a guy in a van who can see power level on each device,” Baker said. “He’ll find where that vehicle is, clean windows, change the battery, and then it’s good to go again.”
Looking Forward With Veemo
Assuming the University of British Columbia pilot goes well, Baker said the next phase of development will involve figuring out how to make Veemo work in larger cities and in a variety of climates.
“It’s really great for rolling into new cities because we don’t need any charging infrastructure to be in place,” Baker said. “We are the only network that can claim that.”
It’ll likely be a few years before the service is available in the US, but the business model allows for quick setup once a new market is identified. Veemo is completely self-sustaining and does not drain any resources from a city’s power grid.
“Next up would be a full commercial launch into Vancouver. This would be the system we would then want to replicate for other major cities around the world,” Baker said. “After Vancouver, we would test our mettle in the USA by launching in Portland and Seattle.”
This article has been updated with Veemo's correct miles per hour.