RIT students, alumni, faculty and staff now have a green alternative to driving or taking the campus shuttle: they can rent electric bicycles. A pilot study is starting tomorrow (Oct. 19), where riders will offer feedback before the formal launch of the fleet is held in the spring.
RIT is believed to be one of the first campuses in the country to offer electric bicycle rentals. The program will launch in the spring with six bikes available for rental; two others will be kept on reserve and used as replacements.
“They’re just a lot of fun to ride,” says Scott Bellinger, co-manager of the program and teacher in NTID’s Engineering Studies department. “The door-to door convenience is wonderful.”
The bikes were built as a result of an NTID Innovation Grant.
“The goal was to promote a learning opportunity for students outside the classroom,” says Clark Hochgraf, an associate professor in RIT’s department of Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering Technology Department who co-manages the project. “Plus it’s a cool way to get around campus, too, showcasing innovation and saving energy.”
Seven students, including Jason Lee, an Electrical Mechanical Engineering Technology major from N.J., helped design, build and test the bikes for co-op credit. Lee helped redesigned them by eliminating weak spots.
“I gained a lot of experience and learned a lot about electric bikes,” Lee says. “It was nice to learn about electric power sources in transportation because I already have a lot of knowledge in gas-powered transportation. My new experience with electric bikes can be applied to electric cars, which is a bonus for me.”
The bikes will be available for rent in seven-day intervals for $20 via Tigerbucks, providing riders with a charged bike, a helmet, lock, battery charger, map and instructions. Riders will need to sign a waiver and take a 10-minute training session before they’re ready to ride.
The bikes must remain on the 1,300-acre RIT campus. There will be a dedicated place to park and charge the bikes with energy from solar panels on the south side of the Wallace Library soon. Since the ebike charger uses standard electricity, participants can lock to any of the newer light poles that include an electric outlet at their base and plug in the charger there. The ebikes also can be brought inside a building and locked near an outlet if available.
A waterproof container holds the control circuitry on the front of the bike, keeping it dry. A 36-volt lithium battery is installed in the back and is rechargeable. The bikes were assembled onto a kick bike frame without a seat, so riders will stand and be the same level as pedestrians.
The rental fees collected will be used to maintain the fleet, pay for tires, brake pads, other replacement parts and student labor as needed.
The group hopes this pilot program will be successful and find ways to expand their fleet in subsequent years.
“People don’t have access to electric vehicles. Part of the project is to get more electric vehicles into students’ hands, and let them see the advantages and disadvantages they offer,” Hochgraf says.
NTID President Gerry Buckley is glad to support the program.
“This innovative project not only will provide a green alternative to getting around on campus, but is a way for our students to develop a concept, produce it and see it become reality,” Buckley says. “It is my hope that future students will continue to manage and grow the fleet in coming years.”
Rentals will be available on a first-come, first-served basis in room 1570 in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall on Thursdays from 2:30-4:30 p.m. or on Fridays from 2-4 p.m. Fleet officials can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.