Electric bike sharing – the mobility trend under the magnifying glass

The shift in the city traffic will only work if many people switch from cars to bikes. That's why bike sharing is the perfect complement to car sharing. And e-bike sharing goes even one step further. In this article you will find out how the electric bike share system works, which providers there are and for whom it is worthwhile.

E-Bike Sharing - der Mobilitäts-Trend unter der Lupe

E-Bike sharing in a nutshell

  • E-bike sharing works like conventional bike sharing: you rent an e-bike via an app. A distinction is made between systems with fixed rental stations and rental systems where you rent and return e-bikes throughout the city. There is also private e-bike sharing via online platforms.
  • As an environmentally friendly alternative to car sharing, e-bike sharing has many advantages: Among other things, you can get on your bike spontaneously, avoid crowded subways and don’t have to worry about maintenance and repairs. As a replacement for your own bicycle or e-bike, however, it is expensive in the long run.
  • Well-known e-bike sharing providers are Call a Bike, Donkey Republic, Lime and iBike Box. We recommend reading tests and finding out about the condition of the bikes before renting them for the first time.
  • With PowUnity’s e-bike fleet management platform, operators can instantly see where their e-bikes are. You benefit from sophisticated theft protection and can easily integrate the platform into existing systems.

A quick bike ride to the restaurant after work, even if your own bike is in the basement? Spontaneously “pedalling off” in a foreign city and enjoying the nice weather on the way to the next sight? Taking a cargo bike to the DIY store? Bike share makes it possible. In more and more places there are not only conventional shared bikes available, but also e-bikes.

But how exactly does e-bike sharing work, how much does it cost and when is it worthwhile? These are the questions that we address in this article.

What is electric bike sharing?

E-bike sharing works like normal bike share. You register with a provider, enter your payment details and can then rent an ebike via an app. You can unlock the shared bikes, for example, by scanning a code.

Depending on where you can rent bikes and where you return them, there are two types of bike share schemes:

  • Scheme with docking stations: In this case, there is a network of docking stations, which are shown as “virtual stations” in the app. This means that at the end of the tour, pedal bikes need to be return the bike to a designated station.
  • Station-less rental scheme: Riders enjoy greater flexibility with what is called a “free floating bike share scheme”. In this case, the bicycles are parked all over the city. There is no need to return the bike to a designated station, but only park it in certain areas, also shown as “virtual stations” in the app.

An alternative to municipal providers (such as local authorities) or companies is private bike share system, such as Spinlister. This means that individuals offer their private shared bikes for rent via platforms.

Advantages and disadvantages of e-bike sharing systems

Electric bike share has lots of advantages. But there are also potential disadvantages that you should be aware of when renting an e-bike:

The advantages at a glance

  • Convenience: Bike share is not only for people who don’t own a bike. You don’t have to take your own bike to work and can still comfortably get on one in the evening. In foreign cities, rental bikes are a great alternative to the stuffy underground or the overcrowded bus. Depending on the rental company, you can even rent an e-bike for a longer tour. And in cargo bikes you can accommodate children and baggage at the same time.
  • Safety: You don’t have to worry about finding the right parking space or the safety of your own electric bicycle. Maintenance and repairs are also taken care of by the provider.
  • Environmentally friendly: Cycling is more environmentally friendly than driving and e-bike sharing has a more positive impact on the environment than car sharing.
  • Sometimes cheaper: If you only need an e-bike sometimes, renting it is cheaper than buying it. Very short distances like the first 30 minutes are free in some cases. You might even be able to avoid a car drive by renting cargo bikes for a trip to the DIY store.

Potential disadvantages at a glance

  • A station-less bike sharing system is practical. However, in many city and town areas it has led to carelessly parked bikes everywhere in the streets so they would disturb pedestrians. Systems with docking stations ensure more order in this respect.
  • Because many people don’t take very good care of rental bicycles, there is a danger that they will quickly break down and have to be replaced. Then the system has no longer such a positive impact on the environment.
  • As a replacement for your own bike, riding a shared bike is expensive in the long run, especially if you cycle a lot and longer distances.
  • The condition of the bikes differs significantly depending on the provider. The same applies to data protection in the app. It is worth reading one or two app reviews before renting a bike for the first time.

The costs

How expensive is e-bike share exactly and how is it billed?

It depends.

Providers such as nextbike let you choose between different tariffs and charge for certain periods of time – per 1, 15 or even 30 minutes. Sometimes short rides are free in a tariff and usually the maximum price per tour and day is capped. You can find more information in our comparison below.

For whom is electric bikes share worthwhile?

Electric bicycles sharing is particularly worthwhile if you

  • don’t have your own car and sometimes don’t feel like taking your own e-bike or bicycle with you.
  • like to rent a bike in foreign cities.
  • occasionally transport loads without a car. In this case, a cargo bike with a motor is the right choice.
  • like to be flexible wherever you are.

Known providers of bike sharing systems


nextbike is the European market leader in bike sharing. The provider is active in over 60 cities and 25 countries through various partners. Depending on the city, you can rent and return your bike at fixed stations or flexibly within “flex zones”.

Currently, you can choose between two rates:

  • Basic rate: You pay 1 euro per 15 minutes, but a maximum of 15 euros per day.
  • Monthly rate: For 10 euros a month, the first 30 minutes of each journey are free. After that, you pay 1 euro again or a maximum of 15 euros.

Call a Bike

The German provider Call a Bike belongs to Deutsche Bahn and is widely spread, at least in Germany, from Hamburg to Stuttgart.

There are 3 tariffs:

  • Light tariff: The light tariff is aimed specifically at trial users. Bike share costs 10 cents per minute and a maximum of 9 euros per day and bike.
  • Basic tariff: The basic tariff has an annual fee of 3 euros. You pay 1 euro for 30 minutes and again a maximum of 9 euros per day and bike.
  • Comfort tariff: The comfort tariff works in the same way as the basic tariff with the difference that the first 30 minutes are free. However, you pay an annual fee of 48 euros.

Donkey Republic

The Danish provider Donkey Republic has also expanded its offer to include electric bicycles in some cities. Booking and payment works as usual via mobile apps. Users can also find out the exact prices for a bike at a specific location in their app. It gets cheaper if you take out a “local membership”. Depending on your choice, you can enjoy one or even 12 free hours on every ride and “lease” a bike for up to 7 days.

In reviews, users are particularly impressed by the unrivalled low prices. But where there is light, there is also shadow. In this case, that means that the Donkey Republic’s bikes are sometimes not in the best condition.


Limebike is an American company that rents out electric bicycles, scooters and even mopeds. The company now operates under the brand name Lime in a number of German cities as well as in Vienna.

How much it costs to ride an e-bike from Lime varies depending on the place and time. In addition, a fee is charged per activation, unless users of the mobile apps opt for a monthly subscription called Lime Prime. Whether this is worth it depends on how often you go for a ride.


PowUnity fleet platform: an enrichment for our booking evaluation! We have integrated the PowUnity fleet platform into our system via API interface. Our customers, the hoteliers, are thus protected from bogus bookings because we can see every route of the rental bikes.

Markus Preiss, iBIKE-BOX HF GmbH

The iBike Box works according to a different principle than the rental companies presented so far. Day trippers can reserve an e-bike from one of the partner companies via the provider’s website and then set off on a short or longer tour. How expensive it is and whether, for example, multi-day trips are possible, depends on the partner. There is an iBike box in different regions of Austria and even on Mallorca.

In addition to these, there are a number of other rental companies for bikes and electric bicycles. But not all operators manage to assert themselves against the competition (including public transport). For example, the Swiss service Bond, which was launched with a great deal of media coverage and set itself apart from the competition with prices per kilometre and particularly fast pedelecs, has already gone bankrupt.

PowUnity e-bike fleet management for bike sharing system- more overview and security

Fleet operators that offer e-bikes for hire benefit from the trend towards sharing models and e-mobility. But they also face special challenges. In order for the business to be successful despite growing competitive pressure, sharing providers need the right bikes. On top of that, they have to keep track of their electric bicycles and prevent bogus bookings and theft. Both only work with a suitable tracking solution.

E-Bike Flottenmanagement mit BikeTrax

You want a tracking solution that can be easily integrated into your own booking system?

Find out more now and test BikeTrax for your fleet!

With the GPS tracker BikeTrax and our platform for fleet management, companies benefit in a special way from the advantages of modern real-time tracking:

  • They can monitor where the electric bikes in their fleet are at any time.
  • The GPS tracker immediately warns of attempted theft and makes it possible to recover stolen e-bikes via real-time tracking.
  • With the help of an API, the PowUnity platform for fleet management can be seamlessly integrated into existing systems, such as a booking system.

Partners like nextbike or iBike-Box know from their own experience: PowUnity provides more overview, efficiency and theft protection in e-bike sharing.

E-bikes sharing systems open up new possibilities

Rental offers for e-bikes were the next logical step after car sharing and bike sharing. With the trend towards environmentally friendly e-mobility, they will continue to gain in importance in the near future, especially in cities.

Yet nextbike, Donkey Republic or Call a Bike are not worthwhile for everyone and not to every extent. But many people, whether travellers, commuters or anyone who needs a cargo bike now and then and doesn’t feel like driving, benefit from the possibility of spontaneously renting an e-bike to get around faster, more comfortably and more sustainably.

And the mass of bikes and cyclists is increasing. When hundreds or thousands of e-bikes are rented via mobile apps at any time of the day or night via bike sharing companies, then a system is needed that ensures the monitoring, service, organisation and maintenance of these bikes. An integrative GPS tracking solution with the right technology like the PowUnity fleet management system supports operators like nextbike or the iBIKE Box in organizing their fleets centrally. In addition, the BikeTrax GPS tracker protects each bike from bogus bookings and theft.

E-Bike Flottenmanagement mit BikeTrax App

You need a fully-integrated solution – including an app – that allows your customers to use the e-bike fleet regardless of time and place?

Find out more now and test BikeTrax for your fleet!!

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