Today, VanMoof, the Amsterdam-based manufacturer of smart bicycles, announces the VanMoof + subscription service for a handful of global cities. VanMoof Plus is based on a one-time "key rate" and a monthly subscription rate that significantly reduces the entrance price for anyone who has been wanting to ride an electric bicycle, but was intimidated by its exorbitant prices.
VanMoof Plus is a turnaround in bike sharing programs in the big city: instead of sharing a fleet of bikes with a crowded city, you sign up to use a single full bike with unlimited maintenance and theft protection. In the words of VanMoof, you buy the key, not the bicycle, that the company still has. When you want to end your subscription, you can sell your key (and the bike that accompanies it) to another broker, to try to recover as much of your key fare as possible. VanMoof Plus is a completely new bicycle subscription model; It seems a first in the world, according to VanMoof, which may or may not be a good thing.
The Smart X bike announced today and is available with VanMoof Plus subscriptions. Photo: VanMoof
Let's see some real prices. The series of intelligent (non-electric) bicycles from VanMoof starts at $ 898 / € 898. Under the subscription plan, you pay a one-time key rate of $ 298 / € 298, and then $ 19 / € 19 for the model of 3 speeds, or $ 23 / € 23 per month for the 8 speeds. These prices apply to both the Smart S and the new Smart X bike that is announced today. The subscription prices for Electrified S from VanMoof or Electrified X (currently only offered in Japan) have not been announced. If you want those bikes, and you'll definitely want their pedal-assist technology that defies gravity for long trips, then you can expect to pay proportionately more, according to VanMoof. That means a key rate that is approximately one third of the suggested retail price of $ 3,498, with a monthly rate also higher.
The Verge test ride of Smart S and Electrified S bikes in 2016.
At these rates, your subscription to VanMoof Plus would exceed the purchase price of a new smart bike in approximately two or two and a half years. But that overly simplistic calculation ignores the cash it will recover when it sells its key, extending the term even further. (Of course, if you bought the bike, you could sell it too.) It is important to note that it also does not take into account the additional costs that a bicycle owner would incur in connection with the theft and maintenance, both covered by the subscriptions to VanMoof Plus.
VanMoof's peace-keeping protection, included with the subscription, means that if your VanMoof bicycle is stolen, you can pay the company $ 98 to recover it within two weeks (while VanMoof offers you a loan) or the will replace for free. . That is a big problem since VanMoof Plus is being launched in cities where bicycle theft is a daily reality. The company also covers all maintenance costs of parts and labor during the subscription period; either a flat tire, a chain break or some kind of electrical fault, as long as you can take your bike to one of the VanMoof stores. If it is a quick fix, they will do so immediately, otherwise, they will provide a free loan bike during longer procedures. They will even replace the batteries for free (which usually last around 1,000 loads, or 4 to 5 years) in support of the company's environmental goal of keeping each VanMoof bicycle on the road (and off the piles of trash) for as long as time as possible.
Like having a bicycle, but without all the hassles
Subscribe in this way is like having a bicycle, but without all the hassles. But there are still questions about selling your subscription later in an unproven market. Bicycles depreciate like any used product at a rate that buyers and sellers generally agree to, but what is the value of a key rate after a few months or a few years? What is the value of the "blue book" in something like that? VanMoof says that, over time, it will facilitate a market in which new subscribers can find and buy keys from existing subscribers. It is worth noting that the VanMoof Plus model encourages subscribers to take care of their bicycles to recover as much of their key fare as possible when selling it.
Sales of electric bicycles have increased in recent years. This is partly due to the demand created by the aging of the population in bicycle-friendly countries in Europe, but also to young urban professionals looking for an ecological and economic trip that adds an element of physical condition. Compared to the costs of an urban car, subscribing to a premium electric bicycle like a VanMoof is downright cheap.
An improvised repair shop in Beijing for the battered Ofo bikes without a dock. Photo by Kevin Frayer / Getty Images
VanMoof Plus was designed from the ground up to help reduce the waste produced by the disposable economy, particularly the dockless bicycle services that flood the cities (and garbage dumps) of the world with cheap Chinese bicycles that can clog pedestrian sidewalks and contaminate open spaces when they are left rampant. "We are taking advantage of the global demand for quality and showing that the toughest and smartest bicycles are more affordable in the long term," VanMoof co-founder Ties Carlier said in a statement. "We believe in a model that drives us to make better products and forces us to take responsibility for the entire life of the bicycle."
VanMoof Plus goes live on April 24 with the Smart S (straight box) and Smart X bikes, which makes it the first time that an X-framed bike will be available worldwide. An updated electrified bicycle will be available to subscribers in May. If you join VanMoof Plus and discover that the bike does not meet your expectations, you can return it within the first month of your subscription and VanMoof will reimburse you for the key fare. Your only cost will be the first month's subscription rate. And do not worry, when the company presents a new model, as it is likely to do, you will receive a special offer to help with the update.
You can now register on the company's website or at one of the VanMoof brand stores located in Amsterdam, New York, Berlin, Taipei and Tokyo, with locations in London, Paris and San Francisco soon. While you can subscribe to VanMoof Plus anywhere in the world, you will only benefit from benefits such as unlimited maintenance and free loan bicycles if you live near one of the company's stores.