(Revels are not allowed on sidewalks)
New York City's latest entry in the quest to fulfill it's imposing transportation needs is the moped-sharing, start-up called, Revel. 1000 of their blue and black moped's appeared in Queens and Brooklyn earlier this year and unsurprisingly, they have already become a point of contention among residents. Though not nearly as dangerous as cars, many have expressed concern when it comes to the danger they may pose to rider and pedestrian alike (the Department of Transportation has yet to notice any significant safety issues with the mopeds). While safety surely will continue to be subject of debate, the electric-powered alternative has provided a unique experience for those who struggle to efficiently navigate the interspaces of the city's two largest boroughs.
Regarding transportation in the US, we have to take what we can when it comes to electric alternatives. Beyond the fact that the US just loves it's cars, the current federal administration has made it a mission to dismantle emissions regulations, despite the global ecological crisis we're fueling by doing so. Perhaps offering the option of an electric alternative will inspire city-goers to more frequently opt for an electric moped, over a ride-share service that necessitates fossil-fuel. We must move towards new energy alternatives, but it is equally important that designers scrutinize new technologies and the material that goes into them.
In the initial 68 mopeds that Revel put on the street for a trial run, they used a model called, MUVI, which is manufactured by the Spanish company Torrot. However the current batch of mopeds are manufactured by the Chinese company NIU, known specifically for its electric 2-wheeled vehicles. NIU has been designing and manufacturing mopeds since 2014, but the company only this year received approval from the Department of Transportation to start selling their vehicles in the US.
Niu-sharing electric moped, via niu.com
Their N-model that Revel has deployed are specifically designed to be free-floating, so that they can be easily utilized and monitored by moped-sharing companies. Which essentially means that the mopeds are outfitted with tech that enables remote access via app and immediate data upload to NIU's cloud. Which in turn allows for diagnostic and telematic data to be observed in real time. For better or for worse, a user's time on Revel's moped is monitored extensively. As stated on NIU's website the mopeds have "32 on-board sensors" that "check every system 200 times per minute."
Within each moped there are two 60V 29Ah batteries that last 600 recharge cycles. The batteries are in a compartment located at the base of the moped, beneath where the drivers feet rest. With a total 3.48KW output to power the moped, they can go upwards of 40mph but for Revel users, the speed is capped at 30mph. Users can check the battery level of a moped near them via the app. If mid-ride the charge dips to zero percent, then the speed of vehicle will top out at 15mph and you'll be advised to find a place to park. On a full charge the batteries can take you as far as 60 miles.
These lithium-ion batteries are manufactured by Panasonic, which has made a name for itself in the production of lithium-ion batteries by supplying notable e-vehicle companies like Tesla. Lithium-ion batteries are pretty much standard fare when it comes to rechargeable batteries, and will likely dominate the rechargeable battery market in years to come. As CITYLAB reports, Paul Suhey, co-founder of Revel, said of the batteries that "Right now, the range is 50 miles, but two years ago, it was 20 miles," and that "The business model running an electric moped company is now viable, compared to a couple of years ago. "
Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, via niu.com
The ever more efficient lithium-ion batteries contain a wide array of raw materials and how these materials are sourced, is an area of growing interest and concern. While many US companies have expressed intent to source only sustainable operations within the US, most of the elements can only be found outside of the country. Which in some cases has proven to be ethically dubious when sourcing materials like cobalt and graphite (material content varies by battery).
The design of these electric mopeds, and all that they contain, is far from perfect. Yet, as a current resident of Brooklyn, I'd be glad to see the city work to allocate more services for bikes and electric vehicles like Revel's mopeds. Anything that might discourage people from relying so heavily on high emission vehicles in these dense urban spaces.
Revels, at the moment, are only available in New York City and Washington DC. Similar moped-sharing services can be found in other cities, such as Scoot in San Francisco and Scoobi in Pittsburgh. Based upon the enthusiasm with which they've been met here in Brooklyn, it won't be surprising if the trend continues to spread to other cities. If nothing else, we can hope it signals a growing trend towards zero-emission vehicles and a phasing out of emission-heavy systems in urban spaces.