Amsterdam has long been a leader in biking to get around—more than 50% of its residents commute to work by bike, and companies like VanMoof, the 10-year-old Dutch bike startup, have been trying to make those trips easier. VanMoof now wants to take the Dutch commuting model global and become a viable solution to replacing the car.
“I was practically born on a bicycle,” VanMoof’s Dutch co-founder Taco Carlier told Quartz. “I want to get the next billion people on bikes.”
VanMoof has expanded across the world over the last few years, opening stores in London, Berlin, Tokyo, Taipei, New York, and soon, in San Francisco. Carlier said the company has sold roughly 60,000 bikes to date, with sales doubling each year since 2015. (Its cheapest bike starts at $900.)
Today (May 30), VanMoof is announcing its latest offerings, the Electrified S2, an updated version of the model I loved when I tested it out in 2016, and the Electrified X2, a motorized version of its smaller X frame bike, available globally for the first time.
What’s new about the Electrified S2 and the Electrified X2
Both bikes have an electric motor that makes pedaling at speeds up to 20 mph easier than walking, a range of over more than 90 miles, a battery that charges to over 50% in 80 minutes, new LED displays, and a host of new anti-theft technologies. Both bikes feature a speaker that will blare out if a rider it doesn’t recognize gets on the bike (users can theoretically recover any bike through the built-in tracking technology), which is paired to an app on the rider’s phone, as well as a hidden built-in lock that immobilizes the bike until a recognized rider returns. VanMoof is billing the bikes as the first that don’t need traditional bike locks.
The new bikes appear to build on the company’s pedigree of well-designed bikes, infused with novel technology. They’ll go on sale June 7 (with an inexplicable September ship date—how can a bike company miss the entire summer?) for $3,398.
But here’s the thing: You probably shouldn’t buy either of them right now, even if you’re interested.
The beauty of the subscription model
Earlier this year, VanMoof introduced a new subscription pricing model, where customers can pay around $300 for a bike, and a $19 monthly fee that covers damage and theft. Subscribers can sell their $300 “key” to whoever they want when they want out of the program, theoretically making it a very affordable way to buy a very nice bike, if you can find someone to sell it to. (Carlier admits that the program is so new that no one’s sold a key yet, and so he isn’t sure what the marketplace will look like when it matures.)
So far, VanMoof has only offered its non-motorized bikes, the Smart X and S, on its subscription plan. But Carlier told Quartz that his plan is to offer the company’s new electrified bikes as subscriptions. He didn’t say whether the pricing structure would be the same (the electrified bikes are roughly three times the price of the standard bikes), and the company wasn’t immediately available to comment on when this plan would materialize.
Carlier said he believes that the US is in the middle of a shift when it comes to the way its population moves itself. Part of the answer will be decentralized transit options, like dockless bikes such as JUMP, which Uber bought, and dockless scooters, like those taking over the US’s west coast. Carlier calls these ”a great model to get some people on bikes” and “a solution for young guys, up to 29,” respectively. The other part of solution will be, in his mind, electric bikes. They’re a lot cheaper and easier to manage than electric cars, but just as green. “Electric bikes will be a revolution in the next 20 years in US cities,” he said.
“If we join forces we can really create a good alternative to the car,” Carlier added. “We can’t go on like this.”
Whether that plan will actually materialize, or whether VanMoof’s costly bikes (you can buy electrified bikes online for under $400) will be the bike of choice for consumers looking for an easier way to beat the traffic and crammed subways, is unclear.
Still, much like Apple did to the smartphone and Tesla is trying to do to the car, VanMoof is betting there’s a market for high-quality, well-designed products.
Correction: An earlier version of this post said the new bikes will cost $3,965, due to an error from VanMoof. They will in fact cost $3,398.