China’s two-wheeler industry leader Hellobike announced on June 12 in Shanghai that it is launching a joint venture with CATL Battery and Ant Financial. The RMB 1 billion partnership aims to build e-bicycle battery infrastructure that will help meet growing demand for convenient commutes.
Chinese have made use of bicycles for more than a century, and e-bikes present a new opportunity for lovers of two-wheelers. “China is a country on two wheels” said Yang Lei, the founder and CEO of Hellobike. It is estimated that Chinese take 700 million e-bicycle rides per day.
In general, users have limited access to safe batteries and reliable charging stations. They often charge the batteries in unsafe environments, which has led to many fires. It is estimated that 90% of the batteries now in use are the lead-acid type that pose environmental hazards.
The current e-bike battery industry can’t meet the demands of commuters. There are reportedly 500 million e-bike users in China, and several million delivery workers rely on e-bikes. In 2017, the total battery power needed for all the e-bikes sold was 122 gigawatts, about 3.5 times more than was manufactured. Less than 10% of all batteries meet newly-announced national requirements. Hellobike’s Chen Jun, who oversees the new battery charging services, said the joint venture will offer consumers a greener, smarter, and safer solution. The new charging network will allow users to swap out their batteries at conveniently located Hellobike battery changing stations. These will be both accessible and affordable, Hellobike said.
The leading vehicle battery manufacturer CATL said it would provide the batteries for the new joint venture. CATL batteries are more durable, can be charged more times, and last longer than those sold by competitors. The longer life span will also simplify battery disposal. Ant Financial, for its part, plans to encourage its 1 billion members to use the new network and reduce their environmental impact. Riders will be able to use Alipay to unlock and pay for the e-bikes.
The batteries will be stored in theft-proof stations and safely charged at authorized locations. Riders will be able to use the new stations to swap dead batteries for fully charged ones. With a nudge from newly announced national standards, the transition to safer battery powered e-bicycles is accelerating.
More importantly, Hellobike has learned useful lessons from its bicycle and e-bike businesses and existing battery sharing programs. It is an agile company known for its quick responses to dynamic market changes. Hellobike’s strong off-line operation experience and user-oriented mindset is likely to make it stand out from the competition in this quickly advancing industry.
Hellobike has continuously built user-friendly and sustainable transport services in sectors including shared bicycles, shared e-bikes, and car-pooling. A leader in two-wheeled transportation, Hellobike supported users with more than 12 billion trips on its vehicles over the past 2.5 years. The company now operates in more than 360 Chinese cities and supports more than 20 million daily rides.
Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) was established in 2011 and is headquartered in Ningde, Fujian province. The company specializes in R&D and sales of e-vehicle battery and energy storage systems. It focuses on battery materials, systems, and recycling, and has created a comprehensive production network. The company’s products have been widely recognized, and it has established partnerships with top international automakers in Germany and the United States.
Alipay, founded in 2004, is committed to building an open, shared, and trusted platform for global consumers and SMEs through technological innovations and convenient services. At present, the Alipay app houses nine overseas payment platforms and has more than one billion active users worldwide.