Is it a diminutive take on electric bicycles? An e-scooter with a seat and bigger wheels?
Yet another last-mile connectivity option bound for Atlanta resembles a hybrid of both.
A Los Angeles-based micromobility company called Wheels has chosen the ATL for its third launch market, following what officials described as rapid growth in LA and San Diego.
Wheels joins a crowded Atlanta field when it comes to dockless, electric vehicles activated via phone apps. But it does offer unique aspects beyond size, including a built-in Bluetooth speaker system and what the company calls “smart helmet technology.”
Wheels reps tell Curbed Atlanta that up to 1,000 bikes will initially be offered in Atlanta, with plans to scale up from there. The bikes are free to unlock, via apps, and then cost 25 cents per minute of use.
Atlanta’s “commitment to improving transportation, expanding micromobility, and promoting sustainability makes it a great city for Wheels,” company COO Marco McCottry wrote in an email to Curbed.
Wheels uses a foam seat and pegs instead of pedals. The helmet component (patent pending) will be attached to the back of each vehicle, unlocked and tracked via the app. Inside, the helmets will be lined with what’s called “removable biodegradable hygienic headliners.”
Swappable replacement parts—including batteries—result in faster maintenance and eliminate the need to transport the whole vehicles for charging, officials noted. (We’ve asked for details on Wheels’s max speed and how far they might go on charges and will update this story should those details be finalized.)
With larger wheels and lower centers of gravity than e-scooters, the vehicles are designed to be “a safer device that appeals to a significantly broader demographic with a much better operational model,” company CEO Josh Viner said in a prepared statement.
Viner and his brother are known for founding the popular dog-walking app Wag.
Bike share debuted three years ago in Atlanta with the Relay program, which has grown to include more than 500 sky-blue bikes harbored at 60 docking stations from Buckhead’s PATH400 to West End. A competitor—bright yellow, dockless bikes by China-based ofo—pulled out of town last summer.
Electric dockless bikes emerged on the scene in January with Uber’s red Jump service.
Meanwhile, Bird led Atlanta’s controversial e-scooter craze a year ago by dropping vehicles from Midtown to West End, initially. Varieties from Lime, Uber, Lyft, and now a yellow option called Bolt have followed.
Wheels, which announced in January it was backed by $37 million in investor funding, has brought on former executives with Lyft, Uber, and Bird to help build the business. Undisclosed investors from the sports and entertainment worlds have also invested, as Forbes reported earlier this year.
After nearly 10,000 ratings on Apple’s App Store, for what it’s worth, the Wheels mobility option has received 4.6 of five stars from users.
A test drive of the app today showed no bikes as being available anywhere in Atlanta yet.