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Villo to introduce electric bikes from next summer
Brussels bike-hire service Villo will make electric bicycles available to users from next year, after operator JC Decaux reached an agreement with Brussels' regional mobility minister Pascal Smet.
From mid-2019, about a third of the Villo fleet will become "electric compatible" - meaning they can either be used with a battery or without. The bike will continue to weigh about 25kg and have seven gears.
The cost to the customer will be higher. On top of the €33 annual Villo subscription, users would have to rent their own battery and charger for €50 a year.
"This is an important step in the development of cycling in our capital," Smet said. "It's worth emphasising that this improvement to the Villo service will cost the public purse nothing."
JC Decaux operates the bike-sharing scheme in return for the right to place advertising billboards on the city's streets. By upgrading the Villo service to include electric bikes, the advertising firm will be granted permission to replace a third of its conventional billboards with LED ad panels.
Smet said Villo also planned to modernise the efficiency and improve the quality of its service, based on user feedback, including a simpler sign-up procedure at the docking stations and the ability to reserve a bike using a new smartphone application.
The bike-hire operator today faces several competitors, including the all-electric Billy Bike service which recently announced plans to expand.