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VanMoof+ subscriptions make $3,500 electric bikes seem affordable

VanMoof+ subscriptions make $3,500 electric bikes seem affordable


Buy the keys, not the bike

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Today, VanMoof, the Amsterdam-based maker of stylish smart bicycles, is announcing the VanMoof+ subscription service for a handful of global cities. VanMoof Plus is built around a one-time “key fee” and a monthly subscription rate that significantly lower the entry-price for anyone that’s been longing to commute on an electric bicycle but was put off by their exorbitant prices. 

VanMoof Plus is a twist on big-city bike-sharing programs: instead of sharing a fleet of bikes with a city full of people, you subscribe to use a single bicycle, complete with unlimited maintenance and theft protection. In VanMoof’s words, you buy the key, not the bike, which the company continues to own. When you want to end your subscription, you can sell your key (and the bike that goes with it) to another rider to try and recover as much of your key fee as possible. VanMoof Plus is an entirely new bicycle subscription model, a first in the world it seems, according to VanMoof — which may or may not be a good thing.

The Smart X bike announced today and available with VanMoof Plus subscriptions.
The Smart X bike announced today and available with VanMoof Plus subscriptions.
Photo: VanMoof

Let’s look at some actual pricing. VanMoof’s Smart (nonelectric) series of bicycles start at $898 / €898. Under the subscription plan, you pay a one-time key fee of $298 / €298, and then $19 / €19 month for the 3-speed model or $23 / €23 per month for the 8-speed version. Those prices apply to both the Smart S and the brand-new Smart X bicycle being announced today. Subscription pricing for VanMoof’s Electrified S or the Electrified X (currently only offered in Japan) has not been announced. If you want those bikes — and you’ll definitely want their gravity-defying pedal-assist technology for long commutes — then you can expect to pay proportionally more, according to VanMoof. That means a key fee that’s about a third of the $3,498 suggested retail price, with a correspondingly higher monthly fee as well.

The Verge test ride of the Smart S and Electrified S bikes back in 2016.

At these rates, your VanMoof Plus subscription would exceed the purchase price of a new Smart bike in about two and a half years. But that overly simplistic calculation ignores the cash you’ll recover when you sell your key, thus further extending the time frame. (Of course, if you bought the bike, you could sell that, too.) Importantly, it also doesn’t account for the additional costs a bike owner would incur related to theft and maintenance, both of which are covered by VanMoof Plus subscriptions. 

VanMoof’s Peace of Mind theft protection means that if your VanMoof bike is ever stolen, you can pay the company $98 to recover it within two weeks (while VanMoof provides you a loaner), or it’ll replace it for free. That’s a big deal since VanMoof Plus is launching in cities where bike theft is a daily reality. The company also covers all maintenance costs for parts and labor during the subscription period — be it a flat tire, chain break, or some sort of electrical malfunction — just so long as you can bring your bike into one of VanMoof’s stores. If it’s a quick fix, it’ll do it immediately, otherwise, it’ll provide a free loaner bike during longer procedures. It’ll even replace the batteries for free (which typically last for about 1,000 charges, or four to five years) in support of the company’s environmental goal of keeping every VanMoof bike on the road (and out of the trash heaps) for as long as possible.

Like owning a bike but without all the hassle

Subscribing in this way is like owning a bike but without all the hassle. However, questions remain about selling your subscription later in an unproven marketplace. Bikes depreciate like any used commodity at a rate buyers and sellers generally agree upon, but what’s the value of a key fee after a few months or a few years? What’s the “blue book” value on something like that? VanMoof says that it will, in time, facilitate a marketplace where new subscribers can find and buy keys from existing subscribers. It’s worth noting that the VanMoof Plus model encourages subscribers to take care of their bikes in order to recover as much of their key fee as possible when selling it onward.

Sales of electric bikes have surged in recent years. This is partly due to the demand created by an aging population in bike-friendly countries around Europe, along with young urban professionals who are looking for an environmentally friendly and economical commute that adds an element of fitness. Compared to the costs of a city car, subscribing to a premium e-bike like a VanMoof is downright cheap.

Beijing's Bike Share Boom Creates Refuge for Battered Bicycles
A makeshift repair depot in Beijing for battered Ofo dock-less bikes.
Photo by Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

VanMoof Plus was designed from the ground up to help reduce waste produced by the disposable economy, particularly dock-less bike services that are flooding the world’s cities (and trash dumps) with cheap Chinese bikes that can clog pedestrian walkways and pollute open spaces when left unchecked. “We’re tapping into the global demand for quality, and proving that tougher and smarter bikes are more affordable in the long run,” ​said VanMoof co-founder Ties Carlier in a statement. “We believe in a model that drives us to make better products, and compels us to take responsibility for the bike’s entire lifetime.”

VanMoof Plus goes live on April 24th

VanMoof Plus goes live on April 24th with Smart S (straight frame) and Smart X bikes, making this the first time an X-framed bike will be available globally. An updated Electrified bike will be available to subscribers in May. If you join VanMoof Plus and discover that the bike doesn’t live up to your expectations, then you can return it within the first month of your subscription and VanMoof will refund you the key fee. Your only cost will be the first month’s subscription rate. And don’t worry, when the company does introduce a new model, as it’s prone to do, you’ll receive a special offer to assist with the upgrade.

You can sign up now on the company’s website or in one of VanMoof’s branded stores located in Amsterdam, New York, Berlin, Taipei, and Tokyo, with London, Paris, and San Francisco locations coming soon. While you could subscribe to VanMoof Plus anywhere in the world, you’ll only benefit from perks like unlimited maintenance and free loaner bikes if you live near one of the company stores.