KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Getting from point A to point B has new possibilities for University of Tennessee students and faculty.
The campus is now home to the nation's first automated electric bicycle, or e-bike, sharing program.
The pilot program is the subject of a research study by civil and engineering assistant professor Dr. Chris Cherry, along with Stacy Worley and David Smith from biosystems engineering.
If it's successful, UT may adopt this into a full-scale program.
An electric bike has an attached motor that activates when the rider finds pedaling more difficult.
The sharing station has an integrated rack with a battery-charging kiosk. It distributes batteries to people who check out e-bikes.
The system is fully automated. Users swipe their university ID cards to check out and return bikes.
The pilot test is free to subscribers in the UT community. The project is recruiting 200 volunteers for two-month cycles for the academic year.
The system will have two bike sharing stations that have 10 bikes each, seven e-bikes and three bicycles.
The first station is on Presidential Court. A second station will be installed on the Agriculture Campus.
"You don't have to go buy a bike," explained UT student Matthew Grace. "You can rent these, have them for all day if you need them and then turn it in at the end of the day when you're done."
"What we're trying to do is get the most people to use the system as possible. And by doing short trips we can get a lot of students, a lot of faculty and staff using the bikes every day," Dr. Cherry said.
One benefit is that e-bikes will cut down on auto traffic around campus. Also having a battery-powered motor in the rear wheel is a plus navigating some of the steeper hills on campus.
"Some of the people like me that aren't in that great of shape can use the electric bikes and you know not be drenched in sweat when they get to their classes," Grace offered.
So far, more than 100 students and faculty are signed up for the program.