Co-eds enrolling at the University of Washington at Seattle this fall should be able to zip to class on electric bikes rented through Intrago Corporation's self-serve system.
The company plans to launch its first stable of 40 rental electric bikes at four stations around the campus around August.
Intrago's goal is to offer rental wheels around the world at transportation hubs like train stations, so people can reach their final destination without having to cab it, hoof it or pedal uphill on a manual bike.
Each user will get a key that works on any Intrago bike. They can pick up and return a bike from any docking station, unlike car rental services, which require a round trip. GPS tracking of each vehicle should prevent rush hour parking bottlenecks, according to Intrago.
The bikes will be locked to stations through a cable that also bundles data wires feeding information about customer usage patterns to Intrago's servers.
Intrago is developing a franchise business model to spread its technology around the country and abroad. It would sell or rent its systems to regional operators and take royalties from use of its software.
At the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, Intrago founder Dan Sturges said Tuesday he plans to establish rental systems at college and business campuses, followed by cities.
The next Intrago stations are due to be set up at a business park later this year in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Sturges said he hopes to see bike rentals become even popular in U.S. cities as they are in Paris, where 1,400 stations offer 20,000 foot-pedaled two-wheelers for rent.
London earlier this month unveiled a plan to make 6,000 bikes available for rent every 300 meters starting in 2010, as part of that city's $1 billion effort to encourage cycling and walking,
As oil costs $100 per barrel and traffic increasingly clogs roads, Sturges said he foresees a future era of "restorative mobility," in which people can give up their cars without feeling stranded or adding to global warming. He finds encouragement in the growing popularity of Zipcar car-sharing service, which serves more than two dozen cities. It bought rival Flexcar in October.
In the 1990s Sturges invented the GEM NEV electric "golf cart" car, which General Motors later bought.
Intrago has raised $1.2 million and is seeking another $5 million.