The CanBikeCO Mini Pilot: Preliminary Results and Lessons Learned

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


In fall 2020, the Colorado Energy Office, as part of the State of Colorado’s “Can Do Colorado” initiative, initiated a project aimed at encouraging energy-efficient transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial mini-pilot provided e-bikes to 13 low-income households under an individual ownership model. This report assesses the impact of providing this additional mobility option on the travel behavior of participants. It also outlines the lessons learned from deploying a continuous monitoring platform to track the travel behavior. These lessons will influence the evaluation component for the full pilot, which will cover multiple geographic regions, start in summer 2021, and run for 2 years. The continuous data collection was enabled by a customized version of the open-source e-mission platform, called CanBikeCO, configured with a behavioral gamification feature. The Colorado Energy Office used this system to collect a unique data set consisting of 3 months of partially automated travel diaries, combining sensed and surveyed data and linked with demographic information, from 12 participants. The data collection process worked well overall: users generally liked the app, appreciated the game, and did not complain about battery life. The long tracking period introduced behavioral challenges in user engagement, which we plan to address using repeated patterns and automated status checks for the full pilot. The analysis results, based on the subset of trips with user-reported labels (68%), indicate that the ebike was the dominant commute mode share (31%), in sharp contrast to the census bicycle commute mode share (<1%). E-bike trips primarily replaced single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips (28%), followed closely by walking (24%) and regular bike (20%). The nonmotorized mode replacement corresponds to lower travel time and increased productivity enabled by the program. The emissions impact analysis of the program, computed using trip-level energy intensity factors, indicates savings of 1,367 lbs. of CO2. Although the results are strongly positive, the narrow demographic profile of study participants, their limited mobility alternatives, and nonuniform labeling indicate caution in broader interpretation. These preliminary results do suggest that such programs, supported by real-time education and support from program managers, can simultaneously meet equity and sustainability goals. The planned full pilot, addressing the data collection challenges and broadening the geographic scope, will provide additional insights into the generality of this approach.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5400-79657


  • ebike
  • energy impact
  • evaluation
  • mobility expansion
  • real-time


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