You see people zipping around on the streets of Shanghai, and you want to join — you want to get a scooter, or e-bike, or whatever they are called.
You can buy them in official brand shops, you can buy them from a nearby bike mechanic, you can get them online, second hand or even rent them. This is how.
If you are new to the city, or have lived here for a while and are finally coming around to e-bikes, a lot has changed in the last few years. Typical Shanghai.
In April 2019, regulations limited the registration of new e-bikes by size, speed and battery type. Notably, new e-bikes being registered for license plates must have a maximum speed of 25 km/h, lithium batteries and the ability to attach pedals.
If bikes do not meet new national standards, they are motorbikes and require a driving license to operate. So how do you know which bike you can buy and still be within the law? Well, here's a list of over 250 officially approved brands and models.
The Grandfather Clause:
If you are really itching to have an older, faster, bigger, lead acid battery style, scooters registered before the April 2019 deadline can still be found and driven without having to pass a Chinese driving test.
Here are the options for getting your sweet ride.
Buying In Store
Price Range: 4,500-6,500rmb
One of the centrally located Niu stores around town. These sleek e-bikes meet new standards, feature a GPS tracker in case your bike is lost or stolen, come with a three-year battery warranty, and include the all-important vestigial pedals that give them the e-bike classification. The standard-bearer for design of new regulation models.
The different models are priced based on the Ah (ampere/ hour) of the battery which determines how far one charge will take you. Niu stores can handle bike registration for 100-200rmb. If you register yourself, it’s free. Head to a bike plate center with purchase receipt, manufacturer’s conformity certificate (comes with a new bike), passport, photocopies of passport ID and visa page and temporary residence permit. Register within 15 days of purchase.
Other Niu stores can be found on Wuding Lu and Xietu Lu.
Price Range: New from 3,000-5,000rmb; Second-hand older model: 2,500-3,500rmb (if converted to lithium battery: 5,000rmb)
A good-sized e-bike retail and repair shop in Jing'an that mainly sells Lu Yuan and a few other brands like Mamotor, as well as a handful of pre-registered (new) older models and second-hand older models. The lead acid batteries used in older models are being phased out and restricted. The store owner said he can switch lead acid batteries to lithium ones, bumping the total for a bike plus a new battery to 5,000rmb.
This store is also a partner in Alipay's e-bike venture that launched in fall 2019. Customers buy an e-bike via the Hellobike app or at a partnering shop and rent a battery for 300rmb a year. It’s a private bike that you own but don't have keys for. Instead, you scan a QR code to unlock your e-bike. More details below.
Price Range: 2,000-4,000 rmb
A highly rated store for customer service on Dianping, even if it doesn't look like it in the picture above. This retail and repair shop south of Jiaotong University exclusively sells Aima brand e-bikes. All are new models with lithium batteries and a three-year battery warranty that meet the regulations.
The higher-priced models look kind of Niu-ish. The lower-priced models look more like power wheelchair scooters. Specific brand stores like this can be found all over the city selling similar looking and similarly priced e-bikes, but this store was the cream of the Dianping crop.
Nab a second-hand e-bike from someone moving out of town. In 2019, SmartShanghai's Buy and Sell section listed over 200 e-bikes and scooters.
As with any online purchase, be careful. Registered bikes should have a blue license plate and white registration card. An original purchase receipt would be great if the owner kept it. Unregistered old-style scooters aren’t legal to drive without a driver’s license. According to a traffic cop we asked, your name doesn’t have to be on the white card to drive. But it’s best to head to a bike plate registration center with the current owner and transfer the ownership. Only the owner can report and retrieve a bike if stolen or confiscated.
Located within the Alipay app, Hellobike has a new e-bike tab (电动车) that launched in fall 2019. Offering 10 bike brands, buyers purchase new e-bikes online through the app and have the option of home delivery or pick up at a local store. A Super Soco 16Ah RU2 smart e-bike sells for 4,000rmb on Hellobike, compared to 4,300rmb on JD.com.
If you buy the Hellobike e-bike, it comes with a Hellobike QR code just like the human powered shared bike. Like the bicycles, these e-bikes come with GPS tracking through the app. You still scan the code to start the e-bike, but the bike is 100 percent yours. A little confusing but people will catch on when they unsuccessfully try to scan your bike. Also, it seems like putting all your eggs in one basket — with no physical key, if you lose your phone or run out of battery, you can’t drive home either.
The distinguishing feature of Hellobike e-bikes is a battery renting scheme. For 300rmb you rent a battery for one year. According to the owner of a partnering shop, lithium batteries typically cost 1,300rmb and last for around two years, so this is a better deal in comparison.
WeChat Account: White Siberia
White Siberia WeChat: motobike-shanghai
Price: Buying: 3,500-4,500rmb, monthly renting: 400-1,100rmb plus 600rmb deposit.
One of the more established operations on WeChat, White Siberia is a Russian company that has been operating for four years. They currently sell new 60v old-style models that have been pre-registered. But again when buying, best make sure the ownership is transferred under your name. It’s a good way to verify the license plate validity as well.
White Siberia also rents a small number of Niu's and Super Soco's. The 600rmb deposit covers damages or theft.
Price Range: Membership: 100rmb; monthly rental: 280-420rmb; daily rental: 50rmb (no membership)
Located in a large, modern space in Jing’an, Mute Garage only rents e-bikes. Founded by Australians, Mute’s renting scheme requires a membership fee in addition to the monthly rental. They have new models from Niu and Super Soco and a selection of old models from brands like the defunct Carletto.
Mute will replace your bike if it’s damaged, stolen or confiscated. All bikes are fitted with a GPS tracker. Waiting lists of a few weeks are common, depending on what bike catches your fancy. A good option for short-term residents and tourists.