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Vilnius launches 'Europe's first' electric bike share scheme

The Lithuanian capital Vilnius says it has become the first city in Europe to offer an electric bike share scheme.

Tourism authorities in the city, an increasingly popular destination for tourists from Western Europe, announced the launch of the new scheme August 17, with bikes available for rental from four Tourism Information Centers.

Visitors will need to visit the rental posts, which are located in the downtown and Old Town areas of Vilnius, and make a €145 deposit for use of the bikes.

Once subscribed, users will pay €3 for the first hour of rental, which increases dramatically for each extra hour - a four-hour rental costs €26.

The bikes, which are named 'e-orange' and detailed with bright orange stripes, are fitted with a GPS monitor which tracks the whereabouts of each at any given time.

Vilnius says that this first is part of a strategy to become a world leader in environmentally friendly transportation to combat congestion issues - Vilnius mayor Arturas Zuokas has already made something of a name for himself in the urban transportation arena by driving over an illegally parked car with a tank in a publicity stunt in July.

Although Vilnius claims its new fleet of some 25 public e-bikes is a European first, there are a growing number of places where such schemes are being tested as part of broader trials of mixed pedal-powered and electric bikes, such as the Swiss city of Nyon, which launched its new system earlier this summer.

With batteries becoming cheaper, lighter and more portable, it may not be long before the large bike-sharing schemes in cities such as London, Paris, Barcelona and Copenhagen consider going electric themselves.