The Bike Intermodal project aimed to be a 'third pillar' to support the overall motivation to use low impact transportation (bicycle, pedestrian, public) more widely in the urban environment.
This comprised taking a 'product approach' to complement existing infrastructural and policy approaches such as establishing bike lanes and incentivising carpooling.
Bike Intermodal assumed that technological advancements, providing newer, better, higher performing products can do as much as — and sometimes more than — persuasion, obligations or deterrence. In addition, product development can generate economic prosperity.
The project’s main objective was to create a super-compact, super-lightweight electrically power-assisted 'folding' bicycle for intermodal use in combination with other public and private forms of transportation.
The bicycle needed to:
- Fold into a flat package, a fraction of the volume occupied by the current breed of folding bikes
- Weigh half as much as current, non-power-assisted bicycles. This technological objective is instrumental to achieve transportation goals such as:
- Increasing the number of urban trips by bicycles
- Increasing the efficiency of public transport and their users
The project sought to draw upon innovations in the way a bicycle is built, using proven and cost-effective technologies commonly used in the automotive industry, but never applied in the bicycle industry.
This approach would help to:
- Use half the amount of materials and energy used in current bicycles while using one quarter of the components
- Take advantage of robotic algorithms that allow automatic opening-collapsing (cabrio-roof style), which is much more compact and practical to carry aboard public transport.
The project’s resulting bicycle improved upon existing, state-of-the-art folding bicycles in two areas:
- Compactness - The compacted volume of the bicycle is five times smaller than other folding bicycles (20 cubic decimeters (litres) vs. an average of 100 litres)
- Weight – Bike Intermodal’s bicycle is two to three times lighter than other folding bicycles (6 to 4 kg vs. an average of 12-14 kg, depending on technology)
The crucial innovation of the project is a completely original, new way of making a hinged bicycle frame which combines light weight (due to a precise allocation of material), strength (through a pre-tensioned space-frame), high compactness when folded down (by means of members that adapt to one another) and automatic opening-closing (drawing from modern robotics, automated car tops, landing gears and suspension linkages).
Virtually all foldable bicycles worldwide – with maybe one or two exceptions – follow the same pattern, because the bicycle industry’s established standards prevent the foldable bicycle to come of age. Hence there is room for a paradigm shift, especially now that small two-wheeled vehicles – bicycles, electric bicycles, scooters etc. - appear more and more as the solution of choice for individual urban transport, as the “missing link” in intermodality.
Key to improving the folding bike so radically, and to its transformation into a true Personal Vehicle portable and usable to all, was our departure from the existing production techniques of the traditional bicycle industry. Indeed, production of the “Personal Vehicle” is underpinned by a modern, vertically integrated, automotive-type supply-chain, economically efficient, scalable, environmentally certified, low-maintenance and technologically reliable. Our departure from traditional bicycle production techniques has allowed uncompromised development of this innovative model of bicycle, ultra-lightweight, super-compactable and with optional electrical assistance. The structure unfolds and folds automatically, like a convertible car top or airplane landing gear, expanding into a rigid space-frame.
The “Minimal Vehicle” offers all functionalities of a normal bicycle (with optional electric power assist) but with the added comfort of use, transport, storage and retail of a flat (15 cm.) package just slightly bigger than an attché case (40x50x15 cm). Folded, the “Minimal Vehicle” presents a 30-litre compacted volume, while unfolded it deploys normal bicycle ergonomics, fitting cyclists with heights ranging from 155 to 192 cm In comparison, the most compact model on the world market in this sector) folds in 90 litres. Most other brands of foldable bicycles fold in 150-210 litres. The weight of the “Personal Vehicle” is around HALF the average weight of current, non-power-assisted folding bicycles Optionally, the “Personal Vehicle” can be equipped with a powerful, miniaturized power-assist module, custom-made for this product by Swiss Maxon Motor (http://www.maxonmotor.com). The resulting portability and ease and simplicity of operation, storage and handling lowers significantly the ownership burden of a bicycle for the urban dweller.
Departure from the traditional bicycle production techniques has not only led to reductions
The bicycle that has been created in the course of this project – the “Personal Vehicle” – is now fit to become an instrument for new, fluid and pleasurable individual urban mobility, in intermodal conjunction with all other types of transportation. The Consortium has overcome the volume and weight problems that affect all other folding bicycles currently on the market. Once mass-produced and marketed broadly, the “Personal Vehicle” will substantially improve the urban cycling experience of its users, bringing intermodal transport well within reach of the general public at large.