I recently went to Munich to cover the Bike Expo 2010 for a specialized website. This year, the trade fair was dubbed “Cycling Trends for City and Nature”, which reveals that the emphasis was placed on both urban mobility and nature sports. But there is one point which is particularly obvious this year : huge efforts were made in design in the bicycle industry. And we’re not (only) talking about style, but about inventing new ways of commuting on wheels.The area in which design seems to have changed most is that of light electro vehicles (LEVs). For a few years now, LEVs have had increasing resonance in the cycling community, but it’s only this year that we saw so many good e-bikes. Some where good because they looked amazing (Blacktrail from PG Bikes) or because they where highly perormant (eSpire from 3rd Element), but a lot of them because they reinvented the concept of the bicycle. This trend will change cycling in the long run.
ExtraEnergy, an organization that analyses the eBike market for years now, distinguishes two groups of e-bikes :
- “HIDDEN POWER” bikes : these are traditional bicycles with an electric motor. The concept “bicycle” remains the same, manufacturers try to hide the motor and the battery as far as they can. Examples of these bikes can be the Peugeot e-Bike range which was developped for the German market , these Panther TE777 or this Bulls Green Mover mountainbike.
- “OPEN POWER” bikes : here, the designers are creating new types of bicycles, focusing on the electric motor to build up innovative concepts. Some of the bikes, like this Pegasus Eagle, are quite easily transportable because of removable components. Others, like KTM’s eGnition, have huge batteries that make them look like motorbikes. We can also show the Grace e-bike, that looks like a fixie on steroids, and which will cost you at least 7 000 € !
Talking about fixies ; there’s one team that managed to design a sytem to turn your fixie into an e-fixie, and this team is the SENSEable City Lab from the prestigious MIT. It’s “a device with the potential to change the entire cityscape. Every bike can be turned into an e-bike in a smart and elegant way“, says Hannes Neupert from ExtraEnergy. They called their concept the Copenhagen Wheel – because they presented it in December 2009 at the UN Climate Change Conference in the Danish capital. The motor is hidden in the rear hub of the bicycle and reloads whith the rider’s braking.
At Bike Expo, the Copenhagen Wheel didn’t even have to be present to win the 2010 BrandNew Awards in the sub-category light electric vehicles (LEVs). Even though it is not a bicycle, but a big hub that is intended to wheigh about 4 kg, the concept convinced the jury. One of the reasons mast have been the absence of any cables : the device is controlled by the rider’s smartphone, if she/he has one (I guess in the next 2 years, a lot of people interested in e-bikes will have a smartphone…). The phone will not only turn the Copenhagen Wheel On/Off, but it will also transmit urban data gathered by the device (the wheel) : traffic jams, city pollution levels, noise etc. More here.
When Tim O’Reilly extensivelly defined the term web 2.0, he said “What applications become possible when our phones and our cars are not consuming data but reporting it? Real time traffic monitoring, flash mobs, and citizen journalism are only a few of the early warning signs of the capabilities of [web 2.0]“. Well I guess this will be the first Bike 2.0 !
Coming out mid-2011, I’ll probably be one of the first clients.