A prototype folding bike that weighs less than 7.5kg and can fold up inside a small backpack has been developed by engineers.
Bike Intermodal, an EU-funded research project, has designed the bike to solve the challenge of mixed-mode or “intermodal” transport, where travellers need to incorporate several different forms of transport on their route.
Folding bikes are already common in Europe but the researchers have managed to miniaturise the concept by doing away with the traditional bike frame and replacing it with what the founders describe as “a sequence of three functional, collapsible, sub-assemblies” linked by high-tensile cables.
This design not only delivers a major weight saving, but also allows the bike to fold in a manner similar to an aircraft’s undercarriage – enabling it to take up less than 20 litres when folded.
“With Bike Intermodal, we have combined the best practices in design, production and assembly and used the very latest materials available to create a super-compact, lightweight and attractive bike that is perfect for the needs of urban life,” said Alessando Belli of Tecnologie Urbane, one of the key partners in the project.
“We hope that it will not only convince avid bike fans but also encourage those who were previously reluctant to finally get on a bike and experience the freedom it gives them”.
The Bike Intermodal consortium involved industry partners from across Europe. One of them, Maxxon Motors, is working on a custom designed in-wheel direct-drive motor designed to add electric power to the bike without excessive weight.
The consortium, which received €1.58m in EU research funding, is now ready with a commercially-viable prototype following field studies carried out by the public transport suppliers of Italy and Slovenia.
The founders are in discussions with a number of venture capitalists and are working on reducing the weight of the finished product even further through the use of innovative materials such as graphene.
When in fully-optimised production, Belli estimates that the bike could cost €800 for a version without a motor and €1,300 for the power-assisted model.
Michael Jennings, spokesperson for European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said: “Bike Intermodal is the kind of innovation we need to see more of in Europe, improving our quality of life and economic competitiveness.
“One of the main objectives of Horizon 2020, our new research and innovation funding programme, is to get great ideas like this one from the lab to the market. The more innovative companies we have, the better it will be for Europe's economy.”