You wont believe how this man gets around!
Damian Carrington tests a concept vehicle touted as a solution for future urban transport in a rapidly urbanising world
Im sitting in a cross between an electric-assisted bicycle and an electric car that looks like a cool golf buggy.
The model I am in is also the only one in the world and cost a lot of money to build. So no pressure as I take this concept vehicle for my first spin. The Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid looks hi-tech, but luckily it is very easy to drive. Or do I mean ride?
You just start pedalling. The battery-powered assist kicks in automatically and off you go at a pleasant clip. Pedal faster and the automatic and continuous gears slide upwards to get you up to 15mph, when the assist ends. The racing-style steering wheel (handlebars?) turns the Bio-Hybrid smoothly and the hand lever-operated disc brakes bring you to a smart stop.
Everyone I pass is looking at me, most with curious smiles that say: What IS that? The answer, says Patrick Seidel, innovation manager at Schaeffler, is a potential solution for future urban transport in a rapidly urbanising world.
At 80cm wide, it can use bike lanes and park easily, easing congestion. Combining pedal-power and electric drive, it is emissions-free, cutting air pollution. All good, but only if people actually want it, so lets take a closer look.
It is 2m long and 1.5m tall, with a fairly high seating position, so you can see and be seen. The concept Bio-Hybrid weighs 80kg, which isnt a problem with the electric assist, though Seidel says production models will be lighter. It may be a little overengineered at the moment, but we want to prove the concept, says Seidel. The electric drive is limited to 250W, so the vehicle remains a bike in German law.
The seat and steering wheel adjust to your size and the roof can be neatly swivelled round and stored behind the seat, for a convertible look. Theres even a coat hook behind the seat.
The two batteries are easily accessible under the seat and are small enough to be carried inside for charging, which takes three to four hours. The assist range is estimated at 50-100km, with suspension on all four wheels, and theres a luggage rack on the back.
The integrated lights at the front and back give the Bio-Hybrid a groovy look, but night riders would need to attach more lumens to be safely seen. There are also integrated orange indicators lights, though these would mean the vehicle becomes a car in German law.
New concepts do not always fit into the legal environment of the moment, Seidel says. The tiny wing mirrors are more style than substance, but the visibility is fine over your shoulder.