Folding and electric bikes have proven fertile ground for innovation recently, but what about bikes that are both electric and foldable? Three years in the making, the Impossible bike from a team of China-based engineers folds up to fit in a backpack and is capable of reaching 12 mph (20 km/h) on the road courtesy of a brushless electric motor.
A folding bike has obvious appeal, with the compact design allowing users to store it under a desk at work, lug it on public transport or throw it in the car. But you do wonder, how much does a collapsible design compromise pedaling efficiency and the overall riding experience?
Whacking an electric motor onto the frame goes some way to negating this dilemma, and the Impossible team certainly isn't the first to take this approach. Back in 2010 we featured the VeloMini electric bike, which folds up to around the size of a guitar case. More recently we looked at the Gi bike that not only folds up, but uses its electric motor to charge the rider's phone.
What the Impossible does promise is a new level of portability. It weighs under 11 lb (5 kg) and when folded up is 17 in (43 cm) tall, just a few inches bigger than the laptop on which I'm writing this story. It runs on ten 2,900 mAh batteries that can be recharged from a regular wall outlet and has a range of 15.6 mi (24.8 km).
The engineers have taken a somewhat circular approach to the design of the bike. Made primarily of anodized aluminum, it comprises four circles which fold out to form both the wheels and the bike's frame. The team claims that this spreads the rider's weight evenly across the bike and allows it to support a maximum load of 180 lb (85 kg).
Another space-saving measure is the combining of the seat and carry case. As the saddle is detachable and shaped to fit the folded bike snugly inside (the seatpost and handlebars notwithstanding), it protects the batteries and motor from the elements should you need to store it outside.
The Impossible Technology team behind the bike says the concept still needs some refining before it is taken to market and is currently running a Kickstarter campaign through which it hopes to raise funds to further develop the brushless electric motor. For its prototype, the team modified an existing electric motor, though it says the final version will feature an ultra-thin motor designed specifically for the Impossible.
Pledges start at CAD$430 (US$377), with the bike available in white and black. Shipping is estimated for August 2015 if everything goes to plan.
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