Electric Assist Bike Fail - Iwatani Fuel-Cell Assisted Bicycle


Photo via Tech On

When it comes to innovation in the greener electronics sector, there are ideas that are smart, but haven't quite found their mojo when it comes to the finished design or prototype. And then there are just flat out bad ideas. This bike falls into that second category - unfortunate because an electric assist bike that requires no help from the grid is an attractive idea. But this one falls flat. In fact, the makers don't even like it. But there is one benefit to this terrible bike. Starting out by listing what's wrong, we can uncover more about what electric assist bikes should be.First off, it looks dorky. We aren't sure who would chose to ride around on this unless it were something they hacked themselves in their garage. But it's not...it's a bike that you'd spend money on, and there are simply far more attractive options out there.

Secondly, the electric assist part seems attractive, for a quarter of a second. According to Tech On, the fuel-cell assisted bike works by having a hydrogen cartridge supply power to a lithium-ion battery through a polymer electrolyte fuell cell system (PEFC). The output is about 60 watts and if riding conditions are good, the bike can travel about 45 km. IF driving conditions are good - the makers admit that in some driving conditions, the output just isn't enough and the bike can't get enough electricity to work.

Thirdly, the PEFC system consists of "the hydrogen cartridge, a coupler for connecting the cartridge, an adjusting valve for reducing the pressure of hydrogen coming from the cartridge, PEFC, a blower for sending air to the PEFC and a DC-DC converter." That's a lot of parts that can break. An owner would be hard pressed to be able to do their own repairs should one of these many components break down, and this is just the PEFC system aspect of the bike. An owner also has to worry about having full hydrogen cartridges on hand.

Is an "old fashioned" battery powered electric assist bike looking more attractive or what?

But the problems remind us of a few things we want to see in electric assist bikes.

1. Great design - we love the bikes that have a slick - or at least sweet - look to them. Style is important.

2. Off-grid power - the fuel cell idea is almost attractive because it means not needing to plug into the grid to charge up your battery. But instead, we need more electric assist bikes that can get their entire charge from the pedal power of the rider. No plugging in, and no needing cartridges or complicated systems.

3. User friendly - there's no reason an electric assist bike needs to be complicated to the point that the rider can't whip out a wrench and a screw driver and fix anything that goes wrong with the bike.

Better for the designers to go back to the drawing board on this one, and for the rest of us who have a need for an electric assist bike to focus on models that have proven themselves to be more handy than this. Of course, for most of us, good old pedal power is all we really need.

More on Electric Assist Bikes
CES 2010 - Sanyo's Eneloop Bike May Be a Bike World Game Changer
GoCycle: The Electric Assist Bike We Have Been Waiting For?
Electric-Assist and Cargo Bikes for the Everyday Commuter: Cycle9

Tags: Bikes | Concepts & Prototypes

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