Are pedal-electric 'biohybrids' the solution to urban mobility?
Ever since I started driving a Nissan LEAF, I've been struck by how rarely I need a car that can travel more than 30 or 40 miles. And as a two-car family, it's almost never that my wife and I both need a gas-powered car with gas-powered range at the same time.
That's been a liberating realization, but I suspect it's possible for many people to take that observation a step further: For city dwellers, or those who live in reasonably close proximity to their work, I suspect many people rarely need a fully-fledged car at all. Nevertheless, not everyone wants to bike, walk or take public transit all the time either. A growing number of pedal-electric vehicles are stepping up to provide the freedom of personalized urban mobility with a degree of motorization to help take the edge off the hills, or to assist those who may not be able to pedal too far on their own steam.
The latest to cross my radar is the Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid. Essentially a pedal-electric four wheel hybrid, it appears to share many similarities with the Organic Transit ELF – a vehicle we've covered many, many times before.
About 80 centimeters wide (31 inches), 2 meters long (6.5 feet), and weighing about 80 kilograms (176 pounds), the vehicle has a 250W electric drive – meaning it's still legally a bike in Germany. And the makers are estimating a range of between 50-100 kilometers (31 to 62 miles) depending on use and terrain. Damian Carrington over at The Guardian has taken the thing for a spin, and he definitely seemed impressed.
There's only one minor problem: It doesn't quite exist yet. There is only one concept vehicle built so far, but Carrington reports that the plan is to build 30 to 40 in 2017, and test them for user feedback. Harrington also reports that if and when the vehicle goes into production, its makers are estimating the cost as coming somewhere between an e-bike and low end electric vehicles like the Renault Twizy, which currently goes for around £7,000 plus battery hire. (About US$9000 at the moment I am writing – but who knows what the exchange rate will be by the time I publish!)
Ultimately, TreeHugger has covered enough concept vehicles to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism about whether this will eventually see the light of day. Still, it's nice to see more people working on vehicles that actually fit the lifestyles that many of us have. I'll be watching this one with interest...