Just What We Needed Dept.: An Electric Scooter 'Powered' by a Treadmill

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Man and woman traveling down a dirt path on treadmill bikes

Michel Porro / Getty Images

It's no secret that I'm a big advocate for electric mobility, especially on a personal level such as bicycles, where small electric drive systems can amplify the efforts of the rider and do the lion's share of the work. They're relatively low-emission or emission-free solutions, especially right at the point of use, and can be used to cover last-mile, first-mile, and local transport with a lot less sweat, with the potential to replace car-miles with pedal-miles.

Because I'm a cyclist by preference, I tend to focus on electric bikes, but there are those for whom their lifestyle and habits would be a good fit for a different e-mobility option, such as an electric skateboard or scooter, both of which seem like viable (and fun) transport solutions with a small physical footprint. And with the recent explosion in the availability and number of different models of personal electric transport devices, there are quite a few options to choose from, ranging from affordable and practical to expensive and powerful, including at least a few that fall under the purview of the 'just what we needed department.' The types of products qualifying for that label might be fun and useful to some people, but are most likely more complex than is necessary for the desired result, are probably never going to gain much traction in the market. They're often niche products, or for a market that doesn't really exist yet, or are examples of failing to heed the maxim that 'just because we can doesn't mean we should.'

Treadmill Meets Scooter

The Lopifit, an electric treadmill bike, is the brainchild of Bruin Bergmeester, who invented and built the first units in his living room in the Netherlands, and the origin story is one that has a very logical arc to it, yet I can't help but wonder why an e-bike wasn't the end result, considering how bike-friendly Dutch culture is. According to the Lopifit website, Bergmeester had trouble maintaining a healthy weight, in part because of always commuting by car. His 15 km commute each way on a regular bike left him sweaty, and while on his walking treadmill one day, he "wondered why he could not use the treadmill outside." The Lopifit grew out of that musing, and this 'walking bike' now incorporates a 350W electric motor that propels it forward based on the rider's walking pace on the treadmill.

The motor draws from a 36V 960 Wh battery pack that is said to enable a riding range of 50 to 70 km (31-43 miles) per charge at speeds ranging from a walking pace of 5 kph (3 mph) up to 25 kph (15.5 mph). The Lopifit features dual disc brakes for reliable stopping power, a kickstand for parking it, a rear cargo rack, front and rear fenders, LED lighting, and a handlebar-mounted control unit with access to the different power levels.

Benefits and Drawbacks

One of the selling points is that you can "walk" for an hour on the Lopifit and go as far as 25 kilometers, which is quite a bit farther than by simply walking in the conventional manner, and I can't argue with that. It certainly seems as if people who would normally go for an hour's walk for their health might enjoy covering more distance with this scooter. However, an electric bike has a lot of advantages over this one, such as the ability to be able to pedal it home if you run out of charge, the tried and tested frame designs of the modern bicycle, and the longer range per charge possible on many e-bikes. Plus, I'm not convinced that the experience of walking on a treadmill while balancing on two wheels while going 15 miles per hour is something that will come naturally to people who don't bike because of their existing balance issues or skill level.

Now, I'm not saying these aren't a very creative application of electric drive systems, but I just can't see shelling out $2,500 for a treadmill scooter when I can get an electric bike with a longer range, more cargo carrying capacity, and a smaller turning radius for less money. Your mileage may vary, obviously, and anything that gets more people out of cars and somewhat under their own power is a plus.