Hoping to re-ignite what he calls the "hidden magic" of commuting by bike, Washington-born designer Gabriel Wartofsky has been working on a folding e-bike project for the last two years, and is now entering the final stages of pre-production. Prototype number one of his first- and last-mile mobility solution has been taken for hundreds of test rides leading to rider-suggested modifications and design tweaks, crowd-sourced funding has been secured, and final stage manufacturing partners are now being brought on board ahead of an initial limited availability production run in Q1 2012.
Wartofsky came up with the idea for a "compact, lightweight, intuitively-folding electric assist bicycle designed to get you seamlessly from point A to B utilizing the city's existing infrastructure" while studying at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and began prototyping in July of this year. It's part of a wider Conscious Commuter proposal, looking to help shape the future of sustainable commuting.
The current folding e-bike prototype features a 250-watt hub motor offering up to 15 mph (24 km/h) electric assist and a hidden lithium-ion battery pack capable of 10-15 miles (16-24 km) between charges. Another prototype is in development that will feature a larger 350 watt motor and a battery pack with a 15-40 mile (24-64 km) range. Both sport 16 gauge, 2-inch diameter steel tubing for the EV Bik.e-like low step-over height frame, airless tires surrounding 20-inch wheels, a chainless shaft drive system, and - thanks to test rider feedback - an adjustable handlebar and increased pedal crank clearance.
"It's inherently compatible with other modes of transportation, so it facilitates car pooling, public transit and even travel by air," says Wartofsky. "Electric assist ensures you won't sweat in business attire and a chainless drive eliminates the risk of damaging clothing."
The e-bike could be picked up and dropped off at facilities like the Brompton Dock we featured recently, but with built-in charging capabilities. The designer sees such points being located near bus stops or rail links for seamless transport integration, and commuters being able to hire the short-haul transport solution using an RFID smart card similar to those already used for the growing number of bike hire schemes operating in many major cities the world over.
Although Wartofsky has yet to set a final price for his folding e-bike when it becomes available early next year, Kickstarter backers were offered a pre-launch price of US$1,395 with a full two year warranty.
The following video reveals the inspiration behind, and demonstrates the folding action of, the folding e-bike: