With so much focus on sustainable urban transport, there are numerous vehicles that split the difference between the bicycle and the motorized vehicle. In recent years, the market of electric-assist velomobiles and quadricycles has been swelling with designs like the PodRide, mö, Velove Armadillo and ELF. There's even an e-velomobile version of the Morgan 3 Wheeler. One of the latest additions to this growing category is the Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid, a pedal-assist quadricycle concept with convertible roof.
Schaeffler's vision for urban mobility is lighter and airier than many other velomobiles. The Bio-Hybrid offers protection from rain, head wind and other elements with a roof and windshield. The rest of the vehicle is left open, creating a body that's similar to this Bridgestone trike concept from a few years back. What it has that the Bridgestone and others don't is a convertible roof that swings behind the seat for fully open-top riding, leaving just the windshield in place.
The Bio-Hybrid's four-wheeled platform is designed to provide plenty of stability while still maintaining a small enough track for bike lanes. The vehicle measures 6.9 x 4.9 x 2.8 ft (2.1 x 1.5 x .85 m, L x H x W) and has a track of 2.6 ft (80 cm). Riding on 24-in tires, it seats two in tandem style and currently weighs in at 176 lb (80 kg) – however, Schaeffler thinks it can get that down to 132 lb (60 kg).
The Bio-Hybrid relies on a pedal-assist drive with a low, centrally-mounted battery pack to help the rider reach speeds of up to 15.5 mph (25 km/h). The drive system includes an automatic gear shifter and electric reverse gear, with Schaeffler estimating a range between 31 and 62 miles (50 and 100 km) and saying the design could accommodate motors between 250 and 750 watts to meet different market regulations. Other features include smartphone integration and an adjustable luggage compartment in back.
Schaeffler doesn't detail the specifics of the Bio-Hybrid's automatic shifting, but we do know that the company has an auto-shift system called FAG VELOMATIC. Compatible with both conventional bicycles and e-bikes, the technology replaces the usual manual shifters with a seatpost-integrated electro-mechanical hardware suite that automatically shifts gears based upon riding conditions. The system measures cadence, force, gradient and wheel speed, and Schaeffler promises that its algorithms calculate the optimal time for shifts, making for a smooth ride. The company showcased the technology at last year's Eurobike show.
Schaeffler introduced the Bio-Hybrid quadricycle concept earlier this year, but has no immediate plans to pursue production. Prof. Peter Gutzmer, Schaeffler's deputy CEO and chief technology officer, says that production is a possibility, but Schaeffler intends to watch the market and proceed with caution.
"Important prerequisites with regard to infrastructure must be fulfilled before this type of individual mobility can become established on the market," says Gutzmer. "Cities such as London, Paris and Singapore are already investing hundreds of millions in the development of cycle tracks. High-speed cycle tracks, which connect cities, for example, in the Ruhr area, will enable extension stages of the micro-mobile with higher speeds. There are already discussions in Germany about opening cycle tracks with a legal speed limit of 40 km/h (25 mph). All these developments mean that our concept has great potential to change urban mobility."