Lightweight, self-charging e-bike quickly folds to suitcase size
Two years ago, we looked at Vello, an Austrian company with its own take on the folding bicycle. Its line includes several different models built around its signature folding system, and now it also includes an electric model – or at least it will if Vello's crowdfunding campaign is a success. The new Vello Bike+ uses KERS-backed e-drive technology from Zehus to become a "self-charging electric folding bike" and one of the lightest e-bikes out there.
The Bike+ has the same parallel down tube look as the pedal folders we looked at in 2014 and relies on the same style of magnetic rear coupling for folding. This bike also has an extra fork folding action, though, compacting even further.
After the folding fork is released via what appears to be a twist clamp, one smooth motion drops both the rear triangle and fork into folded form, the whole process taking less than 10 seconds, as you can watch in the video clip below. You can roll the Bike+ along, its seat serving as a handle, or compact it completely by dropping the handlebars and saddle down. Like any good folding bike, the Bike+ fits in a car trunk or closet, but the fully folded, 21 x 28.3 x 9-in (53 x 72 x 23-cm) package is also compact enough to slide into a suitcase.
The standard chromoly Vello weighs 26.4 lb (12 kg), which puts it in the conversation with lightweight e-bikes like the 26.5-lb (12-kg) Freygeist Classic and 25-lb Maxwell EP0, but not quite on par with something like the 21.6-lb (9.8-kg) BestiaNera Sport. But if some of Vello's crowdfunding stretch goals go off as hoped, it'll push into that bracket with 24-lb (10.9-kg) titanium and 21.8-lb (9.9-kg) carbon fiber Bike+ versions.
The Bike+ relies on an all-in-one rear hub drive, the Zehus Bike+. With its small, integrated battery and hardware, the drive helps keep the Bike+ stay light and streamlined, with no big water bottle cage or tube-integrated battery to deal with.
With a total of six different modes, the 250-watt Bike+ drive can be used like a regular drain-and-charge pedal-assist drive for speeds up to 15.5 mph (25 km/h) and range up to 30 miles (50 km), but it can also operate as a light hybrid, eliminating battery drain and reliance on external charging. When used this way, the Bike+'s sensors and algorithm team to create a smooth ride, without the dramatic swings between strenuous grinding and no-effort cruising that you experience on a non-electric bike. The system charges the battery via the kinetic energy recovery system when things are rolling quickly and smoothly, and provides electric assistance during tougher slogs. Your Bluetooth-connected smartphone serves as dashboard.
You can read more about the in and outs of the Zehus Bike+ drive in our 2013 article linked above. Since launching in 2014, the drive has been used by a growing pool of manufacturers, and we've seen it in recent years on two vowel-heavy Italian lookers: the Pininfarina Fuoriserie and the Velocipede Fogliaverde.
Between its quick-fold mechanisms, compact folded size, light weight and versatile electric drive, the Vello Bike+ looks like one of the most convenient electric city folders out there. It certainly seems like a good way of commuting around tight city spaces, from small apartment, to public transit, to office cubicle, and back again.
Vello is raising funding on Kickstarter now, offering the Bike+ for early bird pledge levels starting at €1,599 (with chain and caliper brakes, approx. US$1,790), with estimated delivery in April 2017. Its initial goal is €80,000 ($89,500), and stretch goals open up new rewards, including a multi-gear version (€80K), the titanium model (€100K) and the carbon fiber model (€250K). With over €71K raised and 48 days left to go, it's well on its way to achieving its campaign goal and getting to work on those stretch goals.
Crowd funders can choose from options like belt or chain drive and disc or caliper brakes, with pledge level pricing varying accordingly. Vello also offers accessories like a folding mudguard.
The clip below shows the Bike+ breaking down into trolley and fully folded forms.