The Yikebike is a miniature, electric penny farthing made of carbon fiber and now it's on sale, it is quickly gathering a cult early-adopter following thanks to its weight of 10.8 kilograms, that it folds so small it can fit in a backpack, and that it will run at 25km/h (15 mph). Until now, it has ticked all the boxes except one – its limited range of just 10 kilometers. Now it has released an extender battery pack so you can add additional 10 kilometer increments to the range of your YikeBike.
Each battery costs US$195 and weighs 1.95kg and there's a special backpack to carry multiple batteries so it becomes a very practical solution that offers the Yikebike unsurpassed bang-per-kilogram and versatility as a commuting appliance. Though it's hard to equate the US$3600 price tag with primary transport, the addition of a Yikebike to any automobile storage compartment significantly extends the capabilities of both vehicles. The facility to carry secondary transportation inside cars has been explored many times in recent years by Honda and General Motors in particular … and it makes a lot of sense.
Gizmag's editor Noel McKeegan and myself both rode the YikeBike in Koln last September and were both very impressed. Normally, it takes 10 minutes or so to get acquainted with the handlebars which sit behind your hips. Noel is a keen mountain bike rider and dirt bike enthusiast and he simply got on the Yikebike and rode away, even though most folks have a few false starts.
I fared slightly less well, but had it all happening within a few minutes - if you can ride a bicycle, you need to rewire the brain slightly, but it's going to be a simple job accomplished within ten minutes.
Once mastered, the Yikebike offers remarkably quick transport for something that is so small – only Honda's still-unreleased U-3X (right) and Toyota's also-experimental Winglet (left) offer comparable weight-performance figures and it will be interesting to see how long these devices take to reach market and at what price point they greet the public.
The Yikebike is in many ways a revolutionary device, as it is the first of a new class of vehicle which we're almost certain to see proliferate as congestion and travel times force us all to consider transportation options. It has won or been a finalist in just about every major design award on the planet for which it is eligible, including making it onto the cover of Time's Invention of the Year issue in 2009 and now a Guinness Book of World records citation as the most compact electric bike in the world.
Now it's on sale, it will be interesting to watch marketplace acceptance.
The electric bicycle is closer on the consumer devices family tree to a computer than it is to a motorcycle, and just as laptops have a limit to their battery capacity, small transportation devices will also have a form factor that limits battery size. While it is by no means an elegant solution, it is one to which we are accustomed thanks to laptops and cameras, and once exploited, enables much greater runtime.