A-Bike Electric is claimed to be smaller and lighter than any other e-bike
Multi-Modal Mobility Solutions
Ford rolls autonomous and smart tech into new city/road/mountain e-bike
Earlier this year, Ford previewed its Mode:Me and Mode:Pro electric bike concepts. The bikes were envisioned as key components of a multimodal transportation ecosystem that would also incorporate cars and public transit. Recently, it added the Mode:Flex e-bike prototype, which uses the latest wireless and connectivity technologies to integrate further into a coordinated transportation system.
The Mode:Me folding commuter bike and Mode:Pro delivery bike concepts were born out of an internal e-bike design competition. Ford revealed them at Mobile World Congress back in March and has continued its research in the area since then.
When compared to the narrow focuses of the original two bikes, the third prototype in Ford's ongoing research is designed for a broader demographic of bicycle enthusiasts. Its multipurpose frame can be configured for urban commuting, mountain biking or road cycling, though Ford doesn't explain or show exactly how the bike magically transforms between these different configurations. The new bike features a more traditional diamond-frame design when compared to its predecessors, but things stray from the norm at the bloated seat tube, which houses the battery and electric motor drive.
Nothing about that bulky, electric-assist frame yells "fast, trail-hungry mountain bike," and we're not sure that any bike should convert between road and off-road configurations. Some tools are better left to stand alone rather than Swiss army knife.
The Mode:Flex design does seem optimized for urban commuting, where Ford sees it working as one of the modes within a smooth, seamless multimodal transportation system. It doesn't fold, but it does break clean in half. The front triangle detaches from the battery cage, splitting the bike for transport (another reason why we wouldn't ride it on anything rougher than a paved path). Ford imagines riders driving to a convenient, low-cost public parking area outside the dense city center, pulling the Mode:Flex out of the trunk and biking the "last mile" of the journey. The battery can be charged directly from the vehicle outlet.
The multipurpose, breakaway frame may have you thinking that the Mode:Flex looks just like a bike designed by an auto manufacturer – in other words, a bike sculpted by automotive folks that haven't actually ridden bicycles since childhood. The fact that Ford is a car manufacturer dipping its toes into e-bike design isn't all bad, though. It does use its automotive background to its advantage, equipping the e-bike prototype with some interesting auto-inspired features.
The Mode:Flex gets a bit of the autonomous tech that is taking over the auto industry. An ultrasonic rear sensor provides a warning when cars approach from behind, both via the handlebars and the accompanying Mode:Link app. It also has the latest LED headlight and taillight technology, derived from vehicles like the F-150 and Ford GT, integrated into its construction.
"The LED lighting is efficient and detailed in a way never before done in the bike world," explains Bruce Williams, the lead designer and engineer behind the bike. "The lens elements are very small, but they throw a lot of light."
Ford revealed the Mode:Link app with the original two Mode e-bikes back in March and has since added a smartwatch extension. The new smartwatch app includes a "no sweat" mode, which adjusts output of the bike's electric drive based upon the rider's watch-read heart rate, with the aim of preventing him or her from breaking a sweat.
The Mode:Link app also provides on-bike eyes-free navigation, health and fitness data, and weather information. To promote multimodal transportation, it includes information about public transportation, parking lot costs, traffic and more. It also syncs with the rider's Ford vehicle to provide parking location, lock/unlock functions, and access to vehicle information including mileage, EV charge status and maintenance manual.
Ford revealed the new Mode:Flex last month as the latest update of the Smart Mobility Plan it first announced in January. We don't see any information about the bike's specific drivetrain, so we're left to assume that it packs the same 200-watt motor and 9 Ah battery as the Mode:Me and Mode:Pro. All three e-bikes are still just prototypes.
The video below provides a little more information about Ford's e-bikes and its vision of multimodal transportation.
Hankook's high-speed tests inch airless tires closer to production
By Scott Collie - July 15, 2015
Hankook's iFlex recently passed a series of tests for durability, hardness, stability, slalom and speed
Airless tires are one step closer to becoming a production reality, after Hankook successfully put its iFlex tire through a series of high speed tests. The iFlex is Hankook's fifth attempt at non-pneumatic tires, and brings with it a number of environmental benefits compared to conventional tires.
As you might have guessed from the name, non-pneumatic tires don't require any air. Instead, Hankook's iFlex eschews conventional construction for a material that the company says is energy-efficient to manufacture and easy to recycle. The material also has allowed Hankook to halve the number of steps involved in manufacturing.
In testing, the iFlex was put through its paces in five different categories: durability, hardness, stability, slalom and speed. The electric car Hankook used hit 130 km/h (81 mph) without damaging the tire, and the iFlex was able to match the performance of a conventional pneumatic tire in all the other tests – although further details about the results have not been revealed.
Hankook isn't the only company testing airless tires. Michelin has opened a North American plant dedicated to production of the Tweel, and Bridgestone has been testing its recyclable, puncture-proof tires on Japanese single person vehicles that are usually used by the elderly.
Although still in the testing phase, the airless tire has huge potential in production cars. They don't puncture, and depending on the materials used they also have the potential to significantly cut down on the emissions involved in the production and recycling of tires.
MagLOCK takes another kick at magnetic clipless bike pedals
By Ben Coxworth - July 15, 2015
The new-and-improved MagLOCK pedals (Credit: MagLOCK)
Last November we first heard about MagLOCK pedals – clipless mountain bike pedals that use magnets instead of springs to keep the rider's feet attached, and that can also be used as regular platform pedals. The product fell short of its crowdfunding goal, perhaps because the pedals were kind of clunky, but MagLOCK designer Dave Williams is now back on Kickstarter with a sleeker, lighter and less expensive version.
Unlike their predecessors, the new pedals have a low-profile cutaway design, with a body made from anodized aluminum. They still contain rare earth magnets that engage a steel cleat on the bottom of the rider's cycling shoe, although those magnets are now cylindrical.
As before, the amount of attraction between pedal and cleat – and thus the degree of shoe retention on the pedal – can be adjusted by adding or removing magnets via a stainless steel cover (the rider can release their foot simply by pronating it sideways). A maximum attractive force of 35 lb (16 kg) is possible, which is less than the original model's 50 lb (23 kg), although Williams claims that it's still sufficient to keep one's feet in place even on rough terrain.
The weight of the system is now down from 1,540 grams to 974 g per pair of MagLOCK pedals. By contrast, a pair of Shimano M545 pedals (which combine a platform and an SPD retention mechanism) weigh in at 567 g. According to Dave, however, MagLOCKs allow for more foot-float than SPDs, are easier to engage, and should be less intimidating to riders who are new to foot retention systems.
And yes, they're cheaper than the old version. Whereas pledge levels for the originals started at US$175, you can currently get a pair of the new ones for $120 – assuming they reach production.
Sources: MagLOCK, Kickstarter