The future of mobility looks set to require a lot more legwork than anticipated, if recent unveilings from car manufacturers are any guide. BMW has become the latest carmaker to reveal an electric pedal cycle, following similar offerings from Smart and Audi.
The BMW i Pedelec will assist sweaty human pedalling at speeds of up to 16mph, with a quoted range of 15 to 25 miles depending on speed and gradients. Its lithium-manganese battery takes between 1.5 and four hours to recharge, varying according to the type of socket employed.
The Pedelec has been designed by BMW and is fashioned using carbon fibre and aluminium, meaning it shares its tech with F1 race cars. And equally with fishing rods.
A limited run of Pedelecs has been built, including 200 that will be used at the Olympics (for zipping between venues, as opposed to lapping the velodrome), but for now the bike is officially “just a concept”.
The Pedelec has been designed with a big hinge in the middle, folding up to allow commuters to wheel it easily onto trains and also to let it slot into the back of BMW’s upcoming i3 electric car. Special brackets will let the i3 carry a pair of Pedelecs side by side, clamped to the back of folded rear seats.
Sockets inside the i3 will even provide each Pedelec with a top-up charge, either from the i3’s own bigger battery or via the mains while the i3 itself is recharging.
The Pedelec is one piece of a puzzle that BMW is trying to assemble, before its “i” cars go on sale. The i3 urban electric car is due in showrooms at the tail end of 2013, followed by the sporty i8 plug-in hybrid coupe in 2014.
By the time the cars arrive, BMW hopes to have hatched a range of products and services dubbed “360° Electric”. These will include the DriveNow car-sharing service currently under way in Germany, smartphone apps to allow drivers to book charging points before they arrive, and even mobile charging trucks capable of giving a stranded electric car a quick boost of juice.
The new electric bike is meant to carry urban i3 customers the “last mile” from a public charging point to their workplace or home — a handy facility given that most city folk lack a convenient driveway or garage where they might plug in an electric car. The folded Pedelec will fit in a lift — offering a better bet than a very long extension cable for customers living in top-floor flats.