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Bio-Hybrid: a ride with the vehicle that runs on streets and bike paths

We drive the sophisticated electric quadricycle that can reach 40 km / h, with autonomy of up to 100 km

The great cities of the future will not be very different from those of today, but the way people get around will change radically, experts say.

They predict that it will be possible to easily choose the type of transport (bus, subway, taxi, car, bicycle) more convenient and that cars will have different types of engine (combustion, electric and hybrid) and technologies that allow traditional and Autonomous

For various reasons, the changes will happen in rhythms and with different characteristics among the many cities on the planet. But in some capitals like Copenhagen (Denmark), Stockholm (Sweden) and Tokyo (Japan) can already identify this process of transformation.

We had a taste of what’s going on in London (England) on the occasion of the last stage of Formula E, when the German company Schaeffler, which contests the category in partnership with Audi, organized a test drive with the Bio-Hybrid , A kind of four-wheeled electric bicycle.

On the appointed day and time, a van picked me up at the hotel. But I could easily get to the meeting point, Battersea Park, taking the subway at Westminster Station, near the hotel where I stayed, and then the train to Battersea Park station. London is a capital where the public transport system integrates subway, train, taxi, bus, tram, bicycle and even boats by river routes on the River Thames that runs through the city.

The Bio-Hybrid was developed to be an alternative vehicle for the big urban centers of the future. According to its designers, the inspiration came from urban models that are already sold today, such as Renault Twizy, and electric bicycles, whose sales are up in Europe.

The construction of the prototype we evaluated – the only one in the world – took about three months, but the development of its concept consumed two years of work, according to Patrick Seidel, Schaeffler engineer. According to him, this time was mainly applied to the study of people’s displacement needs with respect to comfort, performance, dynamic behavior and safety.

“Our intention was to create a vehicle as versatile, clean and economical as bicycles, but with directional stability and protection from the weather and small car-like shocks,” says Seidel.

Cycling on the bike path

Still at Battersea Park, I took the steering wheel (or would it be the handlebars?) Of the Bio-Hybrid reviewing the instructions I received from the engineer. The driving position is different from that of all the vehicles I have ever known. Imagine a bicycle with an office chair installed in place of the saddle.

I adjust the distance from the seat to the pedals, the height and depth of the handlebar (releasing pressure clamps), and I firmly grasp my hands in a rectangular direction, as if holding onto a grocery cart. Unlike this, the Bio-Hybrid handlebar has a padded ribbon (such as those lining tennis rackets) which makes the footprint more comfortable and stable.

Attached to the handlebar, on the left side is a rotating ring with + and – signs, which turns the electric motor installed under the seat on or off. In the center, I find a small horn, similar to those used on bikes. On the right side there is a type of potentiometer that adjusts the level of the electric motor assistance to the pedals.

The greater the assistance, the less the driver’s effort with the legs. But from another angle, the higher the service, the greater the power consumption and the lower the battery life, which are located in a compartment under the seat.

According to official data, the Bio-Hybrid has a range ranging from 50 to 100 km, depending on the conditions of use. At the base of the handlebar column, there is a digital display that indicates the amount of charge.

I leave Battersea Park on the Chelsea Bridge for Super Highway Cycle Route 8, one of 12 long cycle paths that pass through the city center. At first, I find everything very interesting. At 210 cm long and 85 cm wide, the vehicle fits right into the bike lane, occupying the space of a bicycle – that’s why the prototype can legally divide the space with bikes here.

In the streets, the drivers do not seem to care about me. The only ones that are curious are pedestrians and cyclists, who stop, look and smile. At the corner, I stop for fear of doing some wrong conversion, afraid that the sense of direction in England is the reverse of ours (the cars turn on the left side of the street, so the steering wheels are to the right of the panel).

But soon I reassure myself, because the strips painted on the floor signal everything I need to do. And the presence of the other vehicles does not bother me: I see that everyone respects the space of others. And that makes me feel safe.

I continue to pedal listening to the noise of the chain turning the wheels. Over time, I start to get tired, finding the vehicle heavy. It’s no coincidence: despite using aluminum (chassis), carbon fiber (bodywork) and polycarbonate (roof), it weighs 80 kg, almost a motorcycle like the Honda Pop 110i, 87 kg.

But then I remember the pot. I look at it and see that it is set to the minimum of assistance. I turn the button halfway down and I start to accelerate. Accustomed to the previous effort, I feel that the car was light as a bicycle and this encourages me to pedal harder.

At this point, I must have approached the maximum speed of the Bio-Hybrid. According to Schaeffler, it reaches 6 km / h only with the effort of the engine or 40 km / h with the aid of the pedals. The limit depends on the driver. Instead of the noise of the current, I hear now the sound of the wind hitting the windshield. And I feel happy, with the feeling of movement.

The Schaeffler employees who follow me in the distance soon signal that the test drive is drawing to a close. To my sadness, it’s time to return to Battersea Park.

Later, speaking to the technology CEO of the company, engineer Peter Gutzmer, he tells me that the Bio-Hybrid can still evolve a lot, with simple measures such as the installation of a side-protection cover like motorcyclists wear on Winter, and other more complex, such as the replacement of the traction system by current, by an electric actuator, powered by a generator, driven by the pedals.

Future Indefinite

Schaeffler is still studying a business model for the Bio-Hybrid. She is currently talking to other companies, such as electric motor and bicycle makers, in search of partnerships. If it were marketed today, the Bio-Hybrid would cost expensive, between 5,000 and 9,000 euros (R $ 17,500 to R $ 31,500).

But with technical changes, such as the exchange of chassis and body materials, and mass production, the price could fall sharply. The company believes that in the future, the Bio-Hybrid may be as popular as a current electric bike. For those who like to drive, that would not be a bad idea.

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