Will This Bike-Car Hybrid Change the Future of Urban Transportation?
A German manufacturing company has developed a bicycle/car/moped hybrid that could change how people travel around cities.
Photo credit: Schaeffler
Schaeffler, a major manufacturer of parts for the automotive and aerospace industries, created the Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid—a vehicle small enough to fit in the bike lane, but that has motor assist and is easily parked. The company plans to build 30-40 Bio-Hybrids for user feedback tests to be conducted in a city in southern German in 2017.
Patrick Seidel, innovation manager at Shaeffler, called the Bio-Hybrid a "solution for future urban transport."
At 2 meters (6.5 feet) long, 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall and 80 centimeters (31 inches) wide, the bike combines pedal-power and electric motors to move. It is easily maneuvered, only weighing 80 kilograms (176 pounds), and is emissions-free, The Guardian reported. Seidel said the weight of the bike might be reduced as the model is improved.
"It may be a little over-engineered at the moment, but we want to prove the concept," Seidel told The Guardian.
Photo credit: Schaeffler
The Bio-Hybrid's two batteries are located under the seat, easily accessible and light weight enough to be carried inside for charging. Three to 4 hours are required for full charge, but those batteries then power the bike for a range of 50 to 100 kilometers (31 to 62 miles).
Electric-assisted rides are available up to 15 mph, according to Schaeffler. The Guardian's Damian Carrington describes how it feels to drive the Bio-Hybrid:
You just start pedalling. The battery-powered assist kicks in automatically and off you go at a pleasant clip. Pedal faster and the automatic and continuous gears slide upwards to get you up to 15mph, when the assist ends. The racing-style steering wheel (handlebars?) turns the Bio-Hybrid smoothly and the hand lever-operated disc brakes bring you to a smart stop.
Drivers can vary the level of assist they receive while driving the Bio-Hybrid. A setting of zero gives the biker complete control over the speed of the vehicle, if desired, or they can set the assist at maximum for an easy, laid-back ride. There is also a reverse setting, Carrington said, to help with parking and turning.
Electric assist isn't the only customizable portion of the Bio-Hybrid, the seat and steering wheel, The Guardian said, are adjustable as well.
The bike's roof can be removed and stored behind the seat to create a convertible feel and look. Schaeffler's Bio-Hybrid also comes with a coat hook behind the seat and a luggage rack on the back.
Photo credit: Schaeffler
There are a few problems that might have to be fixed, depending on local laws, if the Bio-Hybrid enters the market, such as the lights and mirrors. Carrington wrote:
The integrated lights at the front and back give the Bio-Hybrid a groovy look, but night riders would need to attach more lumens to be safely seen. There are also integrated orange indicators lights, though these would mean the vehicle becomes a car in German law.
"New concepts do not always fit into the legal environment of the moment," Seidel said.
Carrington said the visibility over the driver's shoulders is fine.
Seidel expects the Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid to be pitched with a cost between 2,500 euros (almost $2,800) or even above 7,000 euros ($7,800), which is equivalent to the price of low-end electrical cars.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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