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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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.