Personal street transport rolls into auto show
The cars are still the stars, but the Detroit auto show is changing, as is mobility.
A flight below the main show floor where BMW, Volkswagen and other automakers unveiled their sedans, SUVs and minivans, show attendees were balancing electric bicycles and scooters.
“The industry is going electric, and people are seriously looking at transportation options that are more personal,” said Christian Scheder, chief marketing director of Immotor, an electric scooter maker based in Shenzhen.
Immotor stands for “I am Motor”, meaning that individuals become their own transportation, minimizing the use of material, effort and energy.
The scooter, with a maximum speed of 20 mph, can go up to 20 miles on a single battery charge and weighs about 27 pounds. It can be folded and wheeled on public transportation like small luggage.
URB-E, a Pasadena, California-based startup, is showing foldable electric bikes as an alternatives on, for example, the first and last mile of a commute.
One can customize a URBE by adding anything from a basket to a bell to a Bluetooth speaker.
“People can customize, and they can adjust their means of travel with a portable vehicle,” Scheder said, explaining that a user can mix modes of transportation in a day. The rider can hop on the scooter to work and take the subway back if the weather changes.
Immotor, URB-E and German technology company Schaeffler presented the prototypes of a biohybrid pedelec — a mix of a car and an electric bicycle — and an electric skateboard.
As important as the North America market is, Scheder said other parts of the world may adapt to personal vehicles faster, like Norway, where a large population has already started using electric bikes, or China, because of pollution.
Scheder said that challenges lie in educating the public, as people are used to blasting their radios and throwing their bags in the car.
“It requires a shift of thinking,” he said.
Statistics show that the world’s urban population is expected to double by 2025, and Scheder said that by that time, portable transportation vehicles will be a must for daily travel.
“Right now, it’s an option. In the future, people will be forced to adapt to a city with no garage,” he said.
Christian Scheder (right), chief marketing director at Immotor, and his colleague demonstrate their portable electric scooter to a show attendee at the Detroit auto show, which is showing personal transportation for the first time in its 110-year history.