Per­sonal street trans­port rolls into auto show

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By HEZI JIANG in Detroit, Michi­gan hez­i­jiang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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.

HEZI JIANG / CHINA DAILY.

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.

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