Bike power

Element - - Business -

A fold­ing, plug-in elec­tric bike from a New Zealand de­signer may tick all the boxes for con­ve­nience, eco-friend­li­ness and style.

When Massey Univer­sity stu­dent Richard Heath fin­ished his de­sign de­gree at the Col­lege of Cre­ative Arts, he didn’t let the grass grow un­der his feet. Jump­ing on a plane to Sydney, he started knock­ing on doors to find a de­sign in­tern­ship and ended up work­ing with top Sydney de­sign com­pany Blue Sky De­sign.

Im­pressed with the work he’d done on a mo­tor­cy­cle de­sign project for Honda R&D in Italy, Mr Heath was given the op­por­tu­nity to lead a project of his own. Af­ter some con­sid­er­a­tion, and mo­ti­vated by the com­muter trans­port is­sues he ex­pe­ri­enced while trav­el­ling around in a large city, Mr Heath came up with the con­cept of an elec­tric fold­ing bike, called the BlueSkyBike.

“It was clear to me that sus­tain­abil­ity and find­ing al­ter­na­tive ways to move around will be­come more and more im­por­tant as the world’s pop­u­la­tion grows, he says. “My chal­lenge was to find a daily com­mut­ing so­lu­tion that was clean and had a sense of style. In Europe, elec­tric bikes are in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar, so I thought I would de­velop a de­sign that had a tra­di­tional styling but a mod­ern feel.”

Iden­ti­fy­ing ba­sic com­mut­ing needs like lug­gage stor­age, nav­i­ga­tion via in­te­grated smart­phone con­trol, porta­bil­ity and ease of use, Mr Heath de­signed a fold­ing elec­tric bike that could roll eas­ily onto trains or be taken on buses, then stored in the of­fice or at home.

“The BlueSkyBike would be pow­ered by a 250 watt elec­tric hub mo­tor, which makes it small enough so users don’t need to have a li­cense to ride it. The bat­tery can be re­moved for recharg­ing us­ing a con­ven­tional socket, or charged ‘on the go’ with the re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing func­tion while go­ing down­hill,” he says. “It takes the pain out of those big hills that in­vari­ably lead up to the of­fice or the train sta­tion.”

Al­though still a con­cept at this stage, Mr Heath says the in­tern­ship with Blue Sky De­sign has given him valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence and con­firmed his de­sire to work in de­sign.

The BlueSkyBike has been recog­nised as one of the top ten New Zealand en­tries in the James Dyson Awards, and is cur­rently be­ing re­viewed in the in­ter­na­tional judg­ing phase of the com­pe­ti­tion. In­ter­na­tional fi­nal­ists will be an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 18, with the win­ner an­nounced on Novem­ber 8.

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