Bike Intermodal: a bike as big as a briefcase


A bike as big as a briefcase to make our cities greener: what better way to keep in shape while helping our city stay environmentally friendly than a bike ride?
The EU-funded "Bike Intermodal" project has developed a new prototype folding bicycle, weighing about 7.5 kg, which folds into a 50cm x 40cm x 15cm box that can be easily stored and transported to restaurants, bars and even cinemas.

The avant-garde design and production process of this intermodal bicycle paves the way for a whole new generation of folding vehicles designed to get drivers out of their cars and thus develop a more environmentally friendly urban lifestyle. Knowing that in France, in 2012, 2.9 million bicycles will have been sold, i.e. 6 bicycles per minute, and that more and more Europeans are coming to live in large conurbations, the potential market for the project is considerable.

The bicycle is a convenient means of transportation for getting around. However, a simple ride can become more complicated in high-traffic urban areas where car drivers often need to cross streets and where the risk of bicycle theft is increasing. Folding bicycles have become an alternative means of transport because they make it easier to travel between cars and public transport. It is made entirely of recyclable materials: its life cycle is environmentally friendly from production through use and reuse.
"With this Intermodal Bike, we have combined the best in design, production and assembly using the latest available materials to create an ultra-compact, lightweight and attractive bike that meets all the needs of urban life. We hope that it will not only convince cycling enthusiasts, but also encourage those who have not been using bicycles in the hope that they will discover the freedom that cycling can provide".says Alessandro Belli of Tecnologie Urbane, one of the key partners and founder of the project.

A revolution in the design of folding bikes

135 million bicycles are manufactured every year. About 2% of them are foldable. Bike Intermodal is in the process of moving from the classic bicycle production circuit to a model inspired by the automotive industry. "We have increased the strength of the vehicle by limiting the number of parts and using the strongest and lightest possible material such as magnesium. Every component is tested, tracked and can be recycled. Our process focuses on quality control, traceability of recycling and the environmental dimension of the product," he added. underlines Mr. Belli.

Bike features and operation

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At the heart of the bike: a reinforced frame of premium aluminum and magnesium cables opens and closes like a landing gear. In the future, the start-up is also thinking of using graphene to consolidate and lighten the structure. A custom engine designed by partner company Maxon Motor (a subsidiary of BRAUN) promotes mobility without making the vehicle heavier. Despite this, the bicycle weighs half as much as a folding bicycle without electric assistance and takes up about five times less space.
The weight and size of the bicycle have been optimised thanks to studies designed by the University of Florence and carried out by ATAF and LPP, public transport service providers for the cities of Florence (Italy) and Ljubjana (Slovenia). These surveys, based on questionnaires and tests on folding bicycles, were carried out on students and people using their cars to get to work. They helped to understand the different elements needed to use the prototype.

Product Development and Commercialization

The European Union funded the programme to the tune of €1.58 million. Since the completion of the project, the start-up has continued to optimise the design and production process of the bicycle. It is ready to market its first prototypes. The company is in talks with venture capitalists as well as major players in the automotive industry to launch its vehicle on the market.

When production is completed, Belli estimates that the selling price of the bike without motor will be €800 and €1300 for the electrically assisted version. A "fixed" version (1) could be worth about $500.

Michael Jennings, spokesperson for the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Mayor Goeghegan-Quinn said : "Bike Intermodal is the kind of innovation we want to see more of in Europe because it improves our quality of life and economic competitiveness. One of the main objectives of Horizon 2020, through our new fund for research and innovation, is to have such ideas and to participate in their development from production to marketing. The more innovative companies we have, the better it will be for the European economy. »

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About Bike Intermodal

Bike Intermodal is a project funded by the European Union under FP7 (Framework Programme for Research and Development). Bike Intermodal brings together partners from the public and private sectors as well as research institutes: Tecnologie Urbane, a company specialising in urban design from conventional transport to micro-urbanisation and from communication to urban supply (IT), Trilix, an automotive design and engineering company (IT), LPP (SL) and AFAT (IT), suppliers of public transport services, Maxon Motors, a leading producer of micro-discs and high-precision systems, Ticona, a leading producer of polymers for the automotive, electrical and electronics industry (GER) and the University of Florence (IT).

About European funding for research and innovation

On 1 January 2014, the European Union launched a new seven-year funding programme for Research and Innovation called Horizon 2020. Over the next seven years, nearly €80 million will be invested in research and innovation to support European economic competitiveness and push back the frontiers of knowledge.

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The EU research budget is mainly devoted to the fields of health, environment, transport, food and energy (see graph). To encourage private sector investment in support of growth and the creation of skilled jobs, research partnerships will also be signed with the pharmaceutical, aerospace, automotive and electronics industries. Horizon 2020 will place an even greater emphasis on projects that turn innovative ideas into marketable products, industrial processes and services.
For more information on European research and innovation projects.

(1) Bicycles with a fixed pinion (often called "fixies") have a single gear attached directly to the rear wheel of the vehicle. There is no freewheel mechanism. The wheels and pedals rotate at the same time. 

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