Wheels etc: BMW i Pedelec Concept

Park, ride, then slip a disc carrying it up the stairs

A A A

Wheelbase: 1,080mm
Weight:
20kg
Gears: Three, with 42V hub motor
Price: TBC

When I think of power-assisted bicycles, I imagine one of those vintage, mud-flecked, lawnmower-like pedal-mopeds. Riding it, I see some Provençal farm labourer, sputtering along a lavender-lined country road, Gauloise cigarette dangling from his lips, with a bag of shopping, or a small dog, in a vegetable crate fixed haphazardly to the back with bungees.

The BMW i Pedelec Concept is the German version of that vision: sleek and foldable, a pedal-electric hybrid (hence "Pedelec") with a 50/50 aluminium/carbon-fibre frame. It has a three-speed gear hub integrated with its electric motor, and hydraulic disc braking. It has nowhere to put a small dog.

BMW, a major Olympic sponsor, has issued some Pedelec prototypes to athletes during the Games; the firm had one left over to lend to me. The bike is part of a range of forthcoming electric and hybrid vehicles from the German manufacturer's sustainability-focused "sub-brand", BMW i. It's intended, not for the French countryside, but for the city: you can fit two into the boot of the BMW i3 EV hybrid car, which is due on the market at the end of 2013. The idea, BMW suggests, is to drive into London or Paris or Munich, and then complete the last couple of miles of your commute by bike: park and ride, as it were.

As mobility gadgets go, the Pedelec is a lot less silly than the Segway or the Sinclair C5, but it ought to appeal to a similar market of well-off geeks. The gearshift and brakes are both configured like a regular bicycle; the electric bit is controlled from a handlebar-mounted LCD panel. I switched it on, pressed a couple of buttons, and my pedalling generated an extra motorised kick, effortlessly accelerating to a top speed of 16 miles per hour (25kmh). If you can pedal faster than that on 16-inch wheels, go ahead, but the motor's speed limit means it's still classed as a bicycle: it needn't be registered or insured, and riders aren't obliged to wear helmets. Besides, 16mph is more than enough for a speedy getaway at traffic lights. And on hills, I barely broke a sweat.

The Pedelec's lithium-manganese battery pack is meant to last between 16 and 25 miles after a four-hour charge (from the i3's built-in charger, or a domestic plug socket). I'd used up about two-thirds of the juice after 23.5 miles, so it would probably go a bit further than the specs suggest. Supposedly, you can replenish the battery by increments if you press the right buttons and pedal on the downhills, but it feels like wasted effort: the effect on the charge is imperceptible.

If the battery were to run out on an uphill stretch, meanwhile, you could be in trouble. BMW claims the Pedelec's frame is extra-light – and it is, for a moped. But it's heavier than any bicycle I've ever ridden. Too heavy for anyone with back problems to heft in and out of a car boot, for example. The Pedelec is still a prototype, and yet to carry a price tag, though if it does go on sale it will probably be for four figures.

I had fun whizzing around, but I struggle to see the point of it. Why not buy a Brompton? It's cheaper, lighter, folds smaller and is even more sustainable. Yes, you have to do all the work, pedal-wise – but at least you won't slip a disc trying to carry it up the stairs.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness