My mother-in-law just pointed me to the Yike Bike, a “A radical new electric bicycle … expected to transform the way urban commuters navigate congested cities.”
And I have to admit, it looks really cool! … or really stupid. I can’t decide which. My first thought was, “Why would you make a carbon-fiber tricycle,” because that’s sorta what it looks like (in spite of having only two wheels). But that was soon over-shadowed by the reaction I had when I dug a little deeper, which was, “What, this again?”
Yup, the YikeBike is, for all intents and purposes, just another Segway. Both offer high-tech solutions to the problem of getting around in an urban environment. They feature the latest in battery technology, regenerative breaking, composite construction, and both have a top speed of ~20km/hr. There are differences of course. The Segway’s range of 20km gives it the edge over the YikeBike (a paltry 10km), while the YikeBike’s folding design makes it a much better choice for commuters. But the most striking similarity is the price. The YikeBike will set you back a cool $4,700 (which happens to about what the Segway originally cost).
And there’s the rub. All that fancy tech costs a pretty penny. Unfortunately it doesn’t actually do all that much for you because getting around in urban environments is not a difficult problem to solve. You don’t need a lot of high tech gadgetry and industrial design. All you need is a couple wheels, rechargeable battery, motor, brakes, and a handlebar. Bolt ’em together and you have yourself an electric scooter, of which there are literally dozens of makes and models already on the market. $200 will get you a Razor E300 (range: 10km, top speed: 25 km/hr… sound familiar?) which, aside from it’s weight (20kg) is just as portable as the Yike Bike. And if you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can get the Go-Ped IPed for $1,400. Yeah, that price starts to sting, but it’s still 1/3rd the cost, and weighs only 12kg. That’s a little more than the YikeBike, but you get much better range (15 km) and speed (30km/hr).
So, props to Yike Bike for inspiring industrial design, but I’m not seeing this getting much of a following. The company is targeting a market that simply doesn’t exist. Or, at least, doesn’t exist here in the U.S. Unlike Segway the Yike Bike is being launched in Europe. Who knows, maybe those crazy Europeans see things a little differently. But somehow I suspect the story will be the same. There just aren’t that many people with $5K to drop on a gizmo that will only take them on a 3-mile round trip.