Spotlight: Getting a Handle on Mobility

Can electric bikes help ease the daily commutes for those who use multiple modes of transportation? We’re experimenting to find out.

Cities + Technology + People = Improving Transportation Systems

The idea of biking to work may sound appealing for many suburb-to-city commuters. But the reality is not always so easy or so practical – especially if the daily journey also involves a car. (Traditional bikes don’t typically fit in a traditional vehicle.) As part of our experimentation around different modes of transit, we recently unveiled two concepts to show how electric bikes, or e-bikes, can work seamlessly with cars and public transport to enable faster, easier commutes and help businesses operating in urban centers.

The Handle on Mobility experiment aims to take some of the anxiety out of journey planning and improve the quality of life in busy cities. As a starting point, we challenged Ford employees around the world to submit designs for e-bikes, which are typically more portable and more versatile than traditional bicycles. The prototype MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro e-bikes were among the top designs from more than 100 submitted.

Both are designed to fit easily into Ford vehicles and are equipped with a 200-watt motor with a 9-amp-hour battery that provides electric pedaling assistance for speeds of up 25 kilometers/hour (15.5 mph). The prototypes offer technologies inspired by those already in our automobiles, such as a rear-facing ultrasonic sensor that warns the cyclist, via vibrating handlebars, when a vehicle is overtaking. The sensor also alerts motorists of the presence of the e-bike by illuminating handlebar lights.

Each e-bike was designed to meet the needs of different users. The MoDe:Me, for example, is intended for a suburban commuter, who can park on the city outskirts, take the e-bike onto public transport and travel to the urban center, then ride the e-bike to a final destination. The MoDe-Pro e-bike is intended for urban commercial users, such as couriers and goods and delivery services. It is designed to stow safely into commercial vehicles, such as the Transit Connect, which can act as a carrier and support vehicle and be combined with more than one e-bike.

Compatible with the iPhone 6, the e-bikes use a prototype app that helps with route planning and navigation. The app also updates the route as circumstances change, showing, for example, if a train service is canceled.

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