Most folding bikes are still fairly large even when they’re folded up, and they’re awkward to carry on a crowded subway car or elevator. Folding electric bikes are even bulkier. But the Impossible Bike, a new electric bike now crowdfunding on Kickstarter, is small and light enough to carry in a backpack.
The secret is a circular design: Tiny solid wheels fold up into a frame made of two circles instead of the usual triangle. A circular seat doubles as a case to hold everything.
“When you talk to people about electric bikes, they’ll think of a huge, clunky, heavy device,” says Henry Cooper, one of the designers of the new bike. “All the time you have to carry the battery for charging, which is close to 20 kilos. We’ve been thinking about this and wanted to make it much easier to commute.”
Cooper is part of a team of four students who are working on the bike at a Beijing university. “Because we’re living and working in Beijing, going on the subway, you can’t take your bike–especially if it’s electric,” he says. “Plus bikes are getting stolen. So we thought it would be a great idea if you could fold it in a backpack, so you could take it anywhere you wanted to go.”
The current prototype of the bike is able to travel a leisurely 12.4 miles an hour for about 45 minutes before it needs to recharge. Unlike most electric bikes, it doesn’t have pedals, since pedals and a chain would take up too much space. But if you run out of juice, you can just put it in your backpack and go plug it in somewhere. Since it’s designed for city use, the engineers assume you’ll never be too far from a plug.
“If your battery’s running out, you could take it to the closest coffee shop to charge it,” says Cooper. “The battery life is actually amazing. It takes one and a half hours to fully charge it to 100%.”
The team is still working on the final design, including a custom motor. They’re also experimenting with different materials for parts like the tiny tires, which don’t really look particularly strong (in tests, the designers claim the bike can handle someone weighing up to 180 pounds, and bumpy roads).
The money raised on Kickstarter will cover manufacturing costs. “This is not about making money,” says Cooper. “This is something we’re passionate about. You know why we call it Impossible? A lot of people told us we were crazy. How would it be possible to fold an electric bike into a backpack? So we thought hey, let’s call it Impossible. We want to make impossible things possible.”