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Bubble-bike: US$750 Electric three-wheeler

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July 13, 2010

The US$750 Bubble Bike urban commuter recharges from a domestic power point

The US$750 Bubble Bike urban commuter recharges from a domestic power point

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The Bubble Bike might look like the love child of a scooter and a Messerschmitt Kabinenroller, but it’s an ingenious response to the needs of Northern China and some of the more northern Asian countries where temperatures drop well below zero in winter and the roads get a liberal coating of snow and ice, making them not nearly as suitable for scooters and motorcycles as they are in summer. The recipient of a 2009 Red Star Design Award (China’s equivalent of the red dot awards), the three-wheel Bubble Bike sells in China for RMB 5000 (around US$730).

Low cost transport is imperative in many developing countries, and the Bubble Bike's price-tag makes it the only game in town if you want more than two wheels, or want to carry three people or a lot of luggage and keep them/it dry and warm.

Most importantly, the Bubble Bike is electric, meaning it recharges from a power point for a negligible cost and has oodles of grunt for getting up to its 45 km/h top speed. Now we understand that's not so fast by the standards of the big cities with lots of space that we're accustomed to, but it's plenty fast for urban running in the highly congested streets of China's megacities.

The Bubble Bike has a range of 100 km and takes between six and eight hours to charge from a standard household power outlet in its current configuration. The manufacturers are currently trialling alternative batteries which decrease the charging time to three hours and increase the range of the vehicle to 200 km, plus the cost of the Bubble Bike by several hundred dollars. I'm presuming those batteries are lithium ion but translation between the designer’s Shandong dialect and English was an issue, so I can’t be sure.

The biggest benefit of the bike is apparently roadholding. Bubble Bike's representative said that because the bike is very light and has three wheels and a low center of gravity, it really hangs onto the road. Given that its specifications and geometry are very similar to the Spira that I tried in Thailand last year I imagine that the handling would be similar (i.e. sensational).

In many ways, it's a scooter with a bit of protection, and there was some discussion amongst those of us looking at the machine whether there was adequate crash protection in comparison with a Western motor vehicle. One of those present contributed, "I'm sure it crash tests better than the scooter it will replace though."

Export inquiries on the Bubble Bike can be directed to the web site.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
14 Comments

It reminds me of the Moon Beam cabin scooter. http://home.myfairpoint.net/vze6omtd/jorysquibb/index.html

I think the bubble bike looks really nice; IMO.

BigGoofyGuy

In 1985 or so Sir Clive Sinclair invented the same dang thing called the Sinclair C5. Seriously, look at youtube or google images. He made a fortune inventing the Timex/Sinclair ZX81 and then got goofy inventing the future. Only thing is, I guess he wound up being proven right!

I think the bubble bike is the sort of thing that if everybody else had one, sure I\'d own one; but if I\'m the only one, I\'d feel like an idiot driving it. Actually come to think of it, if there were a club that had regular meets for fun, that could work.

Grunchy

That\'s definitely Jory Squibb\'s \"bubbletop\" roof/door, but Moon Beam is 2F1R and uses a gas scooter engine.

William Lanteigne

At $750, I do think there is probably a place for something like this in the developing world.

I WISH some company would produce and sell a reasonably priced vehicle like the Clever Car (an academic exercise) and the now vaporware Venture One which were both based on the lamentably departed Vanderbrink Carver layout. I think if done right, they could really be a hit, especially in the youth market, which I am lamentably departed from.

yrag

Grunchy,

I have no idea what you\'re thinking. This is nothing like the C5. The C5 was slower, had no weather protection, was too low and needed you to pedal. It was electric assist. This is pure electric power. Believe me, I saw the flaws in the C5 back when it was unveiled and I honestly don\'t see how you can draw any similarities to this other than you personally think they\'re both goofy.

Gadgeteer

The Carver and Venture One are history? Wow..and this bubble buggy would have a chance of being sold for under £500?!

Gerard Gallagher

Nice design.

I build, drive EV\'s like this though not bubble shaped and very cheap to run. Mine costs me $2/week and 1/3 of that is the moped tag costs. It\'s built with the front of a moped with it\'s title and the rear of a golf cart with 12vdc batteries and Rabbit or trailer tires to get 30mph.

jerryd

I\'d like buy one but their Web site is confusing even translated to English.

Facebook User

I sent a message in English to the manufacturer in China through its Alibaba.com account. I never received any answer. It seems that they are not set up to do business with English-speaking customers.

overbyte

nice design

Facebook User

Rather an entrancing idea! If they can offer these cheap in the US, and they prove sufficiently durable, I might just have to have one!

Chris Blake

if they switch to lithium ion that would double the price but still worth staying dry and warm. maybe size it up.

frogola

My brother would probably like to have one of these. Where would he purchase one? I have seen two similar ones in my town, but have no idea where they got them. They look like fun!

Kathy Harpster

Any info where to buy the bubble bike please send info

Martin Langan
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