Neal Saiki describes his mission as making clean technology fun. His impressive resume includes founding Zero Motorcycles, creating the first human-powered helicopter and revolutionizing full-suspension bicycle design with his work for brands including Santa Cruz and Haro. So when Saiki decided to launch a new bicycle project, his goal was to create a machine that is fun to ride but also addresses societal and environmental issues. Thus was born the 2×4 electric cargo bike, a car-replacing pedal-powered machine that hauls heavy loads with ease.
The 2×4 has received accolades from CNN and many other media outlets since launching this month. The front-loading cargo bike features innovative touches including: a proprietary steering system that allows cargo weight to be centered over the front wheel without affecting bike handling; a lifetime service warranty on the battery pack; and a Gates Carbon Drive for grease-free and low-maintenance durability. The front wheel is powered by a high-torque electric motor, while the rear has an eight-speed transmission. The 2×4 even has a USB charging port for your phone, a motorcycle-style center kickstand for stability when parked, plus two cup holders for staying caffeinated.
Saiki designed the lithium ion battery pack (it uses advanced cylindrical cells similar to those used by Tesla Motors) to be easily serviced, durable, light, affordable and efficient. He says cyclists can go 30 miles on a charge and ride 10,000 miles for $30 worth of electricity–costing virtually nothing compared to the high expense of driving a car. The 2×4 is ideal for replacing that second family car and is a low-cost delivery solution for small businesses seeking an affordable alternative to a van or delivery car.
“We think that this battery technology is the breakthrough product people have been waiting for,” Saiki says. “The foremost advantage is that it is serviceable. Being able to easily replace one of more cells is a huge advantage. Huge EV battery packs are prone to having one or two bad cells. Nobody wants to throw out an entire EV pack just because there is one bad cell. Our technology facilitates thermal tracking of every cell in the pack. Any bad cell can be identified and replaced in minutes.”
Listen to Saiki describe the bike in this video:
NTS Works is based in Santa Cruz, Calif., where Saiki lives with his family. He and his wife Lisa can be seen pedaling their 2×4 around the city on grocery errands or carting the kids about town. Technological and environmental innovation aside, Saiki says his real motivation for building the 2×4 was personal: With young children, neither he nor Lisa have time to go mountain biking. Now they exercise while doing errands. Time stress is why Saiki decided to use Gates Carbon Drive. “Like many parents I don’t have the time, or desire, to maintain a chain,” he says. “Our bikes will also be sold to businesses, and the Gates belt drive is a low-maintenance solution for them. You don’t have to worry about cleaning and lubricating a chain. Just hop on and go.”
Coffee-loving bicyclists, meet the Velopresso: an ingenious pedal-powered mobile coffee stand designed to lower the carbon footprint of our collective caffeine habit. Created by two product design students from the Royal College of Art in London, the machine uses no electricity, making it perfect for street corners and off-the-grid locations. Velopresso not only gets around town by pedal power; the coffee grinder is also pedal-powered. Delicious coffee, no electricity, no motors, no noise.
“Velopresso was conceived against the backdrop of a global renaissance in cycling culture that is being driven by the desire for more sustainable cities and lifestyles,” says co-creator Amos Field Reid, pictured below kneeling behind the machine. “The urban coffee scene is also expanding and diversifying, including a convergence with cycling culture. Velopresso engages directly with these cutting-edge urban cultures.”
The only fuel use consists of a camp stove to heat the water and create steam. The stove now uses camping/mountaineer’s gas, but Reid and co-creator Lasse Oiva are researching methods to create ethanol alcohol from the spent coffee grounds, which would be used to fire the camp stove burner. “Research is underway to derive a zero-carbon fuel for the stove from waste grinds,” Reid says.
We love the Velopresso because it uses not one but two Gates Carbon Drives–one for locomotion and another to power the grinder, which produces a double-shot of espresso with five seconds of easy pedaling. With a click of a gear lever, the belt-drive transmission switches from powering the trike’s wheels to powering the custom-made grinder. The inventors say the clean and grease-free belt drive was the perfect solution: you don’t want toxic chain lube in your soy latte.
“The Gates Carbon Drive forms an integral part of the Velopresso,” Reid says. “The belt eliminated the problem of an oily chain getting mixed up with the coffee prep environment. It also rendered a chain guard unnecessary, allowing us to showcase this rational, progressive, pedal-powered technology and keeping it all naked as we intended. We wanted technology that looks good and performs perfectly. From the very earliest design sketches we located the Gates Carbon Drive that powers the grinder at the center of the machine–a statement of intent.”
Velopresso has already won several design awards including the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprises 2012, and second place in the Pininfarina Design Contest 2012. Reid and Oiva are now trying to commercialize Velopresso to sell them in Europe and North America. “The Velopresso project as a business is conceived around the production of multiple machines for sale or leasing to individual private vendors alongside coffee and bicycle related companies, as both an eye-catching new form of mobile retail operation and a highly visible promotional vehicle,” Reid says. The machine’s weatherproof side panels can be customized for company or corporate branding.
Until then, Velopresso is on our wish list. See more photos and contact Velopresso at: http://www.velopresso.cc/
To all you 29er mountain bikers, we present your dream commuter bike: the Proletariat, a 29-inch-wheeled ride with Gates Carbon Drive. This aluminum beauty is “the first of a new breed of 29er commuter (bikes) designed for Portlanders by Portlanders.”
So says Joe Bike , one of Portland’s finest bike shops and the go-to gettin’ place for utility bikes and urban commuters. In addition to the Proletariat, Joe Bike sells the Shuttlebug, a belt-drive cargo bike ideal for hauling groceries or children (or even for doing wheelies, though we don’t recommend it).
The ShuttleBug from Joe Bike
Joe Bike sells multiple belt-drive bikes including the Norco Ceres, an 8-speed, flat-bar city bike with Gates Carbon Drive. We currently have a Ceres on test with Ecovelo.info, one of our favorite transportation bike blogs, and we’ll bring you news of EcoVelo’s review once the test is complete. The Proletariat is made by Portland’s Stop Cycles, whose mantra is “good beer, strong coffee, cheap bars, sweet bikes and a sustainable lifestyle.” Seems they’ve figured out the meaning of life there in Portlandia.
So to all you car commuters who live within bicycling distance of the office, we say check out the Proletariat. Get outside and breathe some fresh air and get fit by pedaling to work. Mix with your fellow proles and join the Portland bike revolution. You’ll save lots of gas money, which means you’ll have plenty of pocket cash for good beer and sweet bikes.
Bamboo is a highly renewable resource that is increasingly being used to build bikes. Now a China-based husband and wife team has devised a cool trike that can be used as a pedi-cab, or pedal-powered cab. It’s called a Treecycle. And it’s powered by a Gates Carbon Drive for strength and durability. Check out the article about the Treecycle in EcoBuild Magazine here.
photo: Justin Steiner, bicycletimesmag.com
The Globe Live 3 is a belt-drive bike with a French twist. Its large front rack and frame geometry are inspired by the porteur bikes used in the 1950s by Parisian newspaper carriers.
The Globe’s Carbon Drive System–combined with the front rack–makes this a clean and low-maintenance workhorse of a bike, perfect for trips to the grocery or farmers’ market. And who knows? If gas gets expensive enough, maybe we’ll even see paperboys using porteur bikes like the Globe again someday.
Justin Steiner of Bicycle Times has written a post about the Globe. Check it out at www.bicycletimesmag.com. Steiner will pen a longer review in issue No. 7 of the magazine, available on newsstands this summer. Steiner has been getting his fill of belt drive bikes this year. He previously reviewed the Trek Soho, another great commuter bike with Carbon Drive.
photo: Justin Steiner, bicycletimesmag.com