The Urban626 Urb-e's designers say that it is "the world's most compact folding electric vehicle." Superlative claims aside, it is quite a small ride that folds down to an even smaller package.
The electric bike is what's called last mile transportation; that is, it's designed to be folded up and tossed into a trunk, carried onto a train, bus or the like and then quickly unfolded and ridden that "last mile" of a commute, from the parking garage to the office or from the train station home.
When Urb-e's designers say that it quickly folds, they mean really quickly. I was able to compress the bike in less than a second, with a simple tug of the seat. Deployment is just as fast.
Sven Etzelsberger, Urban626's Chief Technology Officer, co-founder and a former Porsche designer, tells me that the Urb-e is designed to be as compact and lightweight as possible. It's aluminum frame has large holes in it that remove unnecessary material and mass. The forks and handlebar are carbon fiber. In total, the Urb-e weighs just 35 pounds, most of which is the battery pack and electric motor.
Speaking of the motor, the brushless unit spins through a single speed planetary reduction gear that Etzelsberger says helps maximize torque delivery in hilly areas and for larger riders. Top speed is stated at 15 mph (roughly 24 kmph). Power comes from a large lithium ion battery pack that, with a 4-hour charge on household 110V power, propels the bike for up to 20 miles (32 kilometers).
I hopped on the Urb-e for a spin on the crowded floor of Digital Experience show on the eve of CES 2016 and found it to be tricky to ride. The small wheels don't stay upright as naturally or as easily as a bicycle's large hoops and the steep steering angle is awkward at first. To be fair, with more space, more speed and more practice, I think I'd be able to quickly master the Urb-e's handling. As proof, Urban626's staff seemed to have no problem scooting around on the contraption in tight quarters. Plus, the low seating position allowed me to keep my feet on the ground, using them as training wheels while I got used to the ride.
The Urb-e is available now on its eponymous website with a $1,500 (AU$2,110, £1,025) MSRP. It's a goofy looking little ride, but it's also smartly designed and should get you from the train station to the office without breaking a sweat.
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