German luxury vehicle manufacturer BMW has unveiled the first high-speed pedelec, the i Vision Amby, which is billed by the company as “a visionary two-wheeled solution for the urban mobility of tomorrow.”
One of five different concept vehicles BMW is presenting at the IAA Mobility event in Munich, Germany, this week, the BMW i Vision AMBY is fitted with an electric drive system with three speed ratings for different types of roads.
A pedelec is a distinctly different type of electric bike, with the rider’s pedalling assisted by a small electric motor which cuts out when the rider stops pedalling or when the bike reaches a certain speed.
As BMW notes in its press release, “users of the BMW i Vision Amby high-speed pedlec have to constantly pedal in order to benefit from the assistance of the electric drive system”, making it distinct from the more common electric bicycles.
The i Vision Amby has three top-speed ratings, 25km/h on cycle tracks, up to 45km/h on city-centre roads, and up to 60km/h on multi-lane roads and outside urban areas – though a license and license plates will be necessary for the higher speed modes.
The three modes are stored in an app on a smartphone which allows both for manual selection as well as automatic recognition of location and terrain via geofencing technology and the associated automatic adjustment of top speed.
Where “Amby” serves as a neologism for “adaptive mobility”, the Vision AMBY essentially sits outside the framework of most legislation and is therefore a prompt for the development and introduction of legislation designed for more genre-busting electric mobility options.
“Everywhere you look, apparently established categories are being blown apart – and that’s a good thing,” said Werner Haumayr, Vice President BMW Group Design Conception.
“In the future, classifications such as ‘car’, ‘bicycle’ and ‘motorcycle’ should not determine the nature of the products we think up, develop and offer. Rather, this paradigm shift gives us the opportunity to tailor products to people’s lifestyles – as we can see with the BMW i Vision Amby high-speed pedelec.
“This vehicle occupies the space between a bicycle and a light motorcycle and allows our customers to decide for themselves which roads or routes they want to travel on through an urban area.
“They have all the flexibility possible, at the same time as turning the pedals and keeping themselves fit. The modes and clever route selection are intended to make it one of the fastest travel options through a city.”
The frame of the i Vision Amby is much thicker than you would normally see on a traditional bicycle, and thicker even than a regular e-bike. Looking a little like the time-trial bikes used by professional cyclists, the frame is crafted from four sculptural aluminium profiles around the battery, which is positioned in the centre of the frame.
The 2,000Wh battery enables a range of up to 300-kilometres depending on the riding mode, and thanks to fast charging technology it can recharge in only three hours – which is not as fast as it should be for a bicycle designed for use in urban environments.
Another issue evident from the press photos provided by BMW is the positioning of the flat handlebars. Very low on the front, the handlebars look as if they are low enough to warrant, and maybe even necessitate drops – the downward curving grips you will usually see on road bikes.
The fact that the i Vision AMBY does not have drops suggests that the body’s positioning will be a little awkward. As can be seen in the photo below, the body looks to be pushed unnaturally straight while the hips and legs are still set behind the body’s centre of gravity – though, again, first-hand use may prove me wrong.
Its smartphone app acts not only as a bicycle computer but also where a user can load their stored license classes and apply the necessary level of insurance cover on demand. As BMW explains, the Amby app will therefore take “on the role traditionally performed by a vehicle key.”
The app will also provide other basic information such as current and scheduled charge level, while the electrically adjustable seat post is optimised biometrically to match the user’s profile stored in the app.
As a lifelong cyclist, colour me very sceptical, but if I am ever allowed to take one out for a spin, you might be able to convince me of its value.