Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Tue March 03 2015

Ford Unveils E-bike Prototypes, App at Mobile World Congress

Travel Technology | Ryan Rudnansky | March 03, 2015

Ford Unveils E-bike Prototypes, App at Mobile World Congress

As roads become more congested across the globe, one major automaker is examining the role electric bikes could play in our future.

Ford Motor Company just introduced two new experiments as part of its global Ford Smart Mobility plan at Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona: Handle on Mobility and Info Cycle.

Handle on Mobility challenged Ford employees to design an e-bike. Out of more than 100 designs that were submitted, two made the cut: MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro.

Both e-bikes are fitted with a 200-watt motor with a 9-amp-hour battery that provides pedal assist for speeds of up to 25 km/hr. They also feature technology inspired by the automotive industry, including a rear-facing sensor that vibrates the handlebars and illuminates the lights of the bike when a vehicle approaches from behind. And, yes, they easily fold into Ford vehicles.

The MoDe:Me bike, via bicycle manufacturer Dahon, is designed for urban commuters to maneuver through congested streets. Its ability to fold also allows commuters to take it onto public transport and travel to the city center.

The MoDe:Pro e-bike, built by a Ford team, is intended for urban commercial use, making life easier for traveling couriers, electricians, goods and delivery services and more. It fits easily into Ford Transit Connect vans and wagons.

On top of that, the e-bikes are naturally mobile-friendly. The prototype MoDe:Link app, available for iPhone 6, provides real-time information and gives signals to the bike designed for a seamless biking experience.

For example, not only will the handle bars vibrate when a vehicle approaches from behind, but they will also vibrate to let the rider know when to turn. Turn signals are also triggered automatically and the app identifies bike-friendly roads, hazards and alerts so bikers can simply focus on riding.

The app even plans the best routes by identifying personal vehicle and public transportation networks. Routes can be filtered by cost, time and amount of biking, and the in-app map includes weather, parking costs and charging stations in the area.

The e-bike’s electric pedal assist rate can also be adjusted based on heart rate. Switch to “No Sweat” mode for a casual bike ride to your destination.

If you are stowing and charging your e-bike inside a Ford vehicle, the app can be viewed on the vehicle’s display through Ford’s SYNC voice-activated connectivity system.

The app will also update the route as circumstances change (for instance, if a public transportation route or service is cancelled).

“There are so many ways to get around a city, but what is really needed is a way to connect all of these transport options together,” said Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, via a release. “Being able to seamlessly move between cars, buses, trains and e-bikes and react to changing traffic situations can make a big difference both for commuters and for those delivering goods, services and healthcare.”

Ford is also showcasing its Info Cycle experiment for the first time in Europe at Mobile World Congress. The open-source research initiative is designed to gather information about e-bikes and traditional bikes and how they are used in different urban environments. A sensor box on the frame of the bike collects data such as wheel speed, acceleration, weather and altitude. Ford hopes Info Cycle can ultimately help improve communication between bicycles and vehicles for better safety, as well as improve maps, facilitate better route planning and even provide real-time information about community-based services during a biker’s journey.

It’s all part of Ford’s Smart Mobility plan, which aims to “change the way the world moves through innovation in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience and big data,” according to a release. Twenty-five experiments were announced as part of the plan at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January in Las Vegas. There are now experiments taking place in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, and South America.

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