Piaggio’s Wi-Bike Hits The Big Apple
The Smallest Carbon Footprint Short Of Walkingby TJ Hinton, on
As the EV sector expands ever upwards into more powerful car and motorcycle designs, there is also a concurrent growth down the foodchain as well. Piaggio’s Wi-Bike borrowed the efficient electric motor technology and power-storage systems, then miniaturized it for use on what has got to be the most basic form of transportation this side of the two-foot express. That’s right, the humble bicycle that has traditionally been a sweat-powered form of transportation is jumping into the EV mix, and the results are rather remarkable. It isn’t a scooter and it isn’t a motorcycle — although it is a cycle with a motor — but it is a small-carbon-footprint ride, just the kind that Millienials are looking for.
Continue reading for more on the Piaggio Wi-Bike.
What’s The Buzz?
Piaggio really outdid itself here. Don’t believe it? Let’s start with the mundane facets first. An all-aluminum frame forms the standing rig, and houses the lithium-ion battery and electric motor. This leaves the Wi with a well-designed look that inspires confidence as there is nothing that looks like an afterthought on the whole assembly. The overall look is almost mountain bike-ish with large, fendered wheels and what we would call drag-style handlebars in the motorcycle field.
True to its name, the Wi can be propelled entirely by foot power, and there is no operational mode that removes the need for pedal power, so at no point can this ride operate as an electric motorcycle. Power is conveyed to the rear wheel via belt drive rather than the old greasy chain. Mechanical disc brakes slow the thing via hand levers, but unlike many top-end bikes nowadays, there is no suspension beyond the give in the tires.
Now for the sexy stuff. Power deliver is available in three modes; Standard mode matches pedal effort pound-for-pound. City mode gives you a boost to help you come out of the hole, and Hill mode brings the power on uphill grades while throttling back for the down gradient. All of this is controlled by a little touchscreen device that looks a lot like a smartphone, and the rider has but to remove the device to immobilize the electric functions. GPS navigation, heart-rate monitoring and more comes built in, as does a security system that acts as a tattler to allow you to track down your bike, and the rat-bastard who took it, via satellite. Pure-D awesomesauce!
The pilot program is slated to hit two Piaggio dealerships — one in Brooklyn and another in Manhattan — and the initial price looks to be right at the three-grand mark. Yeah, that may be a little on the proud side for a bicycle, but this is no common bike. The factory touts the zero-carbon output, but I submit it’s really a displaced-carbon machine; the electricity has to come from somewhere, and unless it’s from a nuke or some green, renewable source, you’re still looking at a contribution to the greenhouse gasses, even if just a little bit. Meh, can’t have everything (yet), and this is definitely a step in the right direction.