E-bike design modernizes the penny-farthing bicycle

Nov. 5, 2013
BASF, a German chemical company that specializes in manufacturing plastics, has developed Concept 1865, an e-bike inspired by the design of a penny-farthing, a 148-year-old bicycle design.
BASF, a German chemical company that specializes in manufacturing plastics, has developed Concept 1865, an e-bike inspired by the design of a penny-farthing, a 148-year-old bicycle design. Under a project titled Rethinking Materials, most of the materials used on Concept 1865 are plastic except for the brakes, axles, and motor, which are metal. The e-bike has been prototyped and ready-to-ride with the following specs:  
  • Front wheel rim
    The rim is made of a combination of three continuous fiber-reinforced semi-finished composite materials. The package of thermoformed materials includes Ultralaminate, Ultratape, and Ultramid that are part of the Ultracom family. Ultralaminate is a thermoplastic laminate. The front rim’s features improve its strength, rigidity, and thermal stability. The thermoplastic rims, which are tough at low temperatures, have the potential to be an inexpensive alternative to metal rims.
  • Tires
    An expanded thermoplastic polyurethane (E-TPU) material called Infinergy is at the tire’s core. BASF developed the light durable material with adidas, another German company, which used the foam-like substance for the midsole of its Energy Boost running shoe. Infinergy is low-density, with elasticity that boosts the tire core’s resilience. Temperature stability and good tear resistance are additional benefits of E-TPU.

    The blue semi-transparent tire profile is made of Elastollan, BASF’s high-performance thermoplastic polyurethane. The material resists abrasion, cutting, and tearing. It lets the tire run well on tarmac surfaces, sand, or stone ground.
  • Crank
    The crank is made of glass fibers in the plastic (the Ultramid) and fiber-reinforced Ultramid D. Ultramid D lets the crank “stand up to” or “handle” compressive and tensile forces.
  • Pedals
    The pedals are Ultrason KR 4113, a high-performance plastic. Carbon fibers, graphite, and polytetra-fluoroethylene are incorporated into the pedal’s design. Low-wear maintenance-free bearings are also included in the pedals.  
  • Front and rear fork
    LEDs are built into both forks of the reinvented penny-farthing to help illuminate the rider’s path. Optical waveguides, made of aliphatic Elastollan, are inlaid in the Concept 1865’s two forks. The color and shape of the flexible Elastollan material can be customized.
  • Brake system
    The hoses are also Elastollan, which makes them wear-resistant and maintains the flexibility of their brake fluid. The transparent Elastollan allows the brake oil to be visible, especially in cases when bubbles form, which can impact brake behavior.
  • Grips
    The light, flexible foam core of the Elastofoam grips makes them comfortable to hold and able to resist abrasion. The surface of the grips can be decorated in the mold during production.
  • Accelerator grip cable
    The Elastollan cable sheathings protect the e-bike’s power and control cables. The accelerator cable looks similar to the brake hose, but the brake hose is stiffer.    
  • Fork core
    The fork core consists of a Kerdyn layer and an Elastolit D layer. Kerdyn is an extruded structural foam  based on polyethylene terephthalate and available in sheets or blocks. When applied in wind-turbine rotor blades, it withstands continuous static and heavy loads and strengthens the rotor blades over long periods. Elastolit D is a foam that doesn’t weigh much. The material spaces the fiber-reinforced laminate cover layers and ultimately makes the component more rigid. Other Elastolit D attributes include high temperature stability and adhesion to different cover layer materials.
  • Seat
    The seat can detach from the axle. When a spring-loaded slide is pulled at the rear, it unlocks and removes. The seat’s spring-like comfort is provided by Cellasto, a compact microcellular polyurethane also used in automotive applications, office chairs, or elevators where vibrations have to be absorbed or noise abated. The seat’s housing is rigid and BASF’s polybutylene terephthalate properties let it retain shape upon exposure to heat. BASF’s developers used Elastoflex W, a seating foam, for the seat’s cushion.
  • Battery insulation
    Neopolen P, an expanded polypropylene, insulates, houses, and protects the battery from vibration, impact, or temperature fluctuation. Polypropylene consists of closed-cell foam beads that can be processed in automatic processing equipment into a variety of moldings.
  • E-motor cover
    BASF has not yet released information about Concept 1865’s motor. However, the company has described the motor’s sleek housing, which is made of Ultramid B polyamide. A blue cap attached to the cover protects the motor from the environment. The advantage of Ultramid B is that it can be constructed with glass fibers and minerals. Flame-retardant versions are also available.

Click to read BASF’s full brochure.

About the Author

Richard Dryden

Richard Dryden is a writer with experience in print and online media as well as social media. He has contributed to Machine Design and Hydraulics & Pneumatics


Sponsored Recommendations

The entire spectrum of drive technology

June 5, 2024
Read exciting stories about all aspects of maxon drive technology in our magazine.


May 15, 2024
Production equipment is expensive and needs to be protected against input abnormalities such as voltage, current, frequency, and phase to stay online and in operation for the ...

Solenoid Valve Mechanics: Understanding Force Balance Equations

May 13, 2024
When evaluating a solenoid valve for a particular application, it is important to ensure that the valve can both remain in state and transition between its de-energized and fully...

Solenoid Valve Basics: What They Are, What They Do, and How They Work

May 13, 2024
A solenoid valve is an electromechanical device used to control the flow of a liquid or gas. It is comprised of two features: a solenoid and a valve. The solenoid is an electric...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!