“Hyperloop” For Electric Bicycles

Many of us could bicycle to work, but we don’t. Why? Several reasons. Maybe it’s too far to pedal or it’s uphill part of the way. No one wants to get to the office looking like they just completed a leg of the Tour De France. Electric bicycles could solve both problems.

BMW thinks a stripped down version of Elon Musk’s Hyperloop idea would be a low cost way to make riding a bicycle to work fun, fast, and enjoyable. “It’s our Hyperloop,” Markus Seidel, head of the BMW Technology Office China, tells Automotive News. 

BMW calls its plan the E3 Way, named for the three words at its core — elevation, electrification, and efficiency. The system would even generate income. People could rent an e-bike or pay a toll charge that would be automatically billed via a cellphone app. The proposal results from a collaboration between the BMW advanced R&D center in Shanghai and Shanghai’s Tongji University, which helped with the structural elements.

BMW envisions modular tubes made in a factory to keep costs low, possibly with transparent covers so riders can see the world outside as they pedal along. The sections would be transported to the proper location, then raised into place and snapped together. The completed components could be suspended from or supported by existing transportation infrastructure, lowering costs still further.

Maximum speed inside the tube would be set at 15 miles per hour and rigorously enforced by electronic monitors. Digital controls at onramps could restrict entry when the system is at maximum capacity.

The whole dedicated weatherproof tunnel idea for electric bicycles is intended for journeys of 10 miles or less. Urban commuting by car or public transportation often operates at far less then 15 mph after accounting for congestion, traffic lights, and other impediments, which means getting in and out of cities can eat up hours of time that could be put to more productive use.

Less time commuting, health benefits, lowering of pollution from cars and buses, all with no drain on local or regional budgets? The BMW Hyperloop for electric bicycles sounds like it could be a smart step forward for many world cities.