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What gadgets can we use in the future to conveniently cover short distances? And how does that feel? Schaeffler intern Michelle Biegel tested an electric skateboard for “tomorrow.”

by Michelle Biegel

“How are we going to travel in 20, 30 or 40 years from now? Probably not as often as today in a privately owned car. I can imagine that we’re going to use clean and fast buses and trains. But who likes to walk home from a bus stop? Or from the subway station to the office? No doubt, there’ll be modern technical assistants for this. Companies, today, are already experimenting with solutions for the inconvenient last meters, often referred to by experts as the ‘the last mile.’ At the moment, only few people make traveling short distances easier for themselves by using bicycles or pedelecs. Even muscle-powered scooters or kickboards we remember as loyal everyday heroes from our childhood days are rarely seen in the city. So, for my ‘tomorrow’ field test, I went looking for a cool and practical electrical means of transportation for the ‘last mile.’

 

An assistant must be light and practical

 

The arguably best-known ones such as a bicycle with an electric motor, called a pedelec, or a Segway for instance are no options for me: too big and too heavy. A monowheel, which is practically a compact Segway, was not an appropriate choice either due to its looks and acrobatic demands. You don’t want to look totally ridiculous on your way to work, do you?

 

Factors like battery range and weight of the device – after all, it has to be carried up to the fourth floor, into the train and to the office – played a crucial part in the selection as well. So, electric skateboards are a smart solution: four wheels, compact size and acceptable weight. Therefore, for the ‘tomorrow’ field test, I opted for the E-GO2 model from Yuneec in the UK. It offers a 400-watt motor plus continuously variable remote-controlled speed using two riding modes and adjustable axles.”

 

The market for e-bikes is booming. Between 2009 and 2015, sales in Germany went up by 350 percent. Smaller electric vehicles are still having difficulties in the marketplace, not least because the law prohibits their use in many places, as in Michelle’s case. E-boards are not allowed in Germany. Legally, they’re classified as motor vehicles, but may not be used on roads because they’re neither insured nor have a license plate or lights. Their use on sidewalks is taboo as well because they reach speeds above 6 km/h. That’s why for the photo shoot Michelle was strictly riding the board on private property and in blocked off areas. But a technology the use of which is currently a punishable offense may turn into a technology of the future because, as the desire for mobility grows, so does the pressure on legislators. An initial step was taken with the Segways. For years, their use required a special permit, but now they’re classified as motorized cycles and may be used with a license plate and insurance coverage.

A vehicle to
carry along

E-board even masters cobblestones

 

“I have great reservations about tackling the e-board challenge, being particularly awed by steering the board as an absolute rookie. And how am I going to cope with different types of road surfaces? Will I be able to reasonably steer and brake? My concerns are dispelled right during my first ride. After just a few trials, I’m able to ride the board. It’s agile, accelerates and brakes fast. However, you shouldn’t do this too fast either because falls on hard asphalt are not pleasant. My first impression: on the board, I’d move faster even through the crowded center of Frankfurt than on foot. When you arrive at the train station or can’t continue riding on stairs or at other obstacles you just tuck the light 6.3-kilogram board under your arm, which is difficult to do with heavy devices like the Segway, a pedelec or even a monowheel. On a wet ground in rain, acceleration is a little more difficult and you should be careful when braking as well. I particularly like the fact that, thanks to the large, 90-millimeter wheels, you can easily ride over smaller curbs and cobblestones without having to get on and off the board all the time.”

 

Talking about accessibility: not only people in wheelchairs and mothers with baby buggies benefit from leveled sidewalks and wheelchair ramps, but so would anyone wishing to use a modern board like this in the city.

 

“I’m not totally happy with the e-board. The thing that’s particularly annoying is having only one hand free. While riding, you’re holding the remote control in your hand and while shopping or boarding a train, you tuck the board under your arm because you can’t just leave and lock it like a bicycle. But the battery lasts for 30 kilometers, so you rarely need to stop for charging. Quite to the contrary, my E-GO2 also serves as a charging station in the event that my smartphone battery goes dead while I’m out riding the board.”

 

First, there’s a demand for a technology and then its fine-tuning follows. Anyone who bought a cell phone in the 90s had to lug a device the size of a briefcase around. The situation with e-boards may be similar. Once gadgets like these are permitted and spreading, lighter and smaller ­models might follow, as well as useful accessories such as mini locks, carrying straps and controls using smartphone apps as well as a corresponding infrastructure with parking places and charging stations.

 

“I find it particularly amusing that I’m constantly approached by interested people of all ages. Because you can rarely see such an e-skateboard in Germany people want to know more about it and you get into convers­ations with them. So that’s another advantage that makes train rides more pleasant as long as these devices aren’t widely used yet. My conclusion about the e-skateboard is positive. I figured out that the time I need to walk to work is cut in half. It’s a sensible alternative below the level of bicycles or scooters. Plus, there’s another thing I shouldn’t forget to mention: it’s huge fun.”

The author

The last mile in mobility

by Denis Dilba

 

Companies that come up with efficient solutions for the last segment from the final stop of a train or bus to the traveler’s destination or from the parcel delivery center to the customer will secure a share in a market worth billions.

 

The term “last mile” was coined by the information and telecommunications technology sector. It describes the last segment of the internet line from the junction box to the user’s house, which often still consists of an old copper line and, as a result, slows down communication at gigabyte-speed on fiberoptic cables. The mobility world faces similar issues. While buses, trains or planes today largely guarantee reliable and fast connections in the city and in rural regions, the last mile from the last stop to the traveler’s final destination is a bottleneck in this case as well. Walking only works well with little luggage, plenty of time, an umbrella or at least halfway decent weather. And those who don’t mind paying for a taxi will at least have to contend with an additional waiting period or meticulously plan their trip by ordering a taxi in advance and then hope to arrive on time.

 

The alternative to public transportation, a privately owned vehicle, doesn’t provide any advantages in urban areas today: acute lack of parking places, driving bans and traffic jams slow down personal mobility and often just shift the “last-mile” problem from the final bus or train stop to the respective parking place. Car sharing services like car2go or DriveNow and bike rental stations at bus stops or train stations are approaches to a solution, but not optimally suited for every need. That’s why nearly every company that’s active in the mobility sector is currently working on elegant solutions. In development, for instance, are futuristic vehicles that require little parking space and can be rented like bicycles at bus stops or train stations. Others are favoring so-called “Personal Light Electric Vehicles” (PLEV).

 

PLEVs are small vehicles like electric kickboards, e-longboards or rolling mini platforms such as CarrE by Ford. It can either carry people or luggage and be taken along in a car without taking up a lot of space. To the logistics sector, the last mile poses an even greater challenge. A company that pioneers a solution which simplifies the time-consuming and costly deliveries by trucks or vans and minimizes wrong deliveries will have access to a market worth billions. As a result, the competition in this sector is in full swing, with drones, autonomous mini robots and cargo bikes with electric motors battling for market share. In the future, however, according to estimates by experts like Christian Scherf, a technology sociologist at the Innovation Center for Mobility and Social Change in Berlin, the concept of the last mile could gradually disappear, as absolutely safe and organized automated driving – be it vans or passenger vehicles – could be playing a major part in this scenario. Logistics and local transit would then be possible in more efficient and safer ways than ever.

 

E-board from Schaeffler

At CES in Las Vegas in January 2017, Schaeffler is showcasing an electric kickboard. With two axles and a comfortably sized board area, it resembles a skateboard. Integrated in the board area is a battery that provides propulsion via an electric motor at the rear axle. The kickboard is steered via a stick with an ergonomically shaped handle. As a solution for the last mile, it’s intended to make it easier for people to use public transportation and car sharing services in urban areas.

… in the Pipeline

Auto on Demand

The Danish Spiri project is reinventing the taxi. The light vehicles weighing 750 kilograms feature an innovative design and are energy-efficient, comfortable, self-driving and low-cost. The future vision: just hail a Spiri by means of an app and have it take you to the office. The pilot project will kick off in 2017.

Moving sidewalk

The Motowalk from Imaginactive can move larger crowds in business districts and city centers, and is more flexible and efficient than bus shuttles or trains. Similar moving walkways are already being used at airports.

Electronic butler

The self-driving robots from Starship are intended to revolutionize local deliveries. Within a radius of five kilometers the rolling assistant picks up purchases at stores and delivers them to the owner’s doorstep. Or it can be taken along for shopping to carry the bags.

High-flyer

Since 2015, the Swiss Postal Service has been running tests with drones. A maximum load of five kilograms can be transported at a speed of 60 km/h across a 20-kilometer distance. In 2017, DHL will be launching a commercial drone project in Switzerland.

The author

Michelle Biegel, an intern in Schaeffler’s Aftermarket division, privately uses a pedelec. New mobility impressions are awaiting the 18-year-old in 2017 when she goes to Australia for work and travel.

Photo credits Michael Kunkel, Schaeffler, factories

Experience more technology with Schaeffler. Click here …

Good to know

New fuels

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Fossil fuels will be facing competition from the chemical and bio labs

Facts, figures, oddities – a 360-degree panoramic view of the wide-ranging topic of “energy”

Shaping mobility for tomorrow is a complex task. Many players have to team up to master it

The online version of Schaeffler’s technology magazine

A vehicle to
carry along

A vehicle to carry along

“How are we going to travel in 20, 30 or 40 years from now? Probably not as often as today in a privately owned car. I can imagine that we’re going to use clean and fast buses and trains. But who likes to walk home from a bus stop? Or from the subway station to the office? No doubt, there’ll be modern technical assistants for this. Companies, today, are already experimenting with solutions for the inconvenient last meters, often referred to by experts as the ‘the last mile.’ At the moment, only few people make traveling short distances easier for themselves by using bicycles or pedelecs. Even muscle-powered scooters or kickboards we remember as loyal everyday heroes from our childhood days are rarely seen in the city. So, for my ‘tomorrow’ field test, I went looking for a cool and practical electrical means of transportation for the ‘last mile.’

 

An assistant must be light and practical

 

The arguably best-known ones such as a bicycle with an electric motor, called a pedelec, or a Segway for instance are no options for me: too big and too heavy. A monowheel, which is practically a compact Segway, was not an appropriate choice either due to its looks and acrobatic demands. You don’t want to look totally ridiculous on your way to work, do you?

 

Factors like battery range and weight of the device – after all, it has to be carried up to the fourth floor, into the train and to the office – played a crucial part in the selection as well. So, electric skateboards are a smart solution: four wheels, compact size and acceptable weight. Therefore, for the ‘tomorrow’ field test, I opted for the E-GO2 model from Yuneec in the UK. It offers a 400-watt motor plus continuously variable remote-controlled speed using two riding modes and adjustable axles.”

 

The market for e-bikes is booming. Between 2009 and 2015, sales in Germany went up by 350 percent. Smaller electric vehicles are still having difficulties in the marketplace, not least because the law prohibits their use in many places, as in Michelle’s case. E-boards are not allowed in Germany. Legally, they’re classified as motor vehicles, but may not be used on roads because they’re neither insured nor have a license plate or lights. Their use on sidewalks is taboo as well because they reach speeds above 6 km/h. That’s why for the photo shoot Michelle was strictly riding the board on private property and in blocked off areas. But a technology the use of which is currently a punishable offense may turn into a technology of the future because, as the desire for mobility grows, so does the pressure on legislators. An initial step was taken with the Segways. For years, their use required a special permit, but now they’re classified as motorized cycles and may be used with a license plate and insurance coverage.

E-board even masters cobblestones

 

“I have great reservations about tackling the e-board challenge, being particularly awed by steering the board as an absolute rookie. And how am I going to cope with different types of road surfaces? Will I be able to reasonably steer and brake? My concerns are dispelled right during my first ride. After just a few trials, I’m able to ride the board. It’s agile, accelerates and brakes fast. However, you shouldn’t do this too fast either because falls on hard asphalt are not pleasant. My first impression: on the board, I’d move faster even through the crowded center of Frankfurt than on foot. When you arrive at the train station or can’t continue riding on stairs or at other obstacles you just tuck the light 6.3-kilogram board under your arm, which is difficult to do with heavy devices like the Segway, a pedelec or even a monowheel. On a wet ground in rain, acceleration is a little more difficult and you should be careful when braking as well. I particularly like the fact that, thanks to the large, 90-millimeter wheels, you can easily ride over smaller curbs and cobblestones without having to get on and off the board all the time.”

 

Talking about accessibility: not only people in wheelchairs and mothers with baby buggies benefit from leveled sidewalks and wheelchair ramps, but so would anyone wishing to use a modern board like this in the city.

 

“I’m not totally happy with the e-board. The thing that’s particularly annoying is having only one hand free. While riding, you’re holding the remote control in your hand and while shopping or boarding a train, you tuck the board under your arm because you can’t just leave and lock it like a bicycle. But the battery lasts for 30 kilometers, so you rarely need to stop for charging. Quite to the contrary, my E-GO2 also serves as a charging station in the event that my smartphone battery goes dead while I’m out riding the board.”

 

First, there’s a demand for a technology and then its fine-tuning follows. Anyone who bought a cell phone in the 90s had to lug a device the size of a briefcase around. The situation with e-boards may be similar. Once gadgets like these are permitted and spreading, lighter and smaller ­models might follow, as well as useful accessories such as mini locks, carrying straps and controls using smartphone apps as well as a corresponding infrastructure with parking places and charging stations.

 

“I find it particularly amusing that I’m constantly approached by interested people of all ages. Because you can rarely see such an e-skateboard in Germany people want to know more about it and you get into convers­ations with them. So that’s another advantage that makes train rides more pleasant as long as these devices aren’t widely used yet. My conclusion about the e-skateboard is positive. I figured out that the time I need to walk to work is cut in half. It’s a sensible alternative below the level of bicycles or scooters. Plus, there’s another thing I shouldn’t forget to mention: it’s huge fun.”

A vehicle to carry along