Greenbikes - Art Center moves on!

It has almost been a year since GCD featured Professor Lim and his innovative ‘first of its kind’ Motorcycle Design Class at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Once again GCD gets an exclusive peak at the fruits of a years experience and a fresh new group of imaginators! This time the project brief was green in reverse. Instead of asking the students to design a vehicle with green technology stuck inside Prof. Lim asked them to consider what form should a motorcycle take when it offers clean, quiet and instant power delivery – in other words what should the future greenbike look like and do? The students set out to find the ideal use of a new environmentally friendly powertrain that could WOW! people with its undiscovered potential and benefits.

Breaking the mold has never been a problem for Prof. Lim, but what interests him the most is how to make people believe in the possibility, in the advantage, of going off that beaten path. No matter how much consumers may embrace new ideas in theory they rarely take to them in reality. It is therefore imperative for his students to make their dreams as believable as possible, even when they are as crazy as a wearable motorcycle !

With hindsight now in his pocket GCD asked Prof. Lim a few growing pains questions to see what this innovator in the field has learned over the past year.

GCD : What have you learned in the year since your class started?

Lim : My class kicks off with broad and in-depth discussion about what it takes to move one person around town. We don’t just jump onto designing motorcycles and other vehicles, we look at what cars and motorcycles of today can and can’t do. Then I realized that we as car designers simply have been ignoring the core of personal mobility, it’s all about moving point A to B. We often overlook the fact that it doesn’t take too much to move a person around. We don’t really need near 2 tonnes of steel and V-12 engines that make 6-700 Horse Power, do we? We approached the design concept as if cars and motorcycles didn’t exist. So, what have I learned? Well, I learned that we, car designers, really need to look at solving mobility issues. I was too caught up designing something that didn’t really solve anything; I was adding to the problem. It is all about mobility.

GCD : What has been the reaction of the school to your program?

Lim : It has been great! I have a full support from the department. We now have a permanent display wall for my class works. But most importantly I brought a different perspective to the transportation design department at Art Center. Now my students look beyond cars in the transportation world.

GCD : What are your plans for next year’s class?

Lim : I’d like to take my class to the next level which will cover a broad range of personal mobility. I started out with the goal of designing vehicles that really provide mobility solutions. I am contemplating the idea of modifying the title of my class to ‘Personal Mobility Class’ next year and start designing beyond vehicles such as urban planning, infrastructure and systems that can allow small, efficient and green vehicles. Also I hope to take my students’ designs one step closer to realization. At Art Center we’ve been doing design proposals that stop at scale model, I’d like to take it to a further stage – running prototype. It takes a lot of work and budget.

GCD : Do you have the support of any green technology companies?

Lim : That will be the next thing. As I mentioned earlier I hope to take the design to prototype, to do so support from industry is crucial. We have lots of design studios and green technology companies in Southern California to start with and also green technology is one of the fastest growing fields in automotive technology throughout the world. I am looking forward to working with them in the future.

We played with ‘Lego’ to build out concept first to see how it’s going to work and what proportions were going to be like...

One look at this year’s projects tells the progress the students have made in just one year. The end products are innovative and applicable to real life needs of ‘mobility’ as Prof. Lim explained. Not only do the greenbikes take you from A to B, they take you beyond. Chan Park’s Janus will drive you straight to your desk, Sean Whang’s Backpacker can be partly worn, and Tim Huntzinger’s Quadriga takes electric power to the extreme.

First up is Chan Park, aged 31 and from Seoul, Korea, he is currently a 7th term Transportation Design student at Art Center having recently finished an internship at Hot Wheels. His proposal, Janus, named after the god of gates and doors, beginnings and endings, is a dual mode electric scooter that has two faces – one for outdoors and one for indoors. The focus of the project was how to maximize the advantages of quiet and clean electric power unit…"why not use it indoors as well?!". All the polluting and noxious fumes that emanate from a bike are eliminated once you convert to electric power thus allowing this vehicle to move easily between outer and internal spaces. The design then came down to solving the space issue; a regular bike cannot transition easily into smaller interiors, so designer Park decided the greenbike needed to be shorter and slower than normal. By folding it Janus gets shorter and also rides higher and faces the opposite of that when it is outdoors. Likewise the handle bar used outdoor for riding then becomes a back-rest inside…you can ride right up to your desk.

Next, Sean Whang, aged 29 from Seattle, Washington, is an 8th term Transportation Design student currently working at Samsung Design LA. His project, Backpacker, is a backpack integrated urban scooter inspired by his experiences of riding in Taiwan. When he didn’t have a secure place for all his gadgets he thought that a secure and detachable cargo pack was essential. This idea really tackles the problems about moving around our increasingly complex urban jungles and juggling our increasing complicated lifestyles, Backpacker aims to please visually and practically. Slick and smooth, with no old school ‘slow’ scooter visuals in sight the Backpacker looks cool. A totally new architecture for this kind of vehicle is achieved by the mere shift to a new and cleaner technology. By using a battery pack with an in-wheel motor it allows for a smaller powertrain which in turn opens up the available space on the bike allowing for more cargo. For urban commuters who carry valuable gadgets like laptops and infotainment the backpack part not only keeps the items safe onboard but the casing can be removed and worn as a backpack for added safety.

Last of the trio is Tim Huntzinger, aged 32 and from Frederickburg, Virginia, he is completing a Master of Science from Art Center this year. His ambitious proposal Quadriga addresses the age old adage that bikers have a need for speed! Not only has he broken the cardinal rule of petrol power by switching to electric power but he has also added two more wheels. Reminiscent of Dodge’s Tomahawk V-10 based motorcycle concept from the 2003 Detroit Motor Show it’s all about show…but this time eco show, not ego! As in the Tomahawk concept the 4 wheels are there to handle the power, accelerated turning, and to increase leaning, all essential elements of pure sports riding. It proudly displays the battery cells as its power source without an iota of guilt. Electric motors offer instant and flat torque curve best suited for sports bikes. The Quadriga is not a compromise on any level. It allows guilt-free sports riding with the added benefits of safety back support harness that almost look like exo-skeletal protection.