Giving the humble bike an eco-friendly makeover

Sensemaking / Giving the humble bike an eco-friendly makeover

A bicycle made from recycled cardboard could bring cheap, fuel-efficient transport to millions of people around the world.

18 Dec 2012

A bicycle made from recycled cardboard could bring cheap, fuel-free transport to more people than ever before.

Israeli engineer Izhar Gafni’s creation is manufactured out of only $9 worth of recycled materials. The cardboard is strengthened through multiple folds to carry a weight of up to 220kg, and is both water- and flame-resistant, thanks to a coat of resin.

The company managing its commercial development, ERB, expects it to retail for $60-90 (depending on various add-ons, including an attachable electric motor), if made available through regular channels. ERB is in discussions with private investors, which, if successful, would bring three models to market in 2013. They include the Alpha, an adult bike weighing just 9kg; a smaller version, weighing just 3.5kg, and with a production price of $8, designed for children in rural areas who currently walk miles to school every day; and a balance bike, to help novices learn to ride.

ERB is also exploring ways to fund the distribution of the bikes in the developing world. Gafni’s hope is that local manufacture, creating new jobs for disadvantaged people, will help the product to attract incentives and grants.

For Shigeru Tanaka, Director of Engineering at product design and development firm Speck Design, however, it’s the creativity behind the product itself which could have the most significant impact, inspiring future innovation.

“Gafni embarked on his own journey to create his cardboard product, challenging conventional ideas around materials, transportation and engineering”, remarks Tanaka. “The cardboard bike may get people thinking about possibilities and solutions beyond what is available today.”

The lifespan of the product, and any plans for its after-life, are still in question, but Gafni expects it to withstand at least two rainy winters. – Elly Earls

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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