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Forays into the physical with thoughts on industrial design from frog's product design team.

frog eBike 2012

Ever since the birth of the bicycle nearly two hundred years ago, designers, builders, and manufacturers have been inspired to evolve this two-wheeled mode of transportation. The motorcycle developed as an offshoot, and it too continues evolving through inspired technological advancement. Today we are facing the normalization of electric vehicles, and are looking at this technology to once again create a distinctive influence on state of two-wheeled transportation design. The introduction of new technologies often serves as an impetus for industrial designers to rethink the design of familiar archetypes.

The fossil fuel powered motorcycles we know today are composed of many complex systems: a combustion motor includes an engine block, intake valves, valve covers, pistons, connecting rods, spark plugs, etc. Then, a transmission: a crankshaft, input shaft, barrel shaft, a clutch, many, many gears, etc. There is also the final drive, the fuel system, and other miscellaneous systems.  Performance-perfect assembly of these many components is a painstaking process, and requires a rigorous schedule of maintenance. This can be a pleasurable form of art for some, but for many others it is a barrier to actually riding the bike. Electric drive systems are changing all this, and are redefining the industry and motorcycle culture as a whole. By eliminating the combustion engine, we lose mechanical complexity. The bike becomes less complicated, and the design can become more expressive.

Inspired by this heritage of motorcycle design (including frog’s own 1985 frog FZ750 Rana concept), and the promise of new electric vehicle technologies, I have designed a provocative new concept electric motorcycle.

The overriding expression I aimed to capture is the resulting visual impact of the electric motor replacing the traditional combustion engine and its related systems. The large mass of the combustion engine, formerly a defining feature of a motorcycles profile, is now a symbolic void. The new electric motor’s copper coils moved inside a hubless rear wheel, at once streamlining the motorcycles composition and providing for a highly efficient and direct transmission of power. I was very conscious about retaining the emotional impact of the iconic motorcycle silhouette however, and as such repurposed the bulky volume formerly known as the gas tank. It has become an ergonomic affordance for the rider, a support underneath and in front of the rider hugging his or her bike at great speeds. This design element provides a continuous formal transition from the back of the seat to the front of the instrument cluster and down around the void, transforming into the new location for the bikes fuel: the batteries. The entire bottom chassis is dedicated to storing battery cells. This location lowers the bikes center of gravity, creating an extremely stable ride. Because the motorcycle’s speed is controlled directly by the power to the electric motor, virtually all other major mechanical components of a traditional motorcycle are no longer required.  Fly-by-wire steering, full OLED digital instrument panel, full time connection to the cloud, and a helmet with heads-up display and retina tracking complete the trip into concept territory. Let’s ride!

Love what you make. Make what you love.