field test in Portland last September,
will soon be available as a production bike.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)
Back in September, when the entries in the 2011 Oregon Manifest Design Challenge competition were revealed, one bike in particular caught my eye. It was the “Faraday” electric-assist bike built by a California-based team made up of design firm IDEO and bike company Rock Lobster.
With its drop-dead good looks (inspired by French porteur bikes from the 1940s and ’50s), functional utility features, and super e-tech wizardry, I went out on a limb and dubbed it the “best e-bike ever”. Today I learned that the bike has become the first ever Oregon Manifest entry to go become a full-fledged brand and go into production.
According to the Faraday Bikes website, the bike will be available for purchase on July 18th. I haven’t heard what the retail price will be, nor do I know who’s behind the brand; but to me, the larger significance is that this bike could catapult e-assist into the mainstream, and it was born at the Oregon Manifest.
If you haven’t noticed yet, electric assist is catching on in American cycling circles. For years, e-assist has toiled on the fringe, its requisite bulky battery packs attached to less-than cool bikes. But that’s starting to change. The technology behind e-bikes is developing quickly. The batteries are getting smaller, they’re lasting longer, and most importantly the bikes they’re being put on are getting cooler (and in America, something must be considered cool before it is adopted into the masses).
E-assist has proven its worth in the quickly growing cargo bike market (you have not lived until you’ve ridden a bakfiets or other big cargo bike with an e-motor) and I’m starting to see a lot more e-bikes on local bikeways from specialty brands like Kalkhoff and others.
The Faraday has clearly struck a nerve. A friend on Twitter today even used the word “sexy” to describe it. The company themselves calls it the “ultimate electric propelled utility bike” (a trademarked term). Word has it that Adam Vollmer, who lead the Faraday design team, has left his job at IDEO to launch the new company.
For the folks behind the Oregon Manifest event; the launch of the Faraday is great news. Their goal was to spur lasting innovations and design breakthroughs for utility bikes within the bike industry. A new bike company based on a bike from their event has to be considered the ultimate mark of success.
“To see a prototype with the breadth, nuance and consideration of the Faraday actually go to market is remarkable and gratifying,” said Manifest board member Shannon Holt today. “We’re incredibly proud to consider that we have sparked the birth of a bike that radicalized the perception of what an e-bike could be.”