Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This Hyper Cool Electric Scooter Is Made of Hemp and Glue

The materials used to construct the Be.e have similar properties to fiberglass. Hemp and flax fibers provide the strength while an Earth friendly resin acts as the binding agent.Photo: Waarmakers
At first glance, the Be.e scooter, invented by Dutch startup Van.eko, seems like a normal electric vehicle. It can go from 0-50 kph in seven seconds, has a 60-90km range, and its 2000-cycle battery can be fully charged using a standard 220V outlet in under four hours. Less common is a body made of hemp and flax fibers that have been impregnated with a biologically derived resin. Despite its unusual exterior, it’s safe to ride and robust enough to survive life in the city, all while maintaining plenty of environmental street cred.
This unusual manufacturing material cuts the carbon footprint of the already green vehicle while helping eliminate some of the 50 odd parts that have to be snapped, welded, or screwed together in traditional scooters. “In a nutshell;
There is a two-part shell, batteries, two wheels and some glue,” says Simon Akkaya, principal at Waarmakers, the design firm that developed the Be.e’s signature style. This structural approach is called monocoque, and the outer surface acts as the shell and supporting structure simultaneously
This is a common technique for fabricating Formula 1 Supercars, but it’s new to small-scale commuter vehicles. “It’s a design that proves that supporting structures in high-impact transportation products, commonly made from steel, can actually be replaced by sustainable natural fibers without losing strength or performance,” says Maarten Heijltjes, another Waarmakers employee. Aside from a few screws, bolts, and suspension fixtures, no metal parts had to be used for structural purposes.
The Be.e scooter utilizes cutting-edge manufacturing techniques, but the handmade saddle and old school headlamp give the scooter a retro feel — an intentional choice by the designers. “We believe that some anchor of past shapes and images can be helpful whenever radically new designs are introduced,” says Akkaya. “You’re tapping into collective subconsciousness and associating the shapes and forms with ‘known’ images, thus attributing meaning.”
The environmental benefits of the Be.e go beyond the body. Van.eko founder Vaniek Colenbrander developed the scooter to test “Cradle-to-Cradle” sustainability concepts, including how distribution alters the environmental impact.
Be.e Scooters won’t be sold, but instead rented on a weekly or monthly basis by customers Van.eko dubs “Be.eKeepers.” These beekeepers will be able to rent their bikes using an Airbnb-style website to “WannaBe.e’s.”
The hope is that just as honeybees pollinate crops, urban commuters will spread the world about the brand by riding and renting their bikes. “We are introducing a new form of mobility, taking the risk of ownership away from the end customer,” says Colenbrander. “The end-user is not just a customer anymore, he/she becomes it’s own little scooter renting business.”
The sharing concept makes the scooter available to everyone at a low lost, but because Van.eko owns the fleet, no one has to worry about purchasing a lemon. “If the product fails to perform, it’s our problem, not our customers.” says Colenbrander. The ownership model also allows Van.eko to refurbish used models. The company hopes to someday provide the highest raw-material efficiency per driven kilometer in the world. Pilot programs will start in Amsterdam at the beginning of 2014, and Colenbrander hopes to use the Be.e to pollinate his environmental mission in other European countries as quickly as possible.