An inflatable e-bike

In order to create a portable e-bike, researchers of the University of Tokyo developed “soft mobility”, a new type of personal mobility made of soft, lightweight and inflatable materials, and their prototype Poimo (POrtable and Inflatable MObility) as proof of concept.

Poimo is intended for short commutes after travelling with for example public transportation, to cover the final distance to work or home. The e-bike consists of a pneumatic inflatable soft body of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) fabric with the drop stitch inside, and motor-driven wheels. The structure of the drop stitch fabric allows the creation of a flat surface, thanks to the fibres connecting the opposing surfaces. Additionally, the fabric is lightweight. The body was made by cutting out the parts and gluing them together. Hinges were created by sewing air chambers, working as steering.

The locomotion of Poimo is controlled by the small in-wheel motor at the bottom of the inflatable body. The drive can be remove to aid in portability The total weight of the bike prototype was 7.8 kg (17.2 lbs).

According to the researchers, “the soft, pneumatic body introduced new possibilities for mobility, such as easy and integrated fabrication of the body, steering, and shock absorption. […] We hope our technique will potentially change the experience of not only how we ride on mobility but also how we work, live, or enjoy.”

Photos: University of Tokyo