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Image: Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid

Bio-Hybrid GmbH, a spin-off from the Schaeffler Group, is launching its urban micro-mobility vehicles at CES, Las Vegas, next month. The electric-assist four-wheeled pedelecs will be offered in cargo and passenger forms – and though Bio-Hybrid suggests that they are for private transportation, they are kitted out with wifi, GPS, Bluetooth and 4G, which could suit integration into public or on-demand services.

Professor Tim Hosenfeldt, senior VP for technology strategy and innovation at Schaeffler, said in a statement: “Smartphones and smartwatches are integrated in the concept, so in the future, it will be possible to control extended functions and smart features via a dedicated Bio-Hybrid app and make life easier for the operator. Our vision is to launch the ‘iPhone in the field of pedelecs’ on the market.”

While pedelecs and rickshaw-type vehicles have long been operated in developing regions, Schaeffler’s investment in this area marks an interest in such solutions for Western regions, digitally-enhanced and electrically-assisted. Gerard Vollnhals, project manager, explained: “A central aim is to prevent the impending total gridlock in big cities and to make them more pedestrian-focused and liveable. This can only be achieved by de-conflicting traffic by means of new, intelligent vehicle concepts. An approach like this requires vehicles that, in a connected and systematically shared environment, attain high flexibility while minimizing the need for space.”

A market launch is planned for 2020, and Bio-Hybrid points out that, besides the load-carrying and two-seater versions, the modular body allows for the fitment of refrigerated boxes, locked stowage compartments – or mobile coffee machines. In most countries, it will not require registration or a driver’s licence to operate, and can potentially be driven on bicycle lanes; it travels at up to 25km/h.

The Bio-Hybrid also marks Schaeffler’s strategy to transform itself as a supplier, moving into developing proprietary mobility solutions and full vehicle concepts. Its other CES exhibits will include Mover, a space-saving, connected module for small and potentially autonomous vehicles, comprising wheel, motor-drive and suspension components plus the Schaeffler Paravan ‘Space Drive’ drive-by-wire technology.