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ENVIRONMENT

Berlin motorcycle inventor puts the human in hybrids

Who says green vehicles can’t be cool? A Berlin-based inventor has created a “human-hybrid” cycle combining a zippy electric motor with pedal power. Andrew Mach takes the eRockit out for a spin.

Berlin motorcycle inventor puts the human in hybrids
Photo: DPA

It’s been seven years in the making, but Stefan Gulas believes his creation’s time has finally come.

The lanky 38-year-old Austrian has managed to meld slick biker styling with cycling sensibility in the latest version of what he’s dubbed the eRockit – a pedal-powered bolt of lightning on wheels.

“The idea was to build a machine like a motorcycle, which can out-accelerate cars,” Gulas told The Local during recent test ride in Berlin. “It’s our own system. It’s a new technology not implemented anywhere.”

Formed in late 2004, his now 12-man company builds a variety of bikes, mixing the asthetics of a motorcycle with a battery motor and adding bicycle pedals to come up with a totally unique two-wheeled vehicle. Powered by electricity, the “human-hybrid” still relies on pedalling to propel it forward at speeds of up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour.

“We’ve tried to keep the character of a bike,” said Gulas. “Something that’s electric, that’s cool and sexy that people want to ride – that was the driving force.”

Despite its powerhouse performance, the eRockit otherwise behaves exactly like a regular bicycle. The rider must pedal to accelerate and brakes are located on both handlebars. But the 12-horsepower electric motor situated between the rider’s legs offers a “superhuman” sensation, according to Gulas.

“It feels like you’re riding a bike, so you always compare it to the speed you could go on a bicycle,” he explained, adding that easily passing cars “just keeps you smiling.”

No cheap thrill

But such thrills won’t come cheap. The newest model costs nearly €30,000, making it an expensive joy for those that can afford the firm’s handcrafted precision products. And Gulas makes no excuses for the high price tag.

“Our goal is not to decrease the cost, but rather to fully develop the concept of the human hybrid,” he said.

Instead, he suggested the lofty purchase ought to be seen as making a stylishly green statement. The zero-emission vehicle can travel a far as 80 kilometres on a single charge, which takes four hours plugged in at home.

“It’s very important that it is environmentally friendly,” said Gulas. “The ice caps are melting and yet, you boost your 500 horsepower. I don’t understand that,” he said, showing his frustration with the dominant driver credo of day.

“But people don’t want to drive boring things, so if it convinces people to convert to non-polluting vehicles because they are so attractive, it’s an added bonus.”

Though his firm will build only 15 bikes this year, Gulas predicts the eRockit’s “human-hybrid” model will become widespread in the next ten to 15 years.

But he doesn’t want his innovative baby to become cheap product for the masses, instead preferring to target “the high-end” market.

“We are the original,” said Gulas. “People will come to us.”

Check out a photo gallery of the eROCKIT

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.

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