Kickstarting: IDEO's Ultra-Elegant, Retro-Cool Electric Bike

It may be charged with a state-of-the art lithium battery, but Faraday Porteur looks like your grandfather’s Schwinn.

This is part of a series highlighting notable entries from our Innovation By Design Awards.—Ed.

In the past, electric bikes were heavy, chunky things that resembled scooters more than svelte road bikes. But that’s changing with a wave of stylish rides that merge Schwinn’s classic good looks with advanced battery technology. The latest example is a charmingly retro utility from Faraday that offers pedal assist powered by a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery, automatic front and tail LED lights, a removable rack, and stitched leather details.

The Faraday Porteur was originally a joint project of IDEO designers and the frame-builder Rock Lobster for the Oregon Manifest Challenge, where it won the People’s Choice award. Spurred by the enthusiasm for the bike, a member of the IDEO team, Adam Vollner, left his day job to launch Faraday Bicycles, which is now offering its first run on Kickstarter. (The company has already raised close to 90% of its $100,000 target with 17 days to go.) "Until now," Faraday writes, "no electric bike has come close to delivering the timeless style and delightful ride that makes each and every one of us love riding a bicycle."

And it eliminates everything you don’t like about riding a bicycle: the struggle up steep hills and the resulting sweat that turns your well-pressed work clothes into a soggy mess. Simply hop on and flick the handlebar thumb switch to "on"; built-in sensors measure how hard you’re pedaling, and the electric motor kicks in to supplement your own output. To get the full workout or conserve battery life, change the switch to "off," and you’ve got an ordinary, manual bike. Conversely, for an effortless ride, the "boost" mode provides 15 miles of turbocharged cruising. (An e-ink display on the controller indicates battery strength.)

The Porteur also sports a practical front-mounted rack for transporting hauls up to 30 pounds; it can also be removed easily to lighten your load. The integrated LED headlights and taillights are controlled by an ambient light sensor, so they automatically turn on at dusk, just like car lights. And recharging the battery is as simple as plugging it into a standard socket for 45 minutes. The Faraday Porteur is available in three sizes, "to fit riders of all shapes and sizes." But all those seamlessly integrated bells and whistles will cost you—$3,500, to be exact, putting it at the very top of a steep price hill.

Pre-order yours here.

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  • dv

    I have an electric bike. I bought it in Beijing 8 months ago. It goes 50km/hr, for 70km, costs US$500 & you don't have to pedal. 

    For $3500, I could have SEVEN of these ridiculous fashion statements... That's one for every day of the week. 

    China sucks, but this pricing is absurd. 

  • Jacob Katz

    Form should serve substance, not surpass it. The bike is inefficient and silly. You will look like an ignorant dweeb who values appearance over money or common sense if you buy this bike.

  • Biker Shorts

    If you're building a bike that's efficient to drive, why would you build it as heavy as possible? This thing is unnecessarily built like a tank, with a two full diameter top tubes. I'll leave aside whether that's aesthetically pleasing or not -- that's a subjective call -- but objectively that adds unnecessary weight.

  • gbacoder

    Not so, the diameter of the tubes is narrow. And also they use top quality steel tubing, probably Reynolds 853 or something similar. I've got a steel bike made by rock lobster of similar dimensions, if not bigger, and it is really light. The extra tubs helps house the battery. 

  • Bob Jacobson

    No Schwinn ever looked like that.  Schwinn's were bulky with fat tires.  This bike's geometry and fittings are elegant.  Bravo.  Now when does it come to market at a price that people who don't otherwise drive BMW's, Mercedes, and Lexus sedans can afford?  It doesn't do much good for the environment or our species' survival if a few thousand people drive this bike (if that many).  So what's the point?  To satisfy design ego?  To appear in articles like this one?  Hoorah.

  • LoveDesign

    To make this bicycle even more elegant, design a way to capture motion to recharge the batteries while you are riding. They can do it with a Prius, why not a bike? Nice job.

  • woodinhills

     It's called regenerative braking, pal, and works to charge batts when rolling downhill, under gravity.

  • Mark Strong

    15 MINUTES ???  For $3,500 ???  let me know when it will go for a couple of hours, also I'm starting to prefer "girl's bike design as it's easier (WAY EASIER) to get on and off.

  • Phunken

    Because a system like Prius 'Series' Synergy Drive require big heavy battery system. KERS system like F1 cars still need large battery... So thats not really efficient to lug around by human power.

  • enginerd

    They've had that for quite some time. Pads on the bike would charge the lights on the front and back of it. It never really worked out because you want all your power going into the propulsion of the bike. Priuses regenerate on braking, as does EVERY car out there. The big innovation was being able to do that a little more efficiently and storing them in big batteries (as opposed to a standard car battery) and then using that with an electric motor coupled with the internal combustion motor.

    Bikes could do that but they hardly brake and their momentum is a fraction of the momentum of a car. The equipment to regenerate the electricity would literally outweigh the benefits you could get from it.

  • Writer Dave

    That is an indelibly hideous e-bike, and ridiculously overpriced to boot.

  • Guest

    Great article! Adam's last name is mis-spelled, though-- it should be "Vollmer."  I'm a huge fan of this project. Can't wait to see the Porteur in person.