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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