BMW has recently presented two e-bike designs. There are tons of gee-whiz claims in the announcements, which are easy to make when things only exist on paper and not on roads. One idea that stood out to me was geofencing, which can be used to reduce e-bike speeds in congested areas. This is especially true since BMW already has a geofencing solution in place throughout Europe.
At least in Europe, e-bikes that are fast, known as speed-pedelecs, or Class 3 ebikes in the US, can travel 45km/h (28mph) just like BMW's new concept bikes, The BMW i Vision AMBY, and BMW Motorrad Vision AMBY.
BMW views the i Vision as a pedal-assisted ebike with a huge 2,000Wh battery. This fast-charging, naturally, gives it a range up to 300km (186 miles). Motorrad Vision would, however, have a throttle and footrests similar to a traditional motorcycle. Each would be able to travel at three speeds depending on the road conditions. 25km/h (15.5mph), on bike paths; up to 45km/h (28.5mph) on roads within cities; 60km/h (36.7mph) for multi-lane roads outside the city. A proximity radar system would be installed on the bikes to warn the rider if a vehicle is approaching from the rear.
These vehicles are concepts at the moment. What is interesting about BMW's geofencing speed enforcement, however? S-pedelecs like the Stromer ST2 that I reviewed recently are unsafe for protected bike trails in cities like Amsterdam. This forces riders onto busy streets alongside aggressive taxis and, let's face it, some entitled BMW drivers who think no one else knows how to drive. S-pedelec riders can adjust their speed to ride alongside regular bicycles. However, some don't, creating an unsafe gap. Geofencing could help.
BMW has all the necessary tools to make it a reality
BMW already uses this solution in its cars. The so-called eDrives Zones of BMW communicate with the company's newer plug-in hybrids and automatically switch the cars to all-electric driving mode when they enter certain areas marked as low-emission zones. This works with the geofencing technology in BMW's GPS navigation system. The eDrive Zones were initially deployed in four Dutch cities, before being expanded to around 80 European cities.
It's no wonder that geofencing is so important in these AMBY ideas: BMW already has all the necessary resources to make this a reality for electric bikes.
Geofencing would limit power delivery to Spedelec pedals in the city limits. This would allow these fast ebikes to be returned to the protected bike paths. This would encourage the use of S-pedelecs for long commutes between the city and home. This would allow European cities to achieve the environmental goals that led them to create low-emission zones.
The current laws do not allow for speed modulation in light electric vehicles. BMW acknowledged this when it presented the concepts.
The AMBY Vision Vehicles were created to create a legal framework that would allow for the construction of a vehicle with modular speed concepts.
A great concept can spark a conversation. BMW certainly has done that, if nothing else. Let's hope that regulators and city planners pay attention.