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URB-E, or How to Ride a Battery to Work

URB-E, or How to Ride a Battery to Work

The URB-E -- a seriously compact, foldable bike/scooter battery-powered ride that supposedly will run for 20 miles -- looks cool and versatile for urban environments. Traditional bicycles, even foldable ones, are just not portable enough for commuters' last-mile situations, according to the URB-E developers. The URB-E is easy to take along on a bus or train.

By Chris Maxcer
02/13/14 2:30 PM PT

In any city or dense urban environment, getting around can be a hassle. Owning a car is expensive, and parking it can be a nightmare -- never mind actually driving it.

Enter URB-E, a new foldable electronic bike/scooter invention that brings the sit-down ride of a powered bicycle to the foldable kick scooters that children ride around suburban neighborhoods.

At just 27 pounds, the URB-E is something new. Imagine riding an upside-down "V" with handlebars and a seat. It has small wheels, disk brakes, and zooms along at up to 15 miles per hour for up to 20 miles on a single charge. It's designed by Ideapiphany, a small company that currently is offering it to early adopters via an Indiegogo funding campaign.

The key problem the URB-E solves is ease-of-use. It's designed to take urban commuters that "last mile" from where their public transportation ends to wherever it is that their work or home is located.

Riding a Battery

The front part of the URB-E is a set of narrow handle bars that fold and lock into place above the front wheel. The front wheel also includes pegs to rest your feet. The main body of the URB-E forms an upside-down V, the front of which houses a rectangular battery.

The back of the V supports a shock-absorbing seat, and the rear tires are just behind your backside, giving you a nimble and very short wheelbase in the shape of a very narrow tricycle.

There are two versions of the URB-E: the URB-E Commuter, which has two wheels in the back, giving it superior low-speed stability; and for the more adventurous set, the URB-E GP, which sports just one rear wheel, giving it much better high-speed agility. Plus, the developers say, it's just more fun to ride.

Both models have the same power specs -- a 36V 10Ah lithium ion battery with a 20-mile range and a three-hour charge time. The frame is powder-coated aircraft grade aluminum. The Commuter model uses a finger throttle assembly, while the GP version sports a grip twist throttle similar to a motorcycle.

Charge Your Smartphone While You Ride

One surprising-yet-obvious innovation is a universal smartphone holder that will let you charge your smartphone while you ride. An external USB plug will let you charge other devices as well, with the ample battery pack. The URB-E team is developing an app for iOS and Android that will let you monitor battery charge, range, speed and navigation.

Overall, the design has options for grey, white, green, gold or black, with a variety of bright accent colors.

Pledge Options

The URB-E funding period ends March 21, with a goal of $150,000. Within the first couple of days, URB-E spun up nearly $35,000 in pledges. Even if the campaign doesn't meet its goal, Ideapiphany will receive all the funds.

If you like the idea, but aren't yet ready to buy, you can reserve a future URB-E for $299, which is considered a deposit toward a later purchase with the locked-in Indiegogo pricing of $1,799 (suggest retail pricing will be $1,999).

The first 100 early adopters can get either the Commuter or GP for $1,599, and the second 100 early adopters can get into an URB-E for $1,699. The general supporter price/pledge is $1,799.

If you're totally into battery-powered transportation, you can buy one of five meals with the three founders of the company at a California restaurant -- and an URB-E -- for $2,999.

Risks and Challenges

The team of experts at Ideapiphany appear to be very experienced at design and product launches, and their talent includes the former lead engineer at Porsche, Sven Etzelsberger, who is helping with the final engineering specs.

The company began final product refinements and durability testing in January, and that process will continue through March.Tooling and production will start as early as April at Foes Racing, a specialty bike manufacturer.

Final component production should be complete by June. Assembly, packaging and shipping will take place in Pasadena, Calif., in July and August.

At this point, it appears that Ideapiphany has most everything lined up except the funding.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com. You can also connect with him on Google+.


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