Leading the pack is former race-car designer Richard Thorpe. He started out in high-tech design and engineering, working in industry with McLaren F1. In 2004, he decided to set up his own company, Karbon Kinetics, to develop a range of light-weight electric vehicles for the consumer market. Richard's first product, the GoCycle, is the world's most technologically-advanced folding electric bike.
The GoCycle is absolutely covered with patented technological improvements, offering the rider a genuinely 21st-century cycling experience. But its success does not lie directly in the originality of Richard's ideas - more in his improvements to the concepts. After all, neither the concept of the folding bike, patented by Harry Bickerton in 1974, nor the electric bike, for which there are a number of US patents dating back to the 1890s, can be considered new.
What Richard did was to look at how to develop each concept from scratch to overcome existing design flaws. For example, electric bikes have mostly failed to take off commercially due to the batteries draining too quickly unless used sparingly, such as when going up hill or making a fast get-away at traffic lights. By comparison, the GoCycle can sustain momentum for up to 20 miles without pedal assistance at a top speed of 15mph, and yet it takes just under two hours to fully re-charge from the mains.
The motor is more efficient and much lighter. Conventional designs use the motor to drive either the front wheel, the rear wheel or the pedals - but the GoCycle's motor is fitted to the front fork assembly rather than the wheel itself, so a whole range of other user-friendly features can be included. Activated through a red button situated on the handle bars, the motor makes cycling up hills or over long distances a breeze.
Other innovative improvements include: a completely enclosed chain to prevent oil stained clothing; a super-lightweight injection-moulded magnesium alloy frame; a rear shock absorber to ease riding over potholes; and pit-stop style quick release wheels front and back.
Winner of the Gold Award at the 2009 Eurobike show, the GoCycle has been described as 'an electric bike that won't make you feel like an utter dork on your daily cycle - the perfect commuting steed for the perspiration-phobe'.