Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed an e-trike on behalf of the Munich Public Transit Agency (Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft or MVG). The trike, equipped with an electric drive, is to be included in the MVG Rad bike rental system. The development and design of the finished prototype is part of the EU project CIVITAS ECCENTRIC and took approximately one year to complete. The first trikes are planned to go into operation this year.
Reaching a destination from the subway, bus stop or tram stop can be difficult, especially with a lot to carry or for those with difficulties walking. "Our objective was to close this gap for everyone," explains Julian Wilberg from the TUM Chair of Product Development. As part of the EU project CIVITAS ECCENTRIC he worked together with his colleague Simon Kremer and a team of students on behalf of the MVG to conceive a sustainable addition to public transportation: the E-Trike system.
The electrically powered tricycle has been designed so that those with minor walking disabilities or balance problems can operate it comfortably and safely. It is particularly easy-to-use and offers a high degree of stability. The E-Trike has a top speed of 25 km/h and has space enough to carry three large shopping bags or two cases of beverages.
More than just three wheels and a motor
"We wanted to work together to develop a viable addition to the existing bike rental system MVG Rad," adds Kilian Kärgel, CIVITAS ECCENTRIC project supervisor at SWM/MVG. "The bikes that are available to us now aren’t suitable for transporting heavy or bulky objects. Furthermore people with a reduced sense of balance or who have inadequate strength in their legs can only make limited use of the system or can’t use it at all. We developed the E-Trike as a complete package including booking, pick-up, return, operation and maintenance which can also be integrated ideally in the MVG Rad bike rental system."
The TUM team applied an innovative and interdisciplinary research approach: Development of a complete product, focusing on the user experience from analysis to conceptual design, all the way to the physical prototypes. Based on a "User Experience Journey" all the factors influencing the course of interaction were systematically visualized and analyzed. In order to find out what potential E-Trike customers wanted, TUM students interviewed various target groups - young people, the disabled, working professionals, senior citizens - to learn about their desires and experiences. They also received important information on the user-appropriate realization of the concept from the city of Munich’s advisory board on the disabled. "We used this data to identify target groups and requirement profiles which we took into account in all development steps," says Kremer.
A tricycle for young and old
The low-level mounting possibility of the newly developed cycle makes it easy to use for older people. The luggage section has two swing doors making it possible to load and unload cargo without unnecessary back strain. The electric motor is powerful enough to carry a person plus a load of approximately 30 kilos to the destination. As with the existing MVG Rad bikes, the E-Trike can be located and booked using an app. In addition users also have the option of renting the three-wheeler using a chip card.
No need to re-invent the (rental) wheel
"During development it was important that the E-Trike be easy to integrate in the existing MVG Rad rental system," Wilberg points out, adding that this was not difficult because even with its cargo box, the tricycle is no longer than a normal rental bike and fits in existing MVG Rad bike stands. It will only be necessary to equip the stands with charging stations, he said.
The development of the prototype was a milestone, but the project is far from over. The next steps will focus on integrating the E-Trike in the IT system underlying MVG Rad. 2018 plans foresee construction of as many as 20 E-Trikes based on the prototype which will initially be used in the CIVITAS ECCENTRIC project area (the Munich neighborhoods of Domagkpark/Parkstadt Schwabing). A comprehensive simultaneous evaluation is also being planned to accompany the project in order to gather important findings regarding operation and further development.