John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
This ultralight bike is designed to cut pollution and slice through traffic jams.
With 13 million people packed into its metro boundaries, Buenos Aires can be a mad crush of beeping, exhaust-vomiting vehicles. Some local designers believe they can help with an ultralight, battery-powered motorbike that eliminates air and noise pollution and weaves effortlessly through the densest of traffic thickets.
Granted, the Sudaca prototype first needs to make it out of the workshop; its student creators at the University of Buenos Aires seem to be waiting on seed money for production. But it'd be nice if it did hit the street, because this is the rare e-bike to eschew silly green design for a stripped-down, aggressive style reminiscent of Motocross.
The Sudaca—which is purposely named after a derogatory word in Spain for South Americans that the designers here are reappropriating—looks like a motorcycle that's had all its fairings and engine parts blasted off in an apocalyptic wind. What remains is a skeletal body of black tubes and a few streamlined plastic parts. This spare visage reflects the designers' philosophy that a "vehicle shouldn't weigh more than the person it is carrying, [as] any excess weight is a waste of energy no matter how the vehicle is fueled."
At roughly 175 pounds including its battery cage and charging dock, the Sudaca is about as heavy as a bulky dude. Its in-wheel motor wouldn't be of much use on highway slogs, but then again it's meant more for city commutes (20 or so miles per day, to and from work). And in theory, the bike's simplified manufacturing process and use of common commercial parts could make it a practical and cheap alternative to autos.
Take a peek: