John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The "Impossible" electric bike folds up to fit in a backpack, and makes riders look only slightly like a bear doing a circus trick.
What is possibly the littlest electric bike in history can fold into its own carrying case, fit inside a backpack and, for a neat party trick, double as a comically large pair of eyeglasses.
That the last feature is not touted anywhere on the successful Kickstarter page of Impossible Technology, the Beijing and Canadian developers of this itty-bitty wheeled doohickey (tentatively priced at $430 and above). They're more about its extreme portability, writing:
Impossible is perfect for urban dwellers. Traffic and congestion in the city can make any journey by car feel arduous. Impossible is the solution to this problem. You no longer have to worry about traffic conditions, simply hop on Impossible and ride off to your destination. Best of all, Impossible doesn’t need a parking space or bike rack. Simply fold it and take it up to your apartment or other destination with you.
In its compact form, the "Impossible" scooter looks like a discus with a crooked handle jutting out—an electronic snail as designed by Steve Jobs. But when unlocked, it sprouts a double-cricle frame, then steering and seat posts, then tea saucer-sized wheels. For the finishing touch, you mount the hollow carrying case on its back to form the bike's seat.
The creators of Impossible say it can purr along at just over 12 mph for 45 minutes before running out of battery life. Plug it into a wall and it will be charged in about 90 minutes. These specs could change if the device comes closer to being street-ready, as might its weight capacity of about 180 pounds. (You won't find any modern-day McGuire Twins rodeoing around on this thing.)
Setting off on a journey is a matter of pointing Impossible in the desired direction and letting the e-bike scoot away. Pushing a button activates electric brakes. If enough seed money comes in, the manufacturers hope to make the entire vehicle customizable, so riders can add their favorite wheels and handlebars.