GUANGZHOU, CHINA — Oliver Risse is a longtime fan of the “shared economy,” and because of a new business he's started in urban transportation, he's become a fan of plastics.
The Singapore-based entrepreneur and his start-up company Floatility GmbH are making heavy use of plastic composites for a lightweight electric scooter, for a business they plan similar to urban bike sharing, with hundreds of rental scooters available for short trips around cities.
Its three-wheeled scooter, dubbed the e-floater, was featured at the Chinaplas trade fair in Guangzhou in late May, where Risse spoke at design events organized by German plastics maker BASF SE. Risse said BASF played a major technical role in the scooter's development.
In an interview at Chinaplas, he said most scooters have metal bodies but Floatility took a look at plastics and composites after a manufacturing partner in Indonesia connected him with BASF.
More than 80 percent of the e-floater is now made from composites and plastics.
Risse, founder and CEO of Floatility, said plastics made sense because the company wanted “something that from a design standpoint that looks very different” and that would appeal to commuters, both for looks and safety.
“Almost all other vehicles you find on the market are aluminum or [another] metal,” he said. “Weight is a very important factor to us, and also convenience. The composite technologies … are super nice actually, from a stability point of view, a durability point of view, and also from an aesthetics point of view. There's a lot of design freedom.”
Floatility started in 2013 in Hamburg, Germany, and the seven-person company is now on its sixth prototype version of the scooter.
Plastics, including various grades of glass-fiber reinforced nylon for structural parts and thermoplastic polyurethane for tires and handlebars, play a key role in making the vehicle lighter. The scooter weighs about 26 pounds, or half the weight of most bikes.
Risse said it folds up and its battery makes it easier to get around without the exertion of a bike ride, potential advantages for commuters or workers crossing large factories or corporate campuses.
“Over a thousand [bike sharing] systems are already installed, large-scale systems, but why do people still pedal?” he said. “In tropical countries like Singapore, nobody wants to pedal. That's why we say ‘Look, we need to get something that's the next generation of technology, that's purely electric, people stand on it, go a short distance to go from A to B.'”
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