What If Prius Was A Bike?
Innovative thinking. Human power. Sustainable energy. Endless possibility. Bicycles.
These are a few of my favorite things. I have that in common with the folks at Toyota’s Prius Projects. There’s no question that Prius is an innovation that changed the world.
A short digression by way of backstory that some may not be aware of.
When Toyota debuted the Prius at the Kyoto Conference on global warming in December 1997, Detroit carmakers were taken by surprise. The Prius was far beyond concept and production-ready—it was “line off,” meaning in production. Delegates were offered rides in the several new Prius models on site. Ford’s own William “Bill” Ford was one of them. With half the CO2 emissions and twice the fuel economy, the Prius garnered high interest and acclaim.
According to those in attendance, Detroit execs at the Conference were visibly shaken. Japan had committed to a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010, while the United States had refused to commit at all. The Prius was launched immediately following the conference.
Toyota’s decision to pursue eco-friendly alternative energy systems had begun nearly a decade earlier in 1990, when Eiji Toyoda issued the challenge of taking action immediately to restructure Toyota’s entire approach to research and development by saying, “I doubt that Toyota will survive in the 21st century without changing its way of doing R & D.” The resulting shift away from model-based research represented the single greatest restructuring in the company’s history. Advanced Energy Development was one of four new technological centers to emerge from the move.
Detroit’s reaction? Participate in a $1.2 billion government project sponsored by the Clinton administration’s General Accounting Office called the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles to find a breakthrough automobile that could achieve 80 miles per gallon. Fine, except that the conclusion by the Partnership in 2000, the very year that Prius first hit U.S. dealer showrooms, was: “An adequate market for a lighter-weight, fuel-efficient vehicle does not currently exist, nor is it expected to develop in the near future.” Oops.
Back to my topic. Innovative thinking requires a good bit of “what if?” It’s how Prius Projects began the Prius Concept Bike, stating:
“Innovation. It defines what is possible, it is our potential, and it promises a better and brighter future. It’s what is changing the way we drive, and it’s what made the Toyota Prius what it is today.There is a choice to be made every time something is built. It can either be done the way that is tried-and-true, or you can venture into the unknown in hopes of making that something better than it was before. This is the path taken by the Toyota Prius and its designers. Building upon the familiar foundations of a car, the Prius is an optimized version of something we were already familiar with. By blending cutting-edge technology with simple, sustainable materials, the Prius became a benchmark of efficiency, a testament to those who innovated and dared to make it so, and the cornerstone of a philosophy that is changing the way we drive today.”
“But striving to innovate more efficient and sustainable means of transportation is a goal that we believe should reach beyond the four-wheeled vessels we have become so accustomed to. So we asked ourselves: What if the Prius were a bicycle?”
Prius Projects (and Saatchi LA) enlisted the help of Boston-based bike builder Parlee Cycles and the innovative design studio Deeplocal to build the Prius X Parlee (PXP) concept bicycle in under three months. As Prius Projects describes it, the PXP is…
“…imbued with the spirit of Prius, this aero-road bike is also a purpose-built machine that blends simplicity with the complex to become a better, more efficient version of something that already exists. Each innovation, feature and process used in and on the PXP was inspired by the Prius and serves to make it more efficient while emphasizing ease of use. Its monocoque carbon-fiber frame keeps the PXP lightweight while increasing its durability and rideability. Its brakes were molded into the fork and bottom bracket to increase aerodynamics, along with countless other tweaks that were tested and validated in the wind tunnels at MIT. A built-in dock for a smartphone enables riders to view information about their speed, cadence and heart rate.”
All of these features and more come together to produce a bike akin to the Prius. But to truly encapsulate what the Prius stands for, more forward thinking was applied. Designed by Deeplocal, a neurotransmitter-packed helmet and interface empowers the PXP’s rider to shift gears, as if by magic, just by thinking about it.
A successful result of a collaborative exploration, the PXP proves that there is always room for improvement. Like the car it was inspired by, it is able to go farther for longer and serves as a demonstration of what is possible when we look to the future and improve upon what we have already accomplished to get there.”
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Matthew E. May is the author of “IN PURSUIT OF ELEGANCE: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing.” He is constantly searching for creative ideas and innovative solutions that are ‘elegant’ – a unique and elusive combination of unusual simplicity and surprising power.
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