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Auto industry plugs into bikes, scooters

By Hezi Jiang in Detroit, Michigan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-11 09:34

The cars are still the stars, but the Detroit auto show is changing, as is mobility.

A flight below the main show floor where BMW Group, Volkswagen AG and other automakers unveiled their sedans, SUVs and minivans, and attendees were balancing on electric bicycles and scooters.

"The industry is going electric, and people are seriously looking at transportation options that are more personal," said Christian Scheder, chief marketing director of Immotor, an electric scooter maker based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

Immotor stands for "I am Motor", meaning that individuals become their own transportation, minimizing the use of material, effort and energy.

The scooter, with a maximum speed of 32 kph, weighs about 12 kilograms. It can be folded and wheeled on public transportation like small luggage.

URB-E, a Pasadena, California-based startup, is showing foldable electric bikes as an alternatives on, for example, the first and last kilometer of a commute.

One can customize a URB-E by adding anything from a basket to a bell to a Bluetooth speaker.

"People can customize, and they can adjust their means of travel with a portable vehicle," Scheder said.

Immotor, URB-E and German technology company Schaeffler Group presented the prototypes of a biohybrid pedelec-a mix of a car and an electric bicycle-and an electric skateboard.

As important as the North America market is, Scheder said other parts of the world may adapt to personal vehicles faster. For example, in Norway, a large population has already started using electric bikes, or in China, they reduce pollution.

Scheder said that challenges lie in educating the public, as people are used to blasting their radios and throwing their bags in the car.

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