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ENVIRONMENT

Berlin motorcycle inventor puts the human in hybrids

Who says green vehicles can’t be cool? A Berlin-based inventor has created a “human-hybrid” cycle combining a zippy electric motor with pedal power. Andrew Mach takes the eRockit out for a spin.

Berlin motorcycle inventor puts the human in hybrids
Photo: DPA

It’s been seven years in the making, but Stefan Gulas believes his creation’s time has finally come.

The lanky 38-year-old Austrian has managed to meld slick biker styling with cycling sensibility in the latest version of what he’s dubbed the eRockit – a pedal-powered bolt of lightning on wheels.

“The idea was to build a machine like a motorcycle, which can out-accelerate cars,” Gulas told The Local during recent test ride in Berlin. “It’s our own system. It’s a new technology not implemented anywhere.”

Formed in late 2004, his now 12-man company builds a variety of bikes, mixing the asthetics of a motorcycle with a battery motor and adding bicycle pedals to come up with a totally unique two-wheeled vehicle. Powered by electricity, the “human-hybrid” still relies on pedalling to propel it forward at speeds of up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour.

“We’ve tried to keep the character of a bike,” said Gulas. “Something that’s electric, that’s cool and sexy that people want to ride – that was the driving force.”

Despite its powerhouse performance, the eRockit otherwise behaves exactly like a regular bicycle. The rider must pedal to accelerate and brakes are located on both handlebars. But the 12-horsepower electric motor situated between the rider’s legs offers a “superhuman” sensation, according to Gulas.

“It feels like you’re riding a bike, so you always compare it to the speed you could go on a bicycle,” he explained, adding that easily passing cars “just keeps you smiling.”

No cheap thrill

But such thrills won’t come cheap. The newest model costs nearly €30,000, making it an expensive joy for those that can afford the firm’s handcrafted precision products. And Gulas makes no excuses for the high price tag.

“Our goal is not to decrease the cost, but rather to fully develop the concept of the human hybrid,” he said.

Instead, he suggested the lofty purchase ought to be seen as making a stylishly green statement. The zero-emission vehicle can travel a far as 80 kilometres on a single charge, which takes four hours plugged in at home.

“It’s very important that it is environmentally friendly,” said Gulas. “The ice caps are melting and yet, you boost your 500 horsepower. I don’t understand that,” he said, showing his frustration with the dominant driver credo of day.

“But people don’t want to drive boring things, so if it convinces people to convert to non-polluting vehicles because they are so attractive, it’s an added bonus.”

Though his firm will build only 15 bikes this year, Gulas predicts the eRockit’s “human-hybrid” model will become widespread in the next ten to 15 years.

But he doesn’t want his innovative baby to become cheap product for the masses, instead preferring to target “the high-end” market.

“We are the original,” said Gulas. “People will come to us.”

Check out a photo gallery of the eROCKIT

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ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

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On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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