A new ultra-light motorcycle is pushing the technological envelope in more ways than one.
APWorks, a subsidiary of Airbus, says it has produced the first 3D-printed motorcycle chassis from aluminum powder. The prototype, know as Light Rider, has an exoskeletal frame that carries a 6kW electric motor producing up to 130 Nm (95.8 ft-lb) of torque, and weighs just 38 kg (84 lbs). That’s some power-to-weight ratio.
“The complex and branched hollow structure couldn’t have been produced using conventional production technologies such as milling or welding,” said Joachim Zettler, APWorks CEO.
The corrosion resistant alloy, called Scalmalloy, is reportedly stronger than titanium, and results in a frame weighing 13 lbs. According to the company website, “Bionic algorithms define the organic frame structure using Altair's OptiStruct. This aerospace approved approach gives the motorcycle superb stiffness and guarantees optimal use of material.”
The Light Rider is geared for a top speed of 49 mph, more than sufficient for keeping up with city traffic. The downside is a range of just 37 miles, meaning short commutes and regular recharge of the battery. (Charging time was not specified by the manufacturer.) The more significant liability is the bike’s price: US $56,000. Of course, with a limited production run of 50, owners will be part of a fairly exclusive group. And there is no doubt regarding the amount of attention the Light Rider will attract at the local coffee shop. Or the inevitable distraction it will produce in car drivers.
While the Light Rider might easily be taken for a bicycle from outer space at first glance, the absence of pedals make it a motorcycle by definition. Which means it will necessarily require a motorcycle license, registration, and insurance. Department of Motor Vehicles agents in states requiring inspections for registration will certainly be scratching their head when you roll in on a Light Rider. No telling what the insurance agent will say when you tell him the price.