When you think of sinking into a seat, it’s not usually the one on your bike. It’s a couch, or maybe your favorite comfy chair, and you usually sit down on (or in) it because you don’t plan on going anywhere for at least a little while. How would you feel about riding on a soft, squishy scooter as a last-mile transportation solution?
A group of students from the University of Tokyo developed a concept they’re calling ‘soft mobility.’ It’s a series of sewn or glued-together ridable inflatable vehicles in different shapes, including a scooter called Poimo. Short for “Portable and Inflatable Mobility,” it’s a bit like a softer, squishier, lighter, and much more portable Motocompo.
Maybe you commute, but you could really use a small vehicle to help you get around a college campus, or another small area where walking isn’t bad, but takes just a little too long. With a seemingly endless debate about whether dockless e-scooters create more problems than they solve, including people just discarding them wherever they want, Poimo is a potential solution.
Made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), the idea is that you take the folded scoot out of your bag and then inflate to recommended pressure. Then you’re able to ride it to wherever you need to go, at which point you can deflate, refold, and stash away inside your bag again. The rigid motorized components and wheels are what account for most of the weight, and weigh 5.5 kilograms, or just over 12 pounds.
Gallery: Poimo Soft Inflatable Scooter
It’s a one-off created as proof of concept, and was tested and developed to be stable and usable for riders around 80 kilograms, or just over 176 pounds. The scooter is also just one of the designs the students came up with, as they also envisioned other electric and ridable inflatables, including a wheelchair. Design website Dezeen mentioned that Poimo’s creators took inspiration from the character Baymax from Disney’s Big Hero 6, and that math completely checks out. Who wouldn’t want Baymax to take them to class?
It’s not clear if the 12-pound weight includes the small compressor you’d also need to tote around to keep constantly inflating your ride whenever you needed. Granted, many riders probably keep a similar device on our bikes in case of flats, but that’s still added weight to consider if you’re hauling it around on your back. It’s also worth noting that the team behind Poimo says it wants to continue refining it to make it even lighter and more portable than this concept, so perhaps the answer will be clearer as and if it moves beyond this stage of development.