The world’s first 3-D printed electric motorbike is a shadowy flight into the unknown
Pitched as an “aerospace-motorcycle,” there’s a lot to take in when looking at the Light Rider. Designed and built by AP Works, a German division of aerospace giant Airbus, it’s a sort of concept demonstrator for modern manufacturing – part PR exercise and part automotive mutant.
Its extra-terrestrial frame is by far the most intriguing component. AP Works describes its “organic frame structure” as being based on “bionic algorithms” which maximise strength using the optimal (least) amount of printed material. In this case, the material is the company’s proprietary aircraft-grade aluminium – Scalmalloy® – an aluminium powder which can be built up in layers via 3-D printing, and which AP Works says is almost as strong as titanium.
In real terms, all that empty space means the motorcycle lives up to its name, weighing in at just 35 kg. Taking a leaf out of another marketing campaign, the company believes it is “probably the world’s lightest motorcycle.”
Paired with a 6-kW electric motor, it appears to be pretty quick off the mark. While a top speed of 80km/hr (50mph) is unlikely to see it break any land-speed records, its acceleration is typical of other EVs thanks to the instant torque electric motors provide. In this case, a force of up to 130 Nm will take the bike from 0-45km/hr (28mph) in 3 seconds.
Another interesting feature is the exchangeable battery, presumably allowing the rider to zip around, zip home to swap batteries, and zip around some more. Each charge will carry the Light Rider around 60km – so no European tours – but more than enough to navigate a city for the day. [We reached out to AP Works for more information on the battery pack and will update when we know more.]
EDIT: AP Works’ Niels Grafen told Electrans that “Currently we are using a battery with a capacity of about 900 Wh. As this was an off-the-shelf battery pack, we are confident to offer a higher capacity with a lower weight on the production model.”
According to Grafen, the battery used in the prototype cost around 2000 euros – so it’s not unreasonable to suggest that one might buy a second pack to swap in once the first is depleted.
Light and shade
As with all concept vehicles however, you might struggle to actually get hold of a Light Rider. A limited run of 50 vehicles, priced at 50,000 euros each before tax, probably excludes all but the most enthusiastic collector.
Nevertheless, AP Works engineer Stefanus Stahl comments that: “With the Light Rider we at APWorks demonstrate our vision of future urban mobility.”
In a sense he is right. Stripped of the eye-watering pricetag, the Light Rider does what all good concepts should: suggest a potential future for the automotive industry. New manufacturing techniques mean future designers won’t be limited by conventional chassis and frame design and fabrication; and, depending on their cost, a replaceable battery is a fairly sound idea for motorcycles and other small EVs – even if it didn’t work for Tesla.
It might be an expensive concept for now, but the Light Rider certainly isn’t light on ideas.