2001 Ford TH!NK Bike The Car Connection

16 Июн 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи 2001 Ford TH!NK Bike The Car Connection отключены

2001 Ford TH!NK Bike

I have just spent a week with an unusual vehicle that has promised to unchain my dependence, however voluntary, on gasoline. TH!NK Mobility, which introduces itself as an enterprise of Ford Motor Company, is the manufacturer of two- and four-wheeled battery electric vehicles (BEV) upon which a fair share of Ford’s enviro-friendly commitments depend.

My recent invitation to TH!NK, however, was not a drive in the company’s cute European microcar but a ride aboard the trim, free-spirited TH!NK traveler bike. The traveler is essentially a battery-powered, folding moped. But unlike the ratty, smoke-stenching mopeds that most people associate with Caribbean island vacations, the traveler is disarmingly smart. After turning on the battery power, nothing happens until the rider makes a first push of the bicycle pedals. Then, as gently as a parent pushing a toddler on a swing, the electric motor provides a short two- or three-second shove to goose you on your way.

Right leg pedal-…—push. Left leg pedal-…—push. It takes only moments before you internalize the traveler’s unusual, syncopated riding rhythm.

The bike doles out its precious electric power sparingly this way, promising a 16-mile range under ideal conditions. From a … stop on a level surface, it takes but a few yards in first gear before a shift light illuminates, recommending a higher gear. The higher the gearing, the less battery power is consumed, until the bike reaches about 20 miles an hour and the electric motor automatically disengages altogether until speed descends once again.

A twist-grip throttle on the right handgrip is tiny by motorcycle standards. Nevertheless it is meant to engage the motor directly and immediately in the event pedal-free propulsion is desired—at a draconian energy cost, however.

Traveling man

The traveler appears ungainly at first, thanks to its high-rider architecture. The combination of small 20-inch wheels and tall seat post and handlebar stanchion, however, results in a transportable bike that folds compactly in half. The bike hinges just in front of the seat tube after you release a high-tech latch incorporated into the primary frame tube.

Folded, it takes up just under 7.5 cu ft and weighs scarcely 40 lb (once the 13-lb battery is removed, as recommended before transporting the bike).

Underway, the ride is more stable than the bike’s appearance suggests. It is easy, in fact, to become seduced by the traveler. Its power-assist is silent and virtually impalpable at cruising speed.

At a rise in the road, the motor powers on gently but discreetly until clear sailing returns and your own pedal-pushing in high gear is enough to sustain an agreeable momentum.

Alas, in Nashville, this charming city of rolling vistas—in my own undulating neighborhood of Green Hills, which is more to the point—opportunities for clear sailing aboard the good ship traveler are scarce. My maiden voyage is a case in point: I attempted an easy commute on a sunny afternoon that was ideal for errands. Seven miles and perhaps 800 feet of accumulated elevation changes later, my electronic fuel gauge indicated three lamps on a five-lamp scale. Before I could blink, the electric genie in my traveler simply vanished as I was making the steep southbound climb up Estes Road.

No power lamps, no nothing. So stiffly geared is an unelectrified traveler that I was reduced to pushing the TH!NK uphill in surging after-school traffic with every soccer mom in West Nashville flipping me off for my trouble.

Finally home, I powered up the charger to give the BEV its six-hour rehabilitation. As luck would have it, a heavy spring squall cut electric service to my neighborhood until the next morning. In an eerie homage to California’s own rolling blackouts, there was to be neither electric charging nor electro-commuting for another day yet.


Adventure in circles

For my next TH!NK adventure, I plotted a circular route — in proximity to many close friends with car trunks measuring at least 7.5 cu ft. All told, I tackled over 1000 feet of elevation changes in 8.8 miles and 34 minutes. I made the circuit almost completely under TH!NK-‘n’-pedal power, although the final 100-foot climb up the

renowned sledding hill on Trimble Road kayoed my depleted traveler until after I reached the summit. There was just enough juice to make our way back to the battery charger’s resuscitating embrace. During final approach, however, that high-tech latch on the primary tube decided to loosen, and the bike began to fold involuntarily and in spite of my every attempt to re-latch the hinges.

I contended for the last mile or so with a rear wheel that preferred one direction and a front wheel that preferred another.

Next day, I scavenged an old Schwinn single-speed, coaster-brake beach bike that I’d consigned to the spiders in my basement. I rode the same 8.8 miles this time and no walking—not once, in the entire 37-minute jaunt. It was the first time I’d pedaled that long and far in at least 15 years. I loved it, and I have TH!NK to thank.

Because for a cost of only three additional minutes on that old beater bike, I figure I saved almost $1,200 for the suggested price of a new traveler.

There are few transportation enthusiasts more interested than I am in the prospects of an electric-powered or alternately fueled commuter future. Ford is shrewd to jump onto this bandwagon more vocally than any of its rivals so far. But the future of alternative transportation is not yet with us; and my experiences with the charming traveler suggest, I believe, that mere TH!NKing is not yet sufficient to change that fact.

2001 TH!NK traveler

Engine: 400-watt (peak) 24-volt DC brush motor

Power: electric assist up to 20 mph, 16 mile range (max.); six-hour charge time (max.)

Transmission: Three-speed manual internal rear hub, rear-wheel drive

Length x width x height: 55.2 x 21.3 x 35.4 in

Length x width x height (folded): 27.6 x 19.7 x 23.6

Curb weight: 53.20 lb

EPA City/Hwy: 0/city; 0/hwy

Major standard equipment: front fork suspension, off-board battery charger, energy level indicator, twist-grip gear shifter

Warranties: Frame, five years; battery set, six months; all other components except fork, one year

Th!nk City
Th!nk City

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