Drivers increasingly identify with the light electric vehicle (LEV) they’re riding. Using a LEV – whether it’s a bicycle, moped, cargo bike or scooter, is no longer just a functional means of transportation. For a growing number of people, it’s a way of life: young urban parents on cargo bikes or commuters on a high-speed bike being some examples.
This trend is fed by the worldwide emergence of new players and business models in the field of micro mobility and companies that promote themselves as a lifestyle brand. They anticipate their customers desire to identify with their vehicle, making the aesthetics of a vehicle more and more important for the distinctive character of a brand.
Stepping away from the ‘form follows function’ principle
Of course, there has always been a certain interest in aesthetics in the design of bicycles, but the available construction techniques did not allow much room for creativity and experimentation. The construction was limited to the moulding of tubes in a geometrically and ergonomically correct way. Therefore bicycle design leaned towards the ‘form follows function’ principle. An industrial design style in which functionality is dominant over aesthetics. For a long time this practical but slightly plain style was generally accepted by the market.
For a growing number of people, it’s a way of life: young urban parents on cargo bikes
Nowadays a bicycle doesn’t have to exist out of thin steel tubes, with a relatively small diameter, brazed together with lugs. New production techniques and materials make it possible to be more creative with the design. The introduction of aluminium frames made it more common to use larger frame tube diameters, which increased with the launch of composite frames. The integration of components such as the battery, controller and cabling enlarged the frame tube even more. Gradually it became accepted to use more volume in bicycle frames, making it possible to create unique and aesthetically pleasing designs.
New production and material trends
A more recent trend in bicycle frame production is the use of precision casting techniques, which brings even more volume and – more importantly- freedom of form into the design. This lost-wax production method has been used in the car industry for years. The technique is suitable for the construction of precision parts that need to endure a lot of force. This technique is now embraced by the bicycle market and used by multiple brands.
Another development that ameliorates the aesthetics and distinctive character of LEVs is the use of larger body panels and surfaces. This is seen in closed and semi-closed vehicles, such as electric tricycles, quadricycles, and cargo bikes. With these products it’s not the frame, but the exterior. With cargo bikes, for example, this trend is visible by the use of the well-known EPP foam boxes and the form freedom in which they are designed.