Bicar: mobility of the future

Visitors of the swissnex Lab can observe an unusual scooter-car-bicycle hybrid nestling in one of the Lab’s "Innovation Bubbles". This vehicle is not a science-fiction movie's prop but a real scientific project brought to life by Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW). Dr Hans-Jörg Dennig, one of the founders of the Bicar project discusses his vision with us.

When stepping in the swissnex Lab of the Swiss Pavilion, few visitors actually know that they are actually contemplating the one and only existing Bicar prototype. Together with Adrian Burri, Hans-Jörg Dennig – PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Stuttgart – launched the Bicar project, and the ZHAW spin-off “Share your Bicar”.

Adrian Burri and Hans-Jörg Dennig in front of their prototype
Adrian Burri and Hans-Jörg Dennig in front of their prototype

In 2014, several ZHAW institutions began to develop an innovative solution for future urban transportation. This resulted in the urban mobility concept "Bicar". In May 2015, the project was presented to the public. The spin-off "Share Your Bicar" was founded to bring the project to actual production maturity.

Right now, the Bicar is at the feasibility study stage. It means that several experiments and queries are conducted in order to decide whether a commercialisation of the project would be viable economically. At the time of our meeting, Dr Dennig and his partners were negotiating with the city of Winterthur (West of Switzerland) to implement a pilot-project of 10 Bicar scooters in the city.

But enough facts! Let us read the details of this optimistic project in the words of its founder.

The Bicar is present in the swissnex Lab throughout Expo 2017
The Bicar is present in the swissnex Lab throughout Expo 2017 - © DFAE/PRS

Dr Dennig, how did you come to the idea of the Bicar?

There are several things. The first is that, due to urbanisation and population’s increase, traffic jams are a growing problem in many urban centres. Be it in Switzerland or Kazakhstan or the United States… And researchers need to come with new ideas in order to find a solution – and if possible, an ecological one – to this problem.

So, we realised that, if one solution to offer more jobs in a crowded job market is job sharing… why can’t we share mobility? We thought that a shared, ecological and light vehicle could offer an optimal option to reduce traffic jams.

What is specific about the Bicar?

The Bicar is an electric 3-wheel scooter with a front protection against the elements. This concept in itself is not what is original about the project. What is new is that it is a vehicle, which is designed to be shared from the beginning on its conception. It will be shared thanks to a software application, which is still in development.

The Bicar mobility concept shows how urban mobility can be accomplished in an user-centred way – while also being ecologically friendly and energy efficient: it has a minimal carbon footprint and relies on sustainable energies. In its functions, level of comfort, and investment costs, the Bicar is positioned between the conventional universal vehicle, the car, and the good weather option, the (e-)bike.

The Bicar

Then, it is not very different from bicycle sharing…

Yes, and no. Even if it is steered a bit like a bicycle, the Bicar offers a greater level of comfort and safety, thanks to its protection. And most of all, it is meant to be the link between public transportation and the user’s destination.

Also, the sharing system would be different. It is currently still in development but we have come up with two alternatives. The first – the ambitious one – would be to develop a mobile phone app which locates the nearest Bicar and acts as a member card. The user would unlock the vehicle with his/her smartphone, and lock it again when he/she leaves the vehicle.

The other and more feasible option is to implement the Bicar into an already existing system, like the Swiss train services (editor’s note: the Schweizerische Bundesbahnen – SBB – offer a free app which allows the passengers to search for the best way to reach their destination, including rental car services).

What is the future of the Bicar?

Right now, we are still conducting tests and studies and we are looking for investors and partners to make our project a reality. In short, we are still developing our project and we are trying to find the best solutions to make it happen.