The trend toward budget-friendly transportation has taken many twists and turns in recent decades. We can now eschew extreme gas prices with solar-powered cars or fly across Europe for mere pennies thanks to low-cost, no-frills airlines. But one Israeli inventor has dreamed up a transportation innovation with the fewest frills imaginable.
Fifty-year-old Izhar Gafni has reimagined the classic form of the bicycle, telling Reuters that his latest prototype of a cheaper, greener, lighter, stronger and socially-beneficial bicycle will begin rolling off mass production lines in a few months. The catch? The bike is made entirely out of cardboard.
“I was always fascinated by applying unconventional technologies to materials and I did this on several occasions,” said Gafni, who also designs automated mass-production lines. He explained his trial-and-error approach to developing the new bicycle, which will contain no metal. Even the typical mechanical features, including the brakes, wheels and pedal bearings, will be made from recycled substances.
Reconstituted rubber from old cars will form the tires, which Gafni’s business partner Nimrod Elmish told Reuters would “never get a puncture.” The bike will also feature a mount for an electric motor, which commuters could purchase as an add-on to speed up their commutes. Despite the humble materials, Gafni attests to the strength and durability of the final product, which will weigh about 20 pounds — 10 pounds lighter than the average bicycle — and cost no more than $20. The materials cost about $9 for the company to assemble.
The inventor told Reuters he submerged the cardboard, which is both waterproof and fireproof, in water for a few months, and it suffered no damage. “I worked for four years to cancel out the corrugated cardboard’s weak structural points,” Gafni said. “Making a cardboard box is easy and it can be very strong and durable, but to make a bicycle was extremely difficult and I had to find the right way to fold the cardboard in several different directions. It took a year and a half, with lots of testing and failure until I got it right.”
And even if the bike — which can support up to 485 pounds, according to Fast Company, doesn’t hold up so well, a replacement won’t break the bank. Elmish told Reuters the bicycles are low-maintenance, never requiring maintenance or adjustment “So you buy one, use it for a year and then you can buy another one, and if it breaks, you can take it back to the factory and recycle it,” Elmish said.
Elmish believes Gafni’s brainchild has everything the world needs for a production and transportation overhaul. “This is a real game-changer,” Elmish said. “It causes factories to be built everywhere instead of moving production to cheaper labor markets, everything that we have known in the production world can change.” Manufacturers would profit from advertisements, which companies would purchase in order to incorporate their logos onto the bicycle frame.
Consumers can expect to see three models of Gafni’s bicycles — an urban bike, a youth bike for children in Africa and a balance bike for kids learning how to ride — on the market within one year. A cardboard wheelchair is also in the works, Reuters reported.
Gafni hopes the mass production of his vehicles will start a cardboard revolution. “We are just at the beginning and from here my vision is to see cardboard replacing metals,” he told Reuters. “And countries that right now don’t have the money, will be able to benefit from so many uses for this material.”