An urban transport strike paralyzed the Argentinian city of Córdoba in 2012. Faced with this situation, Lucas Toledo asked himself if there wasn´t a more efficient way of getting around the city. And he found the answer in the adaptation of a nineteenth century invention to the twenty-first century: the bicycle. And thus was born Gi FlyBike, an electric, smart bicycle which folds up in seconds. Thanks to his innovative project, Toledo has been selected as one of MIT Technology Review, Spanish Edition´s Innovators Under 35 Argentina and Uruguay 2016.
The increased use of the automobile in particular in urban environments has led to excessive traffic in city centers, prolonged travel times due to bottlenecks and increased pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases. Public transport provides an alternative, but the need for specialized infrastructures and the rigid timetables and routes limit its adoption.
"Since it was invented, the bicycle continues to represent the most efficient means of individual transporationt," Toledo points out. "It is also ecological and healthy," he adds. Given all of these advantages, why don´t bicycles represent the primary mode of urban transportation? This young entrepreneur asked himself this very question, and found that, in addition to limiting external factors like the existence of bike lanes and appropriate regulations, there are other factors which he did have the capacity to address, both through the product itself as well as in the end users.
"Nowadays, people don´t identify with a vehicle that has remained practically unchanged since its birth," Toledo explains. For this reason, he says that his objective is "to turn electric bicycles into the next iPhone." By adding an electric motor, a foldable frame and by synchronizing the bike with a smartphone to lock it, Gi FlyBike is the result of adapting the bicycle to the expectations of modern consumers interested in aesthetics and practical features.
"Users want a foldable bicycle in order to fit easily into an elevator and other means of transportation, but they don´t feel comfortable on a small bike," Toledo explains. But "the current models focus on folding up as tightly as possible, which complicates the folding mechanism, making it slow and laborious." Accordingly, the primary distinguishing feature of Gi FlyBike is its folding mechanism, which with one swift gesture cuts the size of a standard-sized bicycle in half.
To find out what society was looking for in a twenty-first century bicycle, Toledo launched several crowdfunding campaigns. "The objective of the first [campaign] was to validate the idea," Toledo recalls, before explaining that the campaign´s success was not born from the money raised, but rather because it allowed him to present a viable model to other investors who provided over 1.3 million euros in funding, which in turn allowed product development and mass production to begin. The second Kickstarter campaign reached its target in five hours and attracted the attention of hordes of media sources.
According to the vice president of innovation and research at Singularity University (United States) and jury member for the Innovators Under 35 Argentina and Uruguay 2016 awards, Vivek Wadwha, Lucas Toledo´s project "will, without a doubt, be useful for people and the environment." He also highlights Toledo´s "creativity and determination to succeed."
Discover all of the winning projects from Innovators Under 35 Argentina and Uruguay 2016.