Innovative e-Biking concepts for future mobility
Sunstar is a leading global company and world-leader in the high technology field, offering products and services to customers in more than 90 countries around the world (e.g. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki). Through applying world-leading technologies for motorcycle parts, the Japanese company Sunstar developed a new electric-power assist unit for intelligent bikes, called “ibike”, which can be attached onto every given bicycle. This innovation, being a utility good, suits the Japanese market perfectly, as Japanese people don‘t express themselves with their bicycles as much as European people do. Sunstar is now approaching the European market, where they face the challenge of different customer needs in terms of functionality and design. European people have a different perspective on riding a bicycle, where a bicycle seems to be a status symbol and leisure item.
The challenge was to gain insights about the European customer and develop innovative design and functionality concepts and functional models for the European market.
Approach and methodology
To achieve this objective, the “Design Thinking” (Stanford University, IDEO) approach was applied – a structured, iterative and human centredmethod with a strong focus on interdisciplinarity. Thus, students from different academic disciplines (economics, engineering, business, law, design, and psychology) and backgrounds have worked on the project which was structured in two phases.
From the execution and analysis of expert and user interviews (n = 250), secondary market research (n = 360), observations and self-tests (n = 72) valuable key insights were derived. Those were evaluated, clustered, segmented and prioritized to identify key areas to work on in the subsequent concept development phase. Major innovation potential could be identified related to the fields of (1) product design, (2) technical requirements and (3) distribution channels.
Ideation and concept development phase
For the selected key areas and specific challenges identified within these fields, the goal of the second phase was idea generation and the development of feasible concepts and solutions. Starting with creativity workshops and brainstorming sessions to generate as many ideas as possible, the best ideas were selected and subsequently revised and improved on the basis of feedback from project partners, experts and customers in iterative loops to eventually integrate them in a final tested prototype and/or concept.
The three final concepts and prototypes for the key areas (1) product design, (2) technical requirements and (3) distribution channels can be combined to a sound overall concept that contains the following advantages for the next generation of eBikes: Not only the battery, but also the engine is removable in an easy and quick way. This leads to increased flexibility, versatile applicability of this kit and also an increased theft protection. An individual and multi-functional, yet simple-held display serves as the control console of the motor and the battery. In addition, a cooperation concept was developed, which enables an increased distribution and a clear unique selling proposition for the project partners. Synergistic effects with established cycle manufacturers and tax benefits will appear as well as increased staff motivation and improved CSR image among future partners of Sunstar.
Andreas Beer (HYVE AG)
Senior Industrial Designer
Stephan Hoof (Sunstar)
Sales Manager Bike Products
Stephan Roman Esterle
Franz Josef Klager
Thomas Alexander Pietrzak