Ford launches e-bikes at mobile show

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WATCH: The BBC's Dave Lee talks to Ford's chief design engineer Tom Thompson about the company's electric bike project

Motor company Ford has launched electric bicycles at Mobile World Congress, as part of its plans to extend its footprint beyond cars.

Increasingly car manufacturers are looking to new ways to make money with many developing so-called smart transportation systems.

Ford's e-bikes come in two flavours - one for use by commuters and one as a commercial bike for couriers.

Both are linked to a smartphone app that provides step-by-step navigation.

The experiment with e-bikes is part of Ford's smart mobility plan - it is keen to study how such bicycles integrate with cars and public transport.

"There are so many ways to get around a city, but what is really needed is a way to connect all of these transport options together," said Ken Washington, vice president of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

"Being able to seamlessly move between cars, buses, trains and e-bikes and react to changing traffic situations can make a big difference both for commuters and for those delivering goods, services and healthcare."

Image source, Ford
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The MoDe: Me bike was developed with help of bike manufacturer Dahon

Traffic problems and overly long commutes have been proved to have a significant economic and social impact on cities. According to the European Commission, congestion within the European Union costs about 100bn euros each year.

A study by the UK's Office for National Statistics found that each minute added to a commute affects anxiety, happiness and general well-being among commuters.

Both Ford's e-bikes are equipped with a 200-watt motor with a 9-amp-hour battery that provides electric pedal assistance for speeds of up to 25km/h (15mph). Both can also be folded.

Rear-facing sensors offer riders an alert system that warns the cyclist when a vehicle is overtaking by vibrating both handlebars. Sensors also alert motorists to the presence of the e-bike by lighting up the handlebars.

An app - currently only available on the iPhone 6 - provides step-by-step navigation - it plans an entire route for commuters, from driving to a train station to taking a train and completing a journey via an e-bike. It also offers information about the routes - so if a train service in cancelled it may offer an alternative method of transport.

It also provides navigation for riders, via a Bluetooth headset that uses haptic touch technology to notify the rider of whether to turn left or right.

David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at the Aston Business School believes that e-bikes are going to become popular in cities.

"A lot of city authorities are concerned about pollution so we will see more e-bikes around," he said.

But he is less convinced that the e-bike revolution will be led by car manufacturers.

"There are a few companies already doing it. They are trying to show they are environmentally friendly but also, in some cities, it is no longer possible to drive to the centre of town in a car."