Electric bikes, or ‘ebikes’, make
your daily commute and day-to-day travel cheaper and less stressful. While you
still receive the benefits of pedalling, your speed also gets a boost with a
battery and electric motor that assists when you’re biking. There has been a
significant growth in the ebike market in recent years, with more locations
across the world making a conscious effort to market ebikes and encourage their
use with cycling schemes.
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A report from Navigant Research suggests that ebike sales will increase globally by 54.7% over the next 9 years.
Breaking into such a competitive market as a start-up is no mean feat. FLIT took inspiration from the great cycling culture in Cambridge to start the manufacture of a foldable electric bike, launching in July 2019, the FLIT-16.
Designed by an ex-Jaguar Land Rover engineer, the FLIT-16 is not only the best looking folding e-bike, but also the best riding. The custom lithium-ion battery pack that has been built into the frame reduces the weight whilst maximising the rigidity of the bike, while also keeping a clean, simple design. Weighting just 14kg (including the 250 Wh battery) it goes as far as 30 miles (50Km) range on a single charge.
“Our vision is to make an electric bike that feels great to ride, whilst keeping the convenience of a compact commuter bike”, says Dave Henderson, Technical Lead at FLIT. “Using my background as an automotive engineer, I focused on the e-bike’s geometry to give a comfortable and responsive ride, perfect for city journeys”.
FLIT signed up to our Entrepreneur Program and within 3 years were able to turn their sketches into a simple folding e-bike, easy to carry anywhere with the electric assistance making longer journeys effortless, fast and fun.
We interviewed Alex Murray, Managing Director and Co-founder, to find out more about their challenges as a start-up in such a competitive market:
Please give us a brief introduction to FLIT.
We have been designing high-end folding electric bikes since 2016 and we are just about to launch our first product, the FLIT-16. We are committed to using the latest advances in engineering and manufacturing to make our folding electric bikes lighter, more reliable and easier to use.
Describe how you first were introduced to SOLIDWORKS?
Dave, our lead engineer, first started using SOLIDWORKS when he was at university and in his first job at an engineering consultancy in Cambridge. When we started our ebike project, he was already familiar with the capabilities of other CAD platforms but felt that SOLIDWORKS was the best match for this type of project.
How did you discover the SOLIDWORKS Entrepreneur Program?
We work in a co-working space and were recommended to the SOLIDWORKS Entrepreneur Program by another start-up in our office.
Was the application process straightforward?
The application process was very quick. From application to being up and running was a matter of days.
How did the Program help you gain funding to grow your business?
We used high quality renders of our concept to show potential investors what our bike would look like. Being able to animate the folding process using Motion Study helped demonstrate how the bike would be folded, while exploded views helped explain how we would integrate the electrical system into the frame of our bike.
What was the biggest issue/ challenge you had as a start-up business prior to accessing SOLIDWORKS through the Entrepreneur Program?
Speed of development was the biggest challenge. Many of the tools and features offered by SOLIDWORKS have helped speed up our product development and avoid costly mistakes during prototyping.
Now you have a commercial licence, are you continuing to see growth within the company using the software in the last 2 years? How does it help your business grow?
As we look to expand our product line in the future, the value of some of the more advanced SOLIDWORKS packages will really become apparent.
What SOLIDWORKS products and functions do you use most and why?
We have found the mate controller feature especially useful for quickly switching between different folded states and we frequently use Photoview 360 for renders. But one of the biggest time savers has been the Task Scheduler as we often have to convert file formats when sending off files to manufacturers. As we move towards launching our first ebike, we are looking more at some of the Simulation products that SOLIDWORKS offers as we want to optimise the design to make it lighter.
We needed a CAD platform that would allow our product designer to easily create organic shapes with surfaces but also allow our engineers to build a complicated folded bike assembly that could be easily manipulated into different folded states. We also needed to be able to link key dimensions across all parts and subassemblies with a driving geometry sketch. Finally, we needed to be able to issue detailed technical drawings for our manufacturer and so need a feature rich 2D sketching environment. SOLIDWORKS has been an excellent match for these requirements.
In terms of support, we occasionally use the learning materials on the Solid Solutions website and we have had some very useful training sessions. It’s good to know the support helpline is there if ever we got really stuck with something or had some bug that we couldn’t fix. We would recommend SOLIDWORKS as a CAD package and Solid Solutions as a provider.
The FLIT-16 is currently available to pre-order on Kickstarter. The crowdfunding campaign started on 30th July 2019 and runs through to 7th September 2019. Limited Kickstarter pricing begins at £1250, saving over £1000 on the final retail price.
For more information about FLIT please visit www.flit.bike