Ford’s Mode Flex: PR Stunt Or Real Product?

BY Cameron Newland

Automakers including Audi, BMW, Ford, and Smart have all announced ebikes at one time or another, with most of them proving to be nothing more than vaporware/P.R. fluff (example: 2012’s Audi ebike). BMW and Smart, notably, have actually delivered on their promises and have sold ebikes in North America, primarily in Canada.

Ford Mode Flex ebike

On Tuesday, Ford announced a new concept ebike that is sure to be among one of the most beautiful ebike concepts ever to grace the vaporware scrapheap. Meet the MoDe:Flex, a curiously named ebike mixing soft corners with sharp-edged metallic surfaces, which together serve to evoke a muscular, industrial and thoroughly modern form.

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As part of Ford’s efforts to offer multiple modes of transport to city dwellers, the bike folds in half so that one could presumably store the bike in their trunk so that they might drive a few miles toward their destination and then park and hop on their bike for the final few miles in more urban areas, where a bicycle might be better able to handle the crushing traffic of our modern cities. Though multi-modality is a laudable aim, Ford has definitely made some design compromises that make the bike a poor choice for that use; if Ford was serious about making this a bike that would work well for folks who are constantly shuttling the bike in and out of their car’s trunk trunk, they would have chosen a more sensible internally-geared rear hub to handle shifting instead of an external rear derailleur, which can be easily bent or damaged when storing the bike. In Ford’s defense, though, it appears that their design does seem to offer some protection to the rear derailleur while the bike is folded up. Going with a traditional metal chain is also a big no-no when it comes to having a bike that car be easily stowed in your trunk, as metal chains get dirty and greasy and cannot commingle with the other items that one might normally store in their car’s trunk. Choosing a much cleaner, low-maintenance Gates carbon drive would have made a lot more sense.

One striking detail about the MoDe:Flex is that it features five-spoke, one-piece aluminum wheels in place of the traditional 36-spoke variety, and though the wheels give the bike a more aggressive, modern, and sporty look, the lack of any kind of suspension means that the rear wheel would likely be easily bent and would require replacement or repair.

Ford’s concept ebikes are a welcome addition to the ebike world, however, they’re unlikely to ever make it into production, and rather seem to serve as somewhat of a P.R. boost for the company’s green credentials. Ford knows that the ebike market, growing as it is, is much too small of an opportunity to drive Ford’s revenue and profits higher, so Ford is keen to continue focusing on its most promising market: new cars. Ford has partnered with ebike manufacturer Pedego on a Ford-branded ebike that has been on sale at many Ford dealerships, however, this was not a true effort to enter the ebike market with a custom-engineered solution, but rather a half-assed, quick-and-dirty entry with a boring Pedego ebike model that is not differentiated enough to muster any real consumer excitement.

Via The Verge