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Di2 Alfine Electric belt drive prototype? Say it ain't so

Car manufacturers have a long and (in)glorious history of knocking out the odd bike to lend a bit of green credence to their otherwise planet-mangling output. This one from Lexus is more of a design exercise than a brand addition since there are no plans to put it into production – only two exist, one of which is now in the UK – but it's an interesting beast nonetheless.

Built around what looks like a 20" wheelset and a cruciform frame the bike it's most reminiscent of at first glance is the Giant Mini series, but the similarities end with the shape. The Lexus is a full carbon beast for a start, featuring 'L-Finesse design language' apparently, and nestling near the bottom bracket is a 26v Lithium Ion battery that powers a 240W motor in the front hub. Lexus claim the bike has 'All wheel drive by means of a belt system' but unless there's something really clever going on inside that frame we'll take that to mean that you can pedal the bike as well.

Most interestingly of all, the Lexus claims to have 'an electric eight-speed Shimano internal gear system, which references the sophisticated eight-speed shift-by-wire automatic transmission of Lexus’s LS 600h limousine'. What that means in practice is that Lexus appear to have managed to marry Shimano's Di2 levers with some manner of electric shifter for a rear hub gear. The hub in question looks like an Alfine unit in natty anodised blue. Whether this mash-up is something that could spawn a production electric shifting system isn't clear - we don't think we've seen an electrically operated Shimano hub since the four-speed Auto-D back in the late '90s.

Weight wise the Lexus is okay rather than special at 17kg, and we don't know how far the battery – which Lexus claim takes just 2 hours to charge – will propel you. There's energy capture from the braking system to eke a bit more life out of it, anyway. The bike was first seen in 2009 at the Tokyo motor show but Lexus are planning to show it off over here as part of their sponsorship of the Great British Bike Ride (http://www.greatbritishbikeride.com), a four-day sponsored ride from Land's End to Twickenham in aid of Rugby charities the RPA Benevolent Fund and the RFU Injured Players Foundation, as well as Help for Heroes.

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

8 comments

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demoff [327 posts] 6 years ago
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Is it not a little ironic that Lexus are sponsoring the great british bike ride.

Adds to the mantra that cycling is the new golf I suppose.

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TRs Blurb n Blog [199 posts] 6 years ago
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I think it probably uses an assisted front wheel drive like this http://road.cc/content/news/6449-worlds-lightest-electric-bike

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John_the_Monkey [437 posts] 6 years ago
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why is it that car makers always seem to make the most godawfully ugly bicycles?

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 6 years ago
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just spoke to Lexus UK who were singularly unhelpful and weren't able to put me in touch with anyone who could be more forthcoming, sadly. So I can't tell you whether Lexus have developed some kind of electric shifting unit for the Alfine hub for this project, or whether they've just bunged the levers on the front and a box at the back as 'proof of concept'

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 6 years ago
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Seeing as it's Lexus, do the brakes work?

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nick_rearden [436 posts] 6 years ago
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Last cycling event I went to, Dave, there were some pretty nice cars in the car park. Funny that Lexus would be sniffy, probably thinking that a website about cycling couldn't possibly have any car buyers reading it. But then Lexuses (Lexa, Lexi?) do have a reputation for being driven by crusty old codgers with golf bags. And no brakes, which goes without saying.

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 6 years ago
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they weren't sniffy, just didn't know anything about it other than the PR info we already had, and weren't interested in putting me in touch with anyone that did. obviously there are bigger fish to fry, like trying to persuade rich folk that a 5 litre, V8 equipped hybrid is somehow 'green'

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 6 years ago
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That LFA supercar looks *so* tidy though  1