Poimo, the inflatable electric scooter that can be stored in a backpack

This scooter, designed by Tokyo University, can be inflated in just a few minutes, and is paving the way for a new urban nano mobility destined to become extremely successful with the rise of social distancing.

Poimo stands for POrtable and Inflatable MObility. It is the promising prototype of an inflatable and backpack-size electric bike, as its creators define it, and its short presentation video is a blast. It was developed by the University of Tokyo and there is obviously no need to park it: when you arrive at the office or at your destination, just deflate it and store it in your backpack.

How does it work? First, you take it out of the backpack. The structure of the vehicle is made from flexible thermoplastic polyurethane. When it’s inflated, its lines remind us of an old rocking horse, but when it is deflated, it looks like one of those animal-shaped inflatable dinghies. Place it on the floor and inflate it as if it were a camping mat. You don’t need an electric pump: you can even use a manual air pump, although it will take a little longer to reach the optimal operating pressure. Once you're ready, a little extra work is actually required: you need to install the two sets of wheels, the electric motor, the battery and the handlebars with a built-in wireless controller. Then you’re good to go.

Overall, Poimo – which was to be unveiled at this year’s prestigious Acm Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – weighs 5.4 kilos. It's not heavy (the body itself weighs 2.3 kilos, so the heaviest part of the scooter is the other components), but the research team is looking for new solutions to significantly reduce the weight. Especially if – and all who’ve worked on it hope so - it will go into production.

This proposal fits into a huge scenario, and we realize today that the car and scooter sharing services were the first and most immature version of it. Similar tools will serve to meet the increasing demand for what we could call “widespread urban nano mobility”. And the obligation of maintaining physical distancing in big cities, at least for a while, will also address those user groups that, at least until now, have always turned up their nose at electric scooters. Those who have tested Poimo, in Japan, were extremely happy with it. Bein easily customizable, Poimo could actually be the first piece of a “smart” inflatable line: researchers have in fact used the same approach tp design a mobile sofa, which could be nice to bring on holiday with us. Provided that we will ever go on vacation again.

The point is, the inflatable structure is convenient from several points of view: it maximizes the life of the battery, and therefore the autonomy, thanks to its low weight. And in the event of an accident, it is much easier to replace a Poimo than a traditional “rigid” scooter. Moreover, there will be less severe consequences at the time of impact. There's no need to worry about comfort: the first people who’ve rode it in the streets have confessed that they found it to be much more rigid and resistant than they expected.

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