Cardboard Bike Could Make Commuting Cheaper and Easier – Even In The Rain

By Amir Khan on October 15, 2012 11:54 AM EDT

Cardboard Bike
A cardboard bike may change your commute forever, according to Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni (Photo: Reuters)

A cardboard bike may change your commute forever, according to Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni. The bicycle, made almost completely out of cardboard, is able to be mass-produced, and could allow people in even the poorest countries access to a bike.

"I was always fascinated by applying unconventional technologies to materials and I did this on several occasions," Gafni, an amateur cyclist and expert in automating mass-production lines, told Reuters. "But this was the culmination of a few things that came together. I worked for four years to cancel out the corrugated cardboard's weak structural points."

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Cardboard is made from wood pulp, and was invented in the 19th century. But while it's effective at carrying and protecting items during shipping, there's never before been a cardboard bike.

"Making a cardboard box is easy and it can be very strong and durable, but to make a bicycle was extremely difficult and I had to find the right way to fold the cardboard in several different directions," Gafni said. "It took a year and a half, with lots of testing and failure until I got it right."

Once Gafni formed the cardboard into the appropriate shape, he treated it with a bath of proprietary chemicals to make the bike waterproof and fireproof. To test the cardboard bike's durability, he immersed a cross-section of the bike in water for several months. When he pulled it out, the cardboard bike held its shape.

"I'm repeatedly surprised at just how strong this material is, it is amazing. Once we are ready to go to production, the bike will have no metal parts at all," Gafni said.

Nimrod Elmish, Gafni's business partner, told Reuters that the cardboard bike could not only revolutionize commuting, but also could also be produced locally, keeping the cardboard bike's price low.

"This is a real game-changer," he said. "It changes the way products are manufactured and shipped, it causes factories to be built everywhere instead of moving production to cheaper labor markets, everything that we have known in the production world can change."

By including advertisements on the cardboard bike's frame and taking advantage of government grants, it almost be given away for free Elmish said.

"Because you get a lot of government grants, it brings down the production costs to zero, so the bicycles can be given away for free. We are copying a business model from the high-tech world where software is distributed free because it includes embedded advertising," he said. "It could be sold for around $20, because (retailers) have to make a profit ... and we think they should not cost any more than that. We will make our money from advertising."

Gafni said that people used to laugh at the idea of a cardboard bike, but he's one the getting the last laugh.

"When we started, a year and a half or two years ago, people laughed at us, but now we are getting at least a dozen e-mails every day asking where they can buy such a bicycle, so this really makes me hopeful that we will succeed," he said.

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