Brompton is known for one thing: making folding bikes – plus, more recently, folding electric bikes. However in a recent chat with T3, Brompton’s Chief Design and Engineering Officer Will Carleysmith did us the courtesy of conjecturing about some other possible future projects. The obvious rival to the folding bike at the moment is the electric scooter, so I wondered if that was something Brompton might one day branch in to.
I had a pretty good idea that Will wouldn’t exactly leap at the chance to move into this exciting new market – for a start, even the very best electric scooters still aren’t strictly legal in the UK, which is Brompton’s home turf. Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear his views on them. You can read the full Brompton interview if you want more – he also speaks at length about the design challenges of making the titanium Brompton T Line and explains why Brompton is best, when it comes to folding mechanisms and ‘Goldilocks’ wheel sizes…
Will, pictured above started by mentioning that an electric version of the super-light T Line would be, “A phenomenal product and certainly an interesting thing to look at.” The Brompton Electric was quite ahead of its time in terms of some of its systems – the way the motor reacts to your pedalling in a natural way, for instance – and in the years since its launch the brand has gained a lot more expertise in that area.
As Will says, “E systems and electric are a massive, massive trend… We’re really interested in any personal urban transport for cities. We think there’s plenty of scope in the Brompton DNA as it is now to do more.”
So , as to whether a Brompton electric scooter could ever happen, Will was adamant that, “We wouldn’t want to do just a me-too product. Most scooters are the same and we haven’t got much interest in doing just another one.”
It is true that electric scooters are quite samey but you do get some variety in terms of features and size, folding mechanism – or lack of one. So what would Brompton do different?
“Anything we do, we would look for functionality to be more useful, nicer to use,” says Will. E-scooters are “good for very short journeys, one or two miles,” and so “replacing walking with scooters can make a lot of sense.”
In making this hypothetical scooter, Will says Brompton would want to “add value through design or technology, or add a point of difference,” in order for it to be a worthwhile exercise.
This could, in theory, mean making a scooter that can go for longer distances than the 1-2 miles Will cites. However, he was very clear that when it comes to longer journeys, bike is best.
“I’m romantic about the experience of riding a bike. I would say it’s more engaging, and adds an element of exercise. It’s a beautiful thing to have a bike as part of your daily routine – it’s exercise for free.” Obviously, this is something that you don’t get with electric scooters. Will concludes that, “If you want to incorporate exercise, and all the good stuff that comes with that, then I would come back to the bicycle.”
So a Brompton electric scooter seems highly unlikely at this point. Even so, it’s interesting to think what the brand could do to make the scooting experience more interesting.
Also, Brompton has to date only ever made variations on its original folding bike theme – unless you count its accessories range. For that reason, it was interesting to hear Will entertaining the idea of Brompton branching out into other areas of urban mobility, electric or otherwise.
Brompton T Line: price and availability
There are several more affordable Brompton models these days… but the Brompton T Line is not one of them, alas. Nor will it be straightforward to buy, at least at launch.
• T Line One (single speed, no mudguards, 7.45kg) £3,750, $4,795, €4,360, AU$7,100
• T Line Urban (4-speed gears, mudguards, 7.95kg) £3,950, $4,995, €4,590, AU$7,500
The bike is exclusively available via a ballot system on Brompton.com and through selected Brompton Junction stores in London, New York, Shanghai, Singapore and Paris, the bike will be available in two specifications, each with the option of a low and mid-rise handlebar fit.