HMK 561 and Reinventing the Corporation

By Bill Moore

Posted: 15 Mar 2010

In talking about reinventing the soul of the corporation, William Grieder makes the point in The Soul of Capitalism, which I highly recommend, by the way, that innovation is what gives the business its competitive edge; and preferably, from his perspective -- and mine -- collaborative innovation from within and across the corporation.

However, most corporations aren't structured that way. Instead, they rely on heavy-handed, top-down, command-and-control structures where decisions are made by the few - - some with serious anti-social components in their psyche -- often at the expense of the many, all in the name of a myth called 'shareholder value.' Instead of encouraging innovation, such corporations rely on market dominance and a "if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it" attitude.

No, if you're looking for innovation, you almost always have to look outside the corporate world and down into the fertile minds of inventors and designers like Ralf Kittman, the designer of the HMK 561 electric motorbike pictured above, as well a others who have taken what is, perhaps, the most conventional of objects -- the bicycle -- and rethought both its form and function.

The HMK 561 may, superficially, look like a standard bicycle, one that, sans-pedals and sprockets and chains, resembles the old wooden-wheeled push bikes of the 18th century. But on closer inspection, it incorporates a host of 21st century innovations starting with its unique split-wheel design. Also missing are the standard wire spokes.

How do you pedal it? You don't. Instead, you ride it like a motorcycle, powered by what is called a "counter-turning axle." While Ralf's description of it -- and other commentators -- leaves a lot to be desired, it appears to work inductively, with rotation provided -- both in motor and generator mode -- between the rear suspension arm and the twin rear wheel hub. Here's a translation of his description…

The new drive system consists of modular front and rear wing. In them, each with two electric motors are housed in the opposite direction to the force applied to the wheels.

It's a brilliant concept, though I wonder about its efficiency.

Just as brilliant -- providing it actually works -- is the use of special carbon fiber material in the frame, which isn't where the battery is housed. The frame is the battery; more accurately, it is the ultra-capacitor in which electric energy is stored; at least that's the theory. Recent announcements out of the UK would indicate that this is a distinct possibility.

Now all this would be just an interesting exercise in high style design -- great to look at, but totally impractical -- except that Kittman has actually built a prototype, as depicted below. How his 2008 award-winning design translates into a working electromotorrad (electric motorbike) remains to be seen, but it -- along with other two-wheeled innovations like the Yike! -- demonstrate that even the most mundane machines can be reinvented, if given the freedom to dream.

HMK 561

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