Local Motors' latest crowdsourcing challenge takes aim at motorized bikes

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on May 30, 2013

From The News Desk

Last week Local Motors announced its latest crowdsourcing challenge: design a motorized bicycle. This challenge calls for designers of all backgrounds and abilities within the Local Motors community to submit plans for a vehicle that fits within the challenge’s parameters and lives and breathes “retro-innovation.”

Crowdsourcing – or as the company refers to it, co-creation – isn’t something new for Local Motors. Indeed, it’s exactly what the company has always done. But this challenge showcases another project that could shift the way we think about automobile manufacturing, by having the its community be the market testers.

Local Motors is an interesting idea. It believes that by using its open-source techniques it may be able to “solve local problems, locally,” as well as make “transportation more sustainable, globally.” The program, which puts automobile design on par with a creative commons licenses, aims to make automotive development into a more localized and personalized process.

Past projects include a joint venture with BMW, an open tandem race car, and even a Domino’s pizza delivery vehicle.

This latest competition is especially interesting because it is not only aiming to design a new bicycle, but reinvigorate a genre of vehicles. The company is looking for concepts for a gas-powered motorized bicycle, one that uses modern technology but keeps its retro roots in mind.

While it’s doubtful that this project will bring motorized bikes back into mainstream culture, it's nice to see the company focused on a different school of automotive designs. CEO Jay Rogers says, “This kind of innovative vehicle design is exactly the kind of new vehicle development the Local Motors Community was meant for.”

The challenge's description reads: “Participants will submit concepts for a gas-powered, motorized bicycle that combines the aesthetic and functionality of traditional pedal bikes with the performance efficiency of a Honda 48cc 4-stroke engine.”

Since its launch last week, many designs have already been submitted. While each of them do, indeed, look like a motorized bike, their aesthetic range is in frame and color. I tried to choose a favorite, but alas I am not an automobile designer, and found myself basing my critiques on color choice and artistic ability. I think I’ll just leave it to the professionals.

The company right now is very niche-based – relegated predominately to auto enthusiasts. This is what makes Local Motors such an interesting venture because it relies on auto enthusiasts – that is, the auto "crowd" – to decide what should be marketed next. This is an awesome way to re-conceptualize car manufacturing, but leaves it to those who at least have an inkling of what they’re doing. But that's kind of the reason why Local Motors is doing what it's doing.

The LM Cruiser challenge ends June 6, with the first place winner receiving $2,000 cash and first production. May the best bike win.