“Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Sometimes this saying is annoying. Patience is simply not everyone’s cup of tea. Yet it just doesn’t disappear from our linguistic usage. Probably because it simply proves true again and again. Just like in the case of the F3. A preliminary version of this cargo bike was already on show at the Eurobike in 2016. Now, six years later, it will soon go into series production, according to the manufacturer.
Bicycle development as a hobby
In itself, the F3 is the result of a project from Great Britain. The company Fiil e-motion has its headquarters in London and is headed by Dr. Rachid Mekhalfia. However, the initiator of this ebike is the German Hermann Ophardt. The engineer is now strongly approaching ninety. Almost 20 years ago, he handed over the management of one of Germany’s largest manufacturers of disinfectants – Ophardt Hygiene – to younger hands within the family. From then on, he turned to more private interests. His own boatyard in Duisburg. His collection of vintage cars. And the development of a three-wheeled electric cargo bike called Cargonaut.
As mentioned, Ophardt e-motion presented this for the first time in Germany in Friedrichshafen in 2016. Two years later, it won the Cargo Bike Award at Cyclingworld in Düsseldorf. A lot of development work and several renaming later, the F3, the successor to the Cargonaut, could already be seen at several trade fairs in 2022.
Ride comfort on three wheels
How well the concept of the F3 can work is shown by the number of Cargobikes that also ride on two front wheels and one rear wheel. The Sblocs Calderas and the MK1-E Gen. 3 from Butchers&Bicycles are just two examples. Fiil e-motion’s interpretation of this idea is to combine the comfort of a car with the flexibility of an ebike. Well, ambitious goals.
A parallel to the two bikes mentioned is the fact that a patented steering tilt system is also used on the front axle of the F3. It ensures that the cargo box, and thus the contents stored in it, always remain horizontal. So you can lean into the bend sportily without risking anything being taken out of order at the front or even parts of the load falling out of the box.
Light and strong
The chassis of the bike is made entirely of aluminium. It is CNC milled and welded. A special powder coating and anodising are intended to make the construction as durable as possible. With its width of just 80 centimetres, the F3 is narrow enough for any conventional bicycle path.
For the drive, the manufacturer has opted for a rear-wheel hub motor. The pedelec version has a power output of 250 watts. Apparently Fiil e-motion also offers a speed bike version. The peak power of this one jumps up to 1,200 watts for a short time. Together with an enormous torque of 250 Newton metres, this is perhaps the part of the bike that has the most automotive character. Via the motor’s recuperation, part of the energy gained during braking and descents even flows back into the drive.
Different batteries to choose from
Basically, however, the battery performance is absolutely worth considering even without this. Based on a voltage of 48 volts, two different cell technologies are used. One is the well-known lithium-ion battery technology. The corresponding battery has a capacity of 1,500 watt-hours. The second type of battery has only half that capacity, i.e. 750 watt-hours. Instead, it uses lithium iron phosphate cells, which makes it safer and more durable. Fiil e-motion promises up to 3,000 charging cycles. It also supports fast charging, which allows it to be fully recharged within just one hour.
In practice, the optional fast charger may become more important. Because the rear-wheel hub motor probably doesn’t pass for power-saving. Fiil e-motion states a range of only 50 kilometres. It is not entirely clear which battery this refers to. In case of doubt, even for each of the two. Frequent riders or companies that want to use the F3 commercially will be pleased to know that the bike is soon ready for use again with an empty battery. In addition, they can opt to have the F3 equipped with two batteries.
Robust solution from Pinion
In addition to the motor, an automatic gearbox from Pinion provides the propulsion. A belt connects it to the motor in the rear wheel. The nine gears of the C1.9 cover a transmission bandwidth of 568 percent. There are somewhat larger gear jumps of not quite 25 percent between the individual gears. But this gear system is explicitly designed for the high torques and mechanical loads of an ebike.
Thanks in part to its 17-inch wheels, the F3 should prove to be very agile in road traffic. Its turning circle of just three metres certainly speaks for itself. The brakes, which are very large even for a cargo bike, are remarkable. At the rear wheel, the brake disc measures 260 millimetres in diameter. At the front it is a more typical 160 millimetres. The indicators integrated into the handlebar ends and the Supernova brake light also contribute positively to riding safety.
One basis, three variants
The Fiil e-motion website indicates that three versions of the F3 are to be released: the F3 Open with a low-rimmed cargo area, the F3 Cargo with a cargo box closed by a lid, and the F3 Kiddy for transporting children. According to the manufacturer, the latter two models are 270 centimetres long, while the version with the open flatbed measures only 210 centimetres.
You can probably load up to 150 kilograms. The weight of the riders is limited to a maximum of 120 kilograms. Given such key data, there is a lot of freedom in using the cargo bike. Especially since the cargo box is so large that it provides enough space for two children. If you have relatively little dead weight and only transport light things now and then, you can adjust the suspension of the front wheels to the lower load. Of course, this also works in the opposite case.
Suitable for DHL, FedEx & Co?
Fiil e-motion is probably focusing primarily on the commercial use of the bicycle. It should attract the interest of logistics providers such as postal and parcel delivery services. And presumably also all other companies that want to rely on bicycles for the last mile delivery of goods. In a brochure, the manufacturer speaks very confidently of its goal of delivering at least three million vehicles by 2050. This might include all the other cargo bikes that are currently being planned or will be built in the future.
Until then, a few more obvious questions remain unanswered. Who is actually the manufacturer of the motor and what riding modes does it offer? What will the different versions of the F3 cost? When and where will the cargo bike be available in Europe? As soon as Fiil e-motion has answered these questions, you will find out here.
Pictures: Fiil Bikes Limited