Mithun Darji on winning the design award for his hybrid electric bicycle

The Red Dot Design Award has been around since 1995 and is coveted by designers worldwide. In 2005, aside of established industry, Red Dot opened up to students and professionals alike, encouraging innovative designs for the future with awards for design concepts. Of the 4,394 entries received for in 2013, 202 concepts were selected and Mithun Darji’s Cross X made it to the final and eventually bagged the award recently in Singapore.

Darji’s creation, a low-cost hybrid electric bicycle, on 25th October in Singapore grants immediate recognition in the international design scene. Mithun’s product will be is on interactive display at a museum in Singapore for a year. Darji, a product designer from NID, began his adventure with designing a hybrid bike in Ahmedabad in 2012, coursing into the future world of energy saving vehicles. Yes, it’s true, This bike needs no refills and the rider is ready to cross the next milestone to the market. Excerpts from an interview with the designer.

Is it true that You developed the Cross X totally independently.

Yes, it was a completely self-initiated and self-financed product. I heard someone say once, ‘if you find a concept worth dying for, just go all the way and do it. That’s what I did. When I ran out of funds, I somehow found another way. It was money in a good direction.

What about bikes made you come up with this design?

I got a bike to get around easily. Plus, I wanted the exercise. Riding at night turned challenging in heavy traffic. Bikes are not adequately equipped with safety lights and features compared to motor vehicles. It is complicated making quick turns and riding on rough roads. I realised existing bike designs were primitive for the increased urbanisation.

How did you derive your concept?

It was about arriving at the right recipe — rugged with special features and increased mobility for the rider. Well-known brands make concept-bikes, seldom affordable for the urban user. Lesser-priced models are retrofitted for additional features. I was drawn to integrating a bike and a powered vehicle. The Cross X has two variants — electric with 36 amp battery in the central housing and non-electric with just a storage casing, head and tail lights powered by a 400 milliamp battery. When you get tired of pedalling, on the higher version, you can switch over to battery mode and simply ride the Cross X. It can run to 45 km!

The Red Dot website has described two unique potentials for your bike – medical and campus.

Many deaths happen because of the inability to deliver immediate first-aid. Paramedics can get to site faster on a bike in medical emergencies. The Cross X can house a first-aid kit and power communication devices. For the university crowd, the design allows safe and easy mobility on campuses.

How do you actually make a bicycle prototype?

Seventy five per cent of bicycle parts are standard and available from spares. The chassis, the battery compartment, the hub motor and the electronics for the head and tail light were critically designed. The frame is aluminium and the light fittings are a mix of polycarbonate and ABS. Chassis parts are vacuum formed.

Can users be influenced by design?

Design should have the right combination of features. For the right product, there is value. For the fitness-conscious young generation, design should make a statement. Further, the Cross X is more than just a cycle. My aim was to take on a margin from the auto industry and yet make a cost-effective product.

What y does Cross X mean?

This hybrid bike is a category in itself, evolved for the near-future. Cross X stands for ‘crossover’ from the normal bike. It is competing with the automobile spectrum, not the cycle.

Do you see many people riding such hybrid bikes changing the face of cities in the future?

In the 1970s when computers entered the scene, ideas were emerging. No one could have visualised a tablet then. Similarly, there is huge potential for the next era of commuting. I won a concept award, but my aim was always to make a product that worked in the real world.