The Buzz on Futuristic Bicycles

Wednesday, September 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

One day, the bicycle that leaves you and your Huffy puffing way behind may not be a bicycle at all. It could be a commercial version of Manhattan Scientifics' silent, pollution-free Hydrocycle.

The Hydrocycle is outfitted with a small electric hub motor and a canister that holds two liters of hydrogen fuel.

A prototype, it was built to demonstrate the potential applications of Manhattan Scientifics' midrange fuel cell, which converts fuel into electricity. The company believes devices from lawn mowers and leaf blowers to wheelchairs and golf carts could eventually run on fuel cells.

Nevertheless, chief operating officer Jack Harrod figures that with pollution from gasoline-powered cars and scooters endangering many Asian and European population centers, a two-wheeler probably will be the first commercial use for the technology.

The Hydrocycle's only emission, the company says, is a trace of water vapor.

"If you look at certain parts of the world, the government ... is actually providing tax breaks for the purchase" of bicycles that run on electric motors, says Mr. Harrod, who has demonstrated the Hydrocycle from the streets of Plano, where he lives, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

Manhattan Scientifics says its vehicle, built from off-the-shelf components, can hit 18 to 20 mph on a flat surface and go 43 to 62 miles on a canister of fuel. Fuel costs would be between a quarter and a third of gasoline, Mr. Harrod says.

In price, he says, a Hydrocycle "can be competitive" with other electric cycles in the $2,000 to $3,000 range.

Among U.S. companies that already make bicycles powered by electricity is EV Global Motors, founded by Lee Iacocca.

Its E-Bikes, which cost $1,000 to $1,400, can go as fast as 15 mph and travel as far as 20 miles on a charge.

Another player is Zap Power Systems, whose two-wheel product line runs from a basic $700 bike to a relatively powerful $5,500 scooter. Both companies' bikes use electricity stored in rechargeable lead acid batteries.

Manhattan Scientifics is talking with potential partners who would actually manufacture and bring the cycle to consumers. It's a process that Mr. Harrod expects will culminate with "something in the marketplace ... by the year 2002."

"I haven't seen anybody yet who reacted in any other way than 'Gee, I'd like to have one of those,'" he says.Apple beta gotcha

Apple has borrowed a leaf from Microsoft's book by charging $29.95 for a beta release of its much-anticipated Mac OS X. Mac fanatics who can't wait for the retail version of the operating system can place an order at Running the beta version, which will expire in May, requires at least 128 megabytes of RAM with Mac OS 9.04.


If you are thinking about taking a cruise, consider docking first at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vessel Sanitation Program site. At, visitors can see results of health inspections on any cruise ship that docks in the United States.

Nothing to Heidi

That sly Heidi Fleiss. The infamous madam of Beverly Hills thinks she has a story to sell, er, tell, despite what the courts say. Her parole and bankruptcy court agreements forbid it, but Ms. Fleiss thinks authorities will look the other way if she scripts a tell-all available online. The New York Post reports that her plan is to self-publish and sell the title off one of her Web sites.

Dear Olympian: Do good

Instant adulation or encouragement for Olympians goes well beyond the mat, track, pool or stadium at the Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. Competitors' e-mail in-baskets are overflowing.

As of Monday, more than 310,000 messages had been sent through IBM's free FanMail Web site, the company says.

One athlete, 25-year-old Italian police officer and Taekwondo competitor Claudio Nolano, received more than 7,500 messages within 24 hours of appearing on the Today Show Sept. 21. The site is

Traffic has been much heavier on, the official Web site of the Summer Games. From two days before the opening ceremonies on Sept. 15 through Monday, the site has had 7.2 billion hits, 753 million on Monday alone, IBM says. More than 55 percent of visits were from users in the United States and Australia.

Fine-tuning the digital TV rules

After 10 months of debate, major television manufacturers have finally hammered out a series of revised definitions for digital television sets.

The Consumer Electronics Association says manufacturers are no longer allowed to call any sets "HDTV-ready." They are to be called high-definition sets if they come with a digital receiver and high-definition monitors if a buyer must purchase the digital receiver separately, as is usually the case.

Also, Hitachi and Toshiba are being required to notify potential buyers that some sets that they advertise as high-definition provide lower-resolution pictures than HDTVs sold by some manufacturers.

In 1998, the consumer electronics industry agreed on a rule specifying that for a set to be called an HDTV, the screen must provide 1,080 lines of resolution, as compared with the 480 lines on conventional sets. In addition, the set must achieve that resolution on a wide screen, also known as letterbox.

Last year, Hitachi and Toshiba began selling digital sets with conventional, nearly square screens and calling them HDTVs.

When high-definition signals were displayed full screen, the sets showed them with 1,080 lines of resolution. But when the image was displayed in the letterbox format, only 810 lines were displayed.

Hitachi and Toshiba can call their sets HDTVs. But they must also prominently disclose that only 810 lines are being shown when signals are in letterbox format. Not even His Airness, Michael Jordan, can buy a pair of Karim Rashid's teched-out athletic shoes. That's because they exist only in the New York designer's head, although visitors to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art can see a digital image of how these gadget-laden wonders might look.

His concept shoe is part of the museum's exhibit entitled "Design Afoot: Athletic Shoes 1995-2000," which runs through Oct. 17.

The museum ( collected 150 sports shoes from several companies, including Nike, Prada, Tommy Hilfiger, Acupunctures and DKNY. It also commissioned a handful of top designers and design teams, such as Mr. Rashid, Razorfish, IDEO, frogdesign and Yves Béhar of FuseProject, to envision futuristic shoes.

The purpose of the exhibit, says the museum, is to show "the recent evolution of athletic footwear design in which the line between fashion footwear and high-performance shoes has blurred."

Mr. Rashid calls his footwear the Shmoo, from a combination of the words smart and shoe.

In his vision, the Shmoo could tell wearers where they are by using the Global Positioning System, technology that employs satellites to pinpoint location.

An MP3 player for music and a massager module could slip into ports on the ankle. A video camera could mount in the heel.

A biofeedback monitor could be positioned in the toe.

Shmoos are a long way from Air Jordans, the popular Nike models for which the basketball legend lent his name.

But Mr. Rashid insists that the idea for the Shmoos is not farfetched.

"We could do it right now," he says. "The technology exists."Consumers will spend $12 billion online for products and services during the upcoming holiday season, a 66 percent increase over last year's $7 billion, according to Jupiter Communications.

According to a study by eMarketer, 6.6 million seniors were online last year. By the end of this year, eMarketer says, there will be 9.1 million seniors online and 17.3 million by 2003.

Online car sales in the United States are projected to grow to more than 500,000 vehicles by 2003 from 15,000 last year, Forrester Research says.

Americans are going online to go places. Seventy-five percent of Americans with access to the Internet use it to research travel plans, the GartnerGroup says.

Where does your personal computer live at home? Well, 33 percent are in the playroom, den or family room, a survey by Microsoft finds. Twenty-eight percent are in the office, library or study, and 16 percent are in the master bedroom. Others are in the living room, child's bedroom or rooms specifically set aside for computing.