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Case Study: HOPR’s Vehicle Docking Station

In March of 2021, I met with the leadership of HOPR, a Miami based micro-mobility operator with rent-on-demand scooters, bicycles, and e-bikes in cities all over the country. HOPR had been awarded a contract to deploy a fleet of vehicles to Rochester, NY, and the city had specifically requested that HOPR create vehicle docking stations with racks to avoid the aforementioned clutter. HOPR had the ability to financially incentivize their users to bring vehicles to specific stations through their platform, as they had done with their system in the Tampa Bay.

However, the racks HOPR used in the Tampa Bay only support bicycles, not scooters. In fact, no vehicle-share company to our knowledge had a rack system which could dock the assortment of vehicles set to deploy to Rochester. With just a few months to deliver, Emergnt agreed to help Rochester design and produce a first-of-its-kind docking station for their Rochester program.

hopr-previous-rack-system

HOPR’s previous rack system photographed in St. Pete, FL. This design was only able to accommodate bicycles.

The project began like all of our other- defining the product requirements. These were a few major requirements we identified:

  • Accommodate any combination of scooters and bikes (ideal ratio is 2 scooters to 1 bike)
  • Intuitively directs the user on how stow vehicle
  • Rigidly secures vehicle, allowing for locking
  • Space efficient (no more than six feet deep)
  • Modular, connecting in series
  • Design Appeal
  • Durable, resisting elements
  • Safe (sharp edges)
  • Space for signage and ads
  • Able to be secured to ground
  • Resists collecting water or debris
station-drawing

Drawings of the station’s major components: base plates, two distinct “hoops” for bicycles and scooters, and a sign frame (which mounted to a half length base plate).

After we developed a comprehensive list of these requirements, it was time to brainstorm new concepts. HOPR’s Chief Innovation Officer quickly came up with a unique idea which could fit our functional requirements: steel barstock formed into a stadium shape, which we called a “hoop”.

The concept quickly took shape- uniform baseplates supporting either taller “scooter hoops” or shorter “bicycle hoops”. The scooter hoops would hold a plastic bay within which the scooter’s steering column could rest, while the bicycle hoops could surround the bike’s rear wheel and provide a column for the bike lock. The base plates could connect to each other in series, much like HOPR’s previous rack system, and a half-length base plate could be inserted to support a sign.

When we were satisfied with this level of conceptualization, I took the concept, along with a few of HOPR’s vehicles, and logged into Emergnt’s virtual CAD Lab for detailed technical design.

One of the challenges of this project was ensuring that the racks properly interfaced with HOPR’s existing vehicles. We were unable to secure CAD models of these vehicles from their manufacturers. However, using the state-of-the-art tools available to me in Emergnt’s virtual CAD Lab, I was able to model all of the vehicles to the appropriate resolution, allowing me to design the racks around the vehicles using a hybrid top-down CAD design approach.

wheel-cutout-design

Our unique wheel cutout ensures the entire footprint of the station lies underneath the length of the bicycles, occupying no extraneous sidewalk real-estate.

Every engineering project comes with trade-offs. For these racks, the tradeoff was between minimum sidewalk real-estate and minimum tip-ability. The 38″ scooter “hoops” with their tall, slender form factor were innately tippable.

This can be countered by securing them to a wide baseplate, but too wide of a baseplate would eat up too much side-walk real estate and upset the host city. The solution: an eccentric wheel cutout.

On HOPR’s previous bicycle rack system, a simple, central cutout located the rear wheel of the bicycle. However, with a wide base, a centered wheel cutout allows the base plate’s footprint to protrude beyond the length of the bicycle, eating up extra sidewalk space. Our new compound and eccentric cutout is designed to keep bicycle wheel towards the end of the baseplate, effectively placing the entire baseplate below the bicycle’s length. Since the bicycles are easily the longest vehicles in HOPR’s fleet, this eccentric design ensures that the stations take up the absolute minimum sidewalk real-estate and allow for a sufficiently wide base. Furthermore, a ramp feature was added to the baseplate to ensure users intuitively park their vehicles in the correct direction.The baseplates utilized a simple welded tongue to connect in series. Male and Female “end caps” were designed to terminate a series and keep debris from slipping underneath the plates. A sign was designed to match the aesthetic of the “hoops” along with a half-length baseplate to support it. The sign was design to be rotated on a central screw to multiple orientations, maximizing visibility in different urban locations.

final-design-rendering

Renderings from the finalized design files for the new docking station.

Initial designs were completed just a few weeks after we first met HOPR, but Emergnt continued to support the project through prototyping and production. As manufacturing challenges were uncovered and resolved, the design was altered in small ways to best fit manufacturing capabilities and the client’s budget. I personally made a trip to the production facility to inspect the prototype and ensure everything would be completed properly.

In mid-July, just four months after HOPR first engaged with Emergnt, HOPR began installing their new docking stations in Rochester. The finished product, made from powder-coated, cold-rolled steel, looks sleek and elegant. While these stations were designed specifically for the needs of Rochester, we believe other cities will find them highly attractive. This design, which now belongs to HOPR, will hopefully help them win over new cities for an organized, beautiful, convenient, and fun transportation method.

“[Emergnt] met all the challenges along the way, and the result is a great example of how design and function can live in harmony.”

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