Evoc’s €900 backpack offers airbag crash protection

The Commute Air Pro 18 has an automatic, sensor-controlled airbag that inflates in the blink of an eye to protect the rider's upper body.

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The IAA Mobility show is taking place in Munich for the first time this week. Formerly the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (International Automobile Exhibition) held in Frankfurt, the show has this year brought a sustainable mobility theme with the motto “what will move us next” and a focus on e-vehicles, “mobility of the future”, and bikes.

With this new focus on sustainability, the show has, for the first time, two halls dedicated to cycling. I am on the ground in the Neu Messe München convention centre to see first-hand the show’s new focus on sustainability and the latest offerings from a host of brands.

German bag manufacturer Evoc is one brand giving us a glimpse of the future at IAA Mobility. On the first morning of the show Evoc unveiled its new Commute Air Pro 18 backpack, a commuting backpack with an integrated airbag and back protector. The sensor-controlled airbag within the bag inflates in 0.2 seconds when it senses a fall, offering the rider neck, shoulder, back, collarbone, and chest protection. 

No stranger to backpacks and commuting bags, Evoc turned to airbag specialists Minerva-AS Gmbh to develop an airbag for use in this everyday backpack. The result is a rechargeable, re-usable (not that you want to use the airbag in the first place), sensor-controlled airbag capable of analysing rider and backpack location 1,100 times per second to sense falls and crashes.

In the event of a fall, an electric igniter triggers the airbag inflation and the airbag then bursts through YKK’s QuickBurst zipper which was specifically designed to open quickly in an emergency, unfolding into its full protective state. As noted, the whole process takes just 0.2 seconds to ensure the rider is protected before an impact occurs. I have never timed how long it takes me to hit the ground, but 0.2 seconds certainly sounds fast. 

Evoc claims the Commute Air Pro can reduce the force and braking acceleration a cyclist experiences by up to 80%. The inflated bag has a maximum pressure of 0.4 bar (5.8 psi), with a sustained pressure for five seconds after inflation before any loss. Combined with a claimed protective effect of five to ten seconds, the rider should experience a level of protection for the initial impact and any subsequent impacts before they reach a stop.

The rechargeable sensor battery has a claimed 32-hour run time and features a USB recharging port. In the unfortunate scenario where the airbag does need to inflate, the airbag itself folds back into the backpack; only the CO2 pressure canister needs replacing. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as throwing in a tyre-inflating CO2 canister from your saddlebag; rather, a larger cartridge will be available from Evoc. 

As the system depends on sensors and is activated by sudden movements and position changes, Evoc integrated an electric magnetic buckle developed in collaboration with Fidlock to prevent setting off the airbag when not required. The system is activated by connecting the buckle with a green LED, indicating it is live. Once detached, the buckle deactivates the sensors, so no nasty airbag explosions when you chuck the bag down after a long day at the office. Still, keep this in mind if you bend over to lock your bike outside the office.  

For added protection, Evoc has incorporated its removable Liteshield-Plus back protector along the length of the backpack for added spinal protection in the event of a fall. Evoc will even replace the back protector free of charge if it shows signs of damage after a crash. 

The bag is still a bag, though, and Evoc has found space for 18 litres of storage, in addition to the 18 litres the sensor, canister, and airbag consume. The placement of the canister and sensor do eat into the main compartment storage capacity, but I, for one, would find a way to stuff any contents around these, for the added protection the bag is said to offer.

In more good news, the bag is made with recycled polyester. Evoc has also brought all of its bag-making experience to the Commute Air Pro with an easy-access laptop compartment, compartments for your phone, glasses, and accessories, plus an elastic side pocket. The hip belt is height-adjustable and the bag features seamless shoulder straps for added comfort. Evoc has also added reflective panels for a little extra visibility. One thing I do think it’s missing is a loop for attaching a rear light and perhaps a brighter colour option for further increased visibility.

Evoc plans to offer the bag from spring 2022, initially with just this 18 L size, but the brand is hopeful of introducing additional sizes, starting with a smaller bag with a smaller-sized back protector.

The idea of an airbag for cyclists is not new – Hövding has long offered a helmet-replacing airbag – but Evoc is the first to incorporate an airbag into a backpack for commuting. Evoc points to the ever-busier nature of city streets, often poor cycling infrastructure, and the fear of accidents as factors stopping more people from choosing to commute by bike. It’s those factors that motivated Evoc to create a new range of safety products for commuting.

The backpack and the airbag protection sound great, but there is one catch: the Commute Air Pro 18 will retail at €900 (international pricing TBC). Furthermore, a CO2 canister refill will cost €40 a pop. That’s a heck of a lot of money for a backpack and will undoubtedly put it out of reach for many. That said, the technology and use case is exciting, and the added protection the bag is said to offer could be invaluable. Hopefully, in time, that price will come down. 

You can find out more at Evocsports.com.

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