BASF, the largest chemical company in the world, has finally put its materials knowledge to good use: By creating a ridiculously over-engineered penny-farthing, the big-wheeled bike of the 19th century.

This conceptual velocipede might never make it to the local bike shop (in fact, it definitely won't), but that doesn't make it any less fun to watch in action. Imagine seeing this thing cruising down the bike lane outside your taxi window.

Space Age Plastics Reinvent the 19th Century Penny-farthingS

The premise of the project was to apply all of today's materials and design knowledge to the design of a horribly uncomfortable "boneshaker" from the 1860s. BASF teamed up with the design studio DING3000 to come up with this "e-velocipede," built almost entirely out of plastic—24 different types of plastic, to be exact.

The bike retains the basic big wheel, little wheel design of a boneshaker or penny-farthing, but every last facet has been rethought and overhauled—from the construction of the rims, to the insulation around the e-bike's battery, to the 250-watt motor hidden within the rear wheel. The result is a lightweight, battery-powered machine that looks like a dream to ride—literally, you'd probably think you were dreaming.

Space Age Plastics Reinvent the 19th Century Penny-farthingS

Of course, the e-Velocipede is basically an opportunity for BASF to show off its portfolio of proprietary materials. Sure! Let's make grips out of Elastofoam® I and a frame out of Baxxodur®! But beneath the absurdly-named materials and excess marketing is some real design insight about how metals might be replaced with lighter space age plastics in everyday products. Though maybe not the penny-farthing. [BASF via Urban Velo]