Nothing more eco-friendly than an electric scooter that doesn’t create any emissions and is quite literally made from wood, right!? What you’re looking at right here is a custom one-off build of the NIU NQi GT/S, made entirely from wood and brass by the folks at Kalpa Taru, a bespoke furniture studio based out of Bali.
The custom wooden NQi GT/S obviously isn’t trying to make a point about sustainability or environmental friendliness. It’s an experiment in working with wood as an automotive material, and from the looks of it, I wholeheartedly approve! With an aesthetic that reminds me a lot of automotive clay, the custom NIU moped looks decidedly eclectic, earthy, and like an absolute art-piece. Every single element of its body is made by hand from blocks of wood that were finished and assembled in place, and finally finished with brass accents that bring the moped alive, with an old-meets-new steampunk vibe!
NIU remains one of Asia’s leading electric moped/scooter makers, with an aesthetic that treads the line between cutting-edge and classic-iconic. This custom piece, however, shows how a simple material switch can cause an entire aesthetic to get an overhaul. The scooter’s surface-work is entirely the same (there’s no difference in its overall design), but Kalpa Taru’s use of wood elevates the two-wheeler’s design, making it a modern classic. It’s difficult to tell if the scooter’s operational (there’s hardly any information on Kalpa Taru’s website), although one would imagine that blocks of wood are much heavier than formed aluminum or steel sheets, resulting in an e-scooter that has much more weight than it was originally designed to carry.
The moped’s body uses teakwood, a hardwood that Kalpa Taru sources from sustainable government plantations in their town of Bali, Indonesia. A wood often used in ships from back in the day (especially by European voyagers and colonialists), teak today finds itself still being used on decks in yachts, and remains the wood of choice for premium long-lasting furniture. It’s complemented by brass accents that bring out the wood’s earthy color, and add a metallic touch to the bike’s design, which is otherwise dominated by the wood-grain from the teak.
The way Kalpa Taru uses the wood is uniquely fascinating too. Depending on the aerodynamics of the scooter, the wood grain travels in the same direction, giving the illusion of speed. The wood grain shows up as concentric rings around the headlight, an incredibly clever detail, and travels in a linear direction along the sides, creating a bespoke beauty that’s dynamic even when it’s standing still!
Whether the custom wooden NIU NQi GT/S is up for sale (or was even commissioned by a patron) isn’t really known. The project was completed in 2020 and exists as a one-off concept for now. It also pushes the boundaries of what wood is capable of as an automotive material. Sure, wood finds itself in car interiors all the time, but this exterior treatment is absolutely exquisite with perfect class A surfacing from the folks at Kalpa Taru. Who knows what vehicle they might decide to work on next?!
Designer: Kalpa Taru