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Electric Velomobiles: Urban Transportation For the Future, Available Now

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the let's-go-for-a-spin dept.

Transportation 201

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Low-Tech Magazine: "Both the velomobile and the electric bicycle increase the limited range of the cyclist — the former optimises aerodynamics and ergonomics, while the latter assists muscle power with an electric motor fuelled by a battery. The electric velomobile combines both approaches, and so maximises the range of the cyclist — so much so that it is able to replace most, if not all, automobile trips. A quarter of the existent wind turbines in the U.S. would suffice to power as many electric velomobiles as there are Americans." One thing I wish was included in the article — worth reading for the photos alone! — is a chart with prices and worldwide availability for more of the vehicles mentioned. They do mention, though, that the eWAW ("the Ferrari of the velomobiles") costs 7790 Euro.

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one problem (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870141)

they all look like penises.

Re:one problem (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870173)

Re:one problem (5, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | about 2 years ago | (#41870373)

What they look like is not a problem, what is the problem is they cost as much as a k-car (sub 600cc) in Japan. And a k-car nowadays is exactly like a real car if you obey the traffic rules. So I can't really see a reason on buy one of these.

Re:one problem (4, Informative)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 years ago | (#41870469)

I have a velomobile. I ride between 6 and 10 thousand miles a year - which is actually pretty easy, given that the velomobile is fast and protects you from the weather so you ride year round without any trouble.

With the gasoline I save, the depreciation of the car I don't use when I ride the velo, parking tickets I don't have to pay... the velo paid for itself in 3 years. After that it's all free miles.

Re:one problem (2)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 2 years ago | (#41870479)

the car depreciates whether or not you ride the velo. even if it stays in your garage.

Re:one problem (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 years ago | (#41870585)

Not nearly as much. A 3 year old car with 10,000 miles on the clock will sell much better than the same 3 year old car with 50,000 miles.

Re:one problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870627)

Not nearly as much. A 3 year old car with 10,000 miles on the clock will sell much better than the same 3 year old car with 50,000 miles.

To a point. But, really, there is a narrow range of value for any given year of vehicle regardless of mileage. That range generally gets narrower as the vehicle gets older. Collector items are a different beast but a '89 McVehicle isn't worth much no matter what.

Re:one problem (5, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | about 2 years ago | (#41870499)

This would only be close to true if you limit your car usage to match what you use the "velomobile" (whatever that is) for.

I have an two-seat enclosed recumbent bicycle, which ought to be pretty close to a "velomobile". The bike is a good replacement for a short leisure trip, but not for much else. Shopping, especially weekly shopping, longer trips, trips with more than one person and a half, trips in bad weather, etc. are all much easier and much more pleasant in the car.

So, forgive me, but I feel you're stretching it quite a bit.

Re:one problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870581)

"Overrated" != Disagree.

Re:one problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870603)

But "Overrated"=Overrated

Re:one problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870705)

I have an two-seat enclosed

Does no one know how to use a and and anymore? An AC above said " a '89' ". I haven't seen anyone talk about this increasing trend. If this continues, I may have to open an account just to police this. Someone has to do it. I saw a Unitarian with an umbrella.

Re:one problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870709)

no one gives A fuck

Re:one problem (2)

Dagger2 (1177377) | about 2 years ago | (#41871407)

No, we do. Incorrect grammar has a tendency to spread; people use it because they've read it elsewhere so often that it pops to mind when they're writing text themselves. I even find that I'm beginning to think "it's" for the possessive form of "it", because that error is so damn pervasive.

Many people, when called on bad grammar, will use the defence that "nobody cares so I'm just going to continue being wrong". If the GP wants to go around correcting them of that notion, then I will support him in that.

Re:one problem (1)

FishTankX (1539069) | about 2 years ago | (#41870957)

No insurance, no Shaken, no gas bills? A battery small enough that you can drag it back to your apartment to charge it?

Kei cars, insurance and gas costs, at a conservative 5000 miles per year, will still run you like $1500 per year average. That pays for the velomobile in about 7 years.

Re:one problem (1)

siddesu (698447) | about 2 years ago | (#41871065)

Except a velomobile seems like a very poor substitute for a kei.

Re:one problem (4, Interesting)

FishTankX (1539069) | about 2 years ago | (#41871259)

Yeah. Many people have different transportation needs in Japan. I live in a compact city where my farthest commute is 7KM each way. So for me, a road bike works perfectly. Paid about 5 man for it, and I can make the commute out there in about 25 minutes. This works for me because i've essentially (with repairs) paid a little over 3 man a year i've had it, over 3 years. So it's been a good investment versus getting a kei car (20 man), driving school (no license, so 30 man), 3 years of insurance (30 man), shaken (10 man), and gas (my odo says i've gone 4k on my bike, so let's just say that would be probably about 6 man) . So i've saved about 10 grand.

But if I lived in a town where my farthest commute was more like 40km, cycling would be impractical. So i'd have to go that route. Plenty of people live in the burbs and commute in, for them a kei car is economical. That's their living situation.

However, where the Velo really comes in handy is when you're commute is like 20km, because a Velo can easily maintain 50kph with a fit cyclist, doesn't mind rain, and etc. If you're commuting 40km round trip, your kei would be eating 3/4 of gas a day. 5 days a week 45 weeks a year that's 8 man a year just for gas. You tack on supplemental insurance (10 man a year) and you're shaken (10 man every 2 years, so let's just say 5 man). So you're looking at a yearly running cost of of 23 man. At those prices, that 8000 euro velo will pay for itself in 4 years. And if you're spending say, half an hour in the gym per day to stay fit, you can shift that half an hour in the gym to your hour of cycling. Considering that, the times would equalize.

So there are many different angles you can work on this. Some people might pick the Velo. I know I would, for fitness. The same reason why I haven't bought a car, only having a bicycle forces me to cycle everywhere and has helped me loose 50 pounds.

Re:one problem (3, Interesting)

siddesu (698447) | about 2 years ago | (#41871513)

Unlike a bicycle, you'll need a parking spot for this in Japan. Also, I am not quite sure what kind of treatment you will get in terms of license requirements from the government. I'm afraid this thing will be treated more like a scooter than like a bicycle on the account of speed and size. As for "doesn't mind rain", well, my tricycle disagrees, it does mind rain a bit. You can't get in and out the same way you do form a car.

So, yeah, for a niche market it probably makes sense, but for most people that need transportation and not a toy it doesn't look like a good choice.

But maybe we'll see some interesting development as the genre matures.

Cycle tracks (4, Insightful)

hack slash (1064002) | about 2 years ago | (#41870157)

One of the places a velomobile would legally allowed to go but access (especially here in the UK) would often make it impossible to enter, which is why I really like my electric bike as it will happily go on roads and cycle tracks without fuss. But I wish the councils would fix the roads, pot holes are a bane (and sometimes danger) to the cyclist.

Re:Cycle tracks (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 2 years ago | (#41870817)

If you ride a decent full suspension MTB, pot holes suddenly become fun ;-)

Re:Cycle tracks (4, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41871037)

And if you ride a decent full suspension MTB, anywhere but potholes, it quickly becomes a chore because of all the energy you're losing pumping into the springs and those fat tyres. Yes, I've tried it.

Look, I pedal to work on the few days a year when it seems likely that I won't arrive drenched in either rain, sweat or blood, but let's not pretend that it's a realistic transport panacea.

Re:Cycle tracks (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41871627)

You can fix the tire problem by running hybrids, like armadillos. You can fix the suspension problem by buying a shock with a stop that can be fixed. Then the only problem is the extra ten pounds of bike you're lugging around that could have been a street bike. Thing is, IMO street biking is solely for people who don't care if they die excessively sooner than necessary. And an enclosure that isn't a crash cell only makes the experience more dangerous by severely limiting your mobility. In the worst case I can fling myself off of my bicycle, possibly off of an embankment, to avoid a car, if one should try to run me down on one of the fire roads I occasionally have to use between trails. If I were sitting down in a plastic cocoon all I could do would be to pedal hard, steer for the embankment, and hope that I slide into a tree soon rather than down the hill forever.

25 miles per hour (5, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 2 years ago | (#41870169)

The headline says "Fast and Comfortable as Automobiles" but later in the text it says "Over a period of about an hour and a half, Brecht and I managed to reach an average speed of 40 km/h (25 mph)" and "my attempt to go any faster than 50 km/h (30 mph) left me frustrated -- the vehicle lacks the high gears needed for those speeds" (and the article goes on to note that the electric motor cuts out entirely at that speed; it's entirely pedal powered.)
I wouldn't call "able to reach average speeds of 25 miles per hour" to be "fast as automobiles."

Re:25 miles per hour (5, Informative)

hack slash (1064002) | about 2 years ago | (#41870199)

Legal reasons are a likely for the explanation of the motor cutting out at a certain speed. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws [wikipedia.org] for a comprehensive breakdown of legalities regarding electric bikes speed/weight/motor power in US states and around the world.

Re:25 miles per hour (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about 2 years ago | (#41870305)

thanks was looking for a link to that!

Come to London and check the speed. (5, Informative)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | about 2 years ago | (#41870311)

I take the bus regularly in London, most times in the upper floor of a double decker.

From there one can follow the progress of individual cyclists, and is undeniable that most of them move pretty much at the same speed as the motorized vehicles, even some runners can keep up with traffic speed for a while.

Most of the world is or will be urban, so fast vehicles will be completely redundant to the actual needs of urban dwellers.

Re:Come to London and check the speed. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871605)

Wow, most of the world will be like London? I think you have no idea how big the world is.

Re:25 miles per hour (1)

adolf (21054) | about 2 years ago | (#41870221)

In town, the average speed of my car tends to hover below 20MPH.

I don't think I want a velomobile for any sort of highway jaunt, but it might be handier than a car for getting to the store that's about 9 blocks from my house.

Re:25 miles per hour (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870261)

In town, the average speed of my car tends to hover below 20MPH.

Well, in my town (Mountain View, CA), 35 mph is a much more reasonable top speed. Anyone familiar with the area can attest that using a lane at 25 mph on Shoreline or El Camino is going to net a fair number of unhappy people passing around your velomobile.

In short, limiting this vehicle to ~25 mph would limit its use to things pretty much already within walking or biking distance in many areas.

Re:25 miles per hour (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about 2 years ago | (#41870357)

better off using a bike at that point.

Re:25 miles per hour (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41871317)

Yeah it's not very fast my average speed is 30km/h on my MTB, a simple racing bike can do a 40km/h average.

Re:25 miles per hour (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871357)

Bullshit. Only few road cyclists manage 40km/h in average and with expensive tri-bikes. A VM with such an athlete would easily reach 60+ km/h.

Legal considerations (5, Insightful)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about 2 years ago | (#41870181)

Interesting article.

However, I think the big problem for these is safety, particularly if you must share the road with cars, trucks and busses. Even for a very fit driver, 50 km/h seems to be a high speed, which is significantly lower than general road traffic in Australia. Combine that with the extremely low profile... let's just say that the odds of getting caught dead in one of these seem a little high for my comfort.

Now, in cities with excellent bike networks, that wouldn't be such an issue - IF the vehicle actually meets the legal requirements for use on bike paths. I'm not sure whether these would be allowed on the bike network in my city. If I had to guess, I'd say the purely muscle powered ones probably are, but I am honestly unsure about the electric/muscle hybrids.

I don't think I'd pay 8000 euros, but if there is one available for, say, 1000 euros, I think I would be interested. You'd want to have somewhere to keep it locked up and safe, though.

Re:Legal considerations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870381)

Plus, I can't imagine waxing this thing let alone climbing into something that looks like a giant prop from a porno movie.

Re:Legal considerations (2)

tftp (111690) | about 2 years ago | (#41870549)

Even for a very fit driver, 50 km/h seems to be a high speed,

This is one of my personal concerns about bicycle riders. They pedal so hard that they can't look around - they are too busy. On a motorbike it's not a problem, your body is free to lean and look back. This vehicle at least helps with that problem because it is inherently stable.

I'm not sure whether these would be allowed on the bike network in my city.

This vehicle is not very likely to fit into most bike lanes. And it is not suitable for bike paths that are not perfectly flat (with only 6" of clearance it got to be perfect.) I am not sure what major advantage would an avid bicycle rider have with this one if electric assist is not effective at speed. Most riders do OK at low speeds on their own.

You'd want to have somewhere to keep it locked up and safe, though.

You might just as well drop 8,000 euros on the ground and walk away :-) IMO, this ridiculous price is only to harvest the early crop of rich fools. Then the price is halved, and the new set of fools are harvested, and so on - until the price drops to some realistic number, like $300. That, IMO, would be a fair price for a crude bicycle under a cheap fiberglass shell, with a battery and a DC motor from a handheld vacuum cleaner of the variety that is sold for $25 in drug stores.

Re:Legal considerations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870761)

Even for a very fit driver, 50 km/h seems to be a high speed,

This is one of my personal concerns about bicycle riders. They pedal so hard that they can't look around - they are too busy. On a motorbike it's not a problem, your body is free to lean and look back. This vehicle at least helps with that problem because it is inherently stable.

Mirrors are the old and crappy fix; a wide-angle backup cam under the seat and an LCD on the bars is better. Adapt for velomobile, I'd say two 100-120deg. cameras (and two LCDs) for >180deg. coverage.

This vehicle is not very likely to fit into most bike lanes. And it is not suitable for bike paths that are not perfectly flat (with only 6" of clearance it got to be perfect.) I am not sure what major advantage would an avid bicycle rider have with this one if electric assist is not effective at speed. Most riders do OK at low speeds on their own.

Look at a motorcycle -- they can take imperfect roads at rather higher speeds with 6" clearance. And maybe it's not for "an avid bicycle rider", but to let the poor bloke who can go 20 miles at 10mph do 40 miles at 20mph? Yeah, I'm sure not gonna pay the early-adopter tax, but the concept's not near as broken as you seem to think.

Re:Legal considerations (5, Interesting)

tftp (111690) | about 2 years ago | (#41870853)

Mirrors are the old and crappy fix;

Yes, they are pretty bad. I used to have a bicycle with a mirror, and I rarely could see anything in that mirror because it vibrated too much.

a wide-angle backup cam under the seat and an LCD on the bars is better.

You need to use an LCD that works at full sunlight and in pitch black. I think there are a few technologies that are promising, but so far what we have is inadequate. I have an LCD monitor in my car, and it is not fun to look at when it's bright outside - even though it has an excellent backlight. Oh, power-wise it has to be very efficient on a bike.

Look at a motorcycle -- they can take imperfect roads at rather higher speeds with 6" clearance.

I used to own a scooter with a pretty low clearance; it was only fit for city streets - and watch for those potholes! Racing motorbikes are designed for racetracks. A dirt bike will take you anywhere.

to let the poor bloke who can go 20 miles at 10mph do 40 miles at 20mph?

It remains to be seen if electric assist has any effect in this thing. TFA says that two vehicles were tested, one with electric motor and another without, and they were performing identically.

Think about it this way also. TFA provides calculations of the efficiency of the vehicle. 100W from the driver + 250W from the motor seem to be a great idea. But it all depends on the weight of the electric powertrain. A skinny rider on an unpowered bike will be far faster than the same skinny rider who carries the fiberglass shell, the battery and the motor in addition to the bike's parts. If the rider's weight is 300 lbs then perhaps the battery's weight is not that critical; but riders with those characteristics prefer Harleys :-)

Finally, TFA clearly spells it out: "The electric motor is intended to be used for acceleration only (and for climbing hills)." This is counter to the theory that a casual rider can use the motor instead of pedaling. The battery (288Wh) would be good for more than 2 hours, isn't it so? But for some reason this is not the mode that they tested. Perhaps this vehicle lacks the transmission (electric or mechanical) that would be required to handle the full range of torque? But whenever you are NOT using the electric assist you are hauling all that extra weight for naught. That would be a big loss in overall efficiency. Prius, for example, is using battery power whenever it is not charging the battery; Toyota's designers understood well that you must use the battery, otherwise you'd be better off losing it.

Re:Legal considerations (1)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about 2 years ago | (#41870879)

It remains to be seen if electric assist has any effect in this thing. TFA says that two vehicles were tested, one with electric motor and another without, and they were performing identically.

Well, to be fair, the article says that the electric assist allowed a relatively unfit journalist to keep up with someone who is a velomobile enthusiast in an unpowered model (who presumably rides these things around a lot and is therefore pretty fit). I wouldn't say that was a negligible result.

Re:Legal considerations (1)

tftp (111690) | about 2 years ago | (#41870905)

the electric assist allowed a relatively unfit journalist to keep up

It didn't appear to me that the journalist is "relatively unfit" if he writes this:

I am a speed freak, so when I found myself on a nice, open stretch of road, the first thing I did was start the motor at full throttle and pedal like a madman at the same time. [...] However, my attempt to go any faster than 50 km/h (30 mph) left me frustrated -- the vehicle lacks the high gears needed for those speeds.

If at 30 mph he was wishing for a higher gear then I suppose he had more stamina in him than most unfit men that I ever met, including, of course, myself as a star exhibit of an unfit man :-)

By the way, the article mentions that the battery and the motor only weigh 5 kg. That is, as he says, a surprisingly low weight for 200+ watts, and I agree. Perhaps then what is missing in this contraption is a 500 Wh battery and a 500W motor, so that plain folks, who are not riders at all, can take this thing for a spin to the corner store and back - without ever touching the pedals because there are none. That would be a far better seller, IMO, than the pedaled version - an EV has a wider audience, as long as the price is right. (No, the Eur 8K is not right.)

Re:Legal considerations (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#41870991)

Don't forget that those vehicles are not bicycles. They have as much in common with bicycles as a brick has in common with an airplane. They are aerodynamically optimized to a degree that makes 50km/h a very realistic prospect for most people.

Re:Legal considerations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871313)

The sentence before the one you quoted, he described himself as 'average' fitness, I.e. the bottom tier of the three categories of cyclist that he describes (average fitness, good fitness, top athletes)

Re:Legal considerations (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41870897)

[cyclists] pedal so hard that they can't look around - they are too busy.

My motorcycle and I were once undertaken on a slippery wet roundabout by a furious pedalist who was absolutely determined not to lose momentum. Had I not been riding with due care and attention, I've have taken him out on the exit.

Dear bicyclists: road rules are there for your protection. Moralfaggotry does not protect you in the event of a collision.

Re:Legal considerations (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41871641)

Even for a very fit driver, 50 km/h seems to be a high speed,

This is one of my personal concerns about bicycle riders. They pedal so hard that they can't look around - they are too busy. On a motorbike it's not a problem, your body is free to lean and look back. This vehicle at least helps with that problem because it is inherently stable.

And also because it's a human-electric hybrid.

it is not suitable for bike paths that are not perfectly flat (with only 6" of clearance it got to be perfect

No, the real issue is that with three wheels, you can't stand still on sharp camber where a bicycle would do fine. That means that if you meet a jog stroller on the path, and there's a hill to one side, someone will have trouble. A bicycle can handle stopping and standing on extreme camber.

this ridiculous price is only to harvest the early crop of rich fools

Early?

until the price drops to some realistic number, like $300

But that will never, ever happen, for a broad variety of reasons, most of which begin with L and end with iability.

Re:Legal considerations (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870719)

Agree completely about the potential safety issues.

The velomobile is a fine concept, and serves a niche market very well, but it seems a little odd that you can ride one of these without any kind of license. If it suddenly became legal to ride a 50cc motorbike with no license or helmet, you would see millions sold, but road death rates would go up accordingly.

If some of the mandatory car safety restrictions were loosened, good one-seater electric cars could be developed for low prices (a few thousand dollars). Vehicles with 3/4 wheels are safer than vehicles with 2. Top Gear fans will remember the Peel P50, a tiny gasoline-power car made in 1962 - something a bit bigger would sell like crazy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJfSS0ZXYdo

Re:Legal considerations (1)

Daengbo (523424) | about 2 years ago | (#41870963)

50ml is actually a pretty common limit for unlicensed combustion-powered bikes. Electrics appear to be around 300-500W, but higher and lower limits exist.

Re:Legal considerations (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870725)

For what it's worth, this is the definition of a bicycle under Australian road rules [ntc.gov.au] :

bicycle means a vehicle with 2 or more wheels that is built to be
propelled by human power through a belt, chain or gears (whether or
not it has an auxiliary motor), and:
  (a) includes a pedicab, penny-farthing and tricycle; but
  (b) does not include a wheelchair, wheeled recreational device,
wheeled toy, or any vehicle with an auxiliary motor capable
of generating a power output over 200 watts (whether or not
the motor is operating).

The 200W limit is what kills most power assisted bikes (not that it stops many people, they'll only get in trouble if they're being dickheads or end up in an accident).

Re:Legal considerations (0)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about 2 years ago | (#41870873)

Thanks! I'd mod you Informative if I hadn't already posted. :)

Sorry, but... (4, Interesting)

PapayaSF (721268) | about 2 years ago | (#41870273)

There's absolutely zero chance that anything like this is going to be more than a rare oddity in the US. This is only suited to young, single, in-shape people, almost all male, who don't mind getting exercise on their way to work or a date, and never need a vehicle that holds more than a bag of groceries, much less another person (or two or three). In fact, is there even room for one bag of groceries? Oh, and they are all daredevilish enough to not be worried about stiff winds tipping them over or all the trucks and SUVs that loom over them. So we're talking about an infinitesimal sliver of the population.

It also needs to be locked down because any two guys could just carry one away, but it's too big for existing bike racks, and many standard car parking places don't have anything to lock to. I predict these will be as popular as the Sinclair C-5 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Sorry, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870455)

I am one such individual, and I've been eyeing velomobiles lustily for several months now. It would be nice vehicle for Burning Man and maybe some parts of Portland, but here in central Omaha, there are too many hills. Because I'm not going to invest in an e-assist that can't work above 20mph, have no idea how I'd license one of those if it did, can't pedal that much weight up a 35% grade, and don't want to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on one, I'm probably just going to go with one of Utah Trike's tadpole tricycles. It's 5 miles to my job, straight shot down 16th. I'll get the best gearing system I can, dress warmly, and keep my Sephia for any trip that's longer.

Re:Sorry, but... (3, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41870935)

And like the C5 - and the Segway - its few devotees will continue to claim that the problems will be dealt with by re-designing entire cities in order to facilitate their particular mode of transport. Meanwhile - oh, hang on, the doorbell just rang. It's Alyson Hannigan, she's decided to finally accept one of those 200 indecent propositions that I send her every day!

Re:Sorry, but... (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41871415)

Not only that, but the article is pure bullshit. Nothing requiring pedaling is as comfortable as a car. As well, I would experience claustrophobia almost immediately. Finally, the first time someone riding one of these is crushed by a lorry, I will be unable to avoid snickering.

Re:Sorry, but... (1)

blind biker (1066130) | about 2 years ago | (#41871561)

and never need a vehicle that holds more than a bag of groceries,

These cycles do hold much more than "a bag of groceries". They're very practical, actually.

A great vehicle for a few who are interested (3, Informative)

tftp (111690) | about 2 years ago | (#41870327)

This vehicle combines the worst parts of bicycle experience with the worst parts of car experience. It only can be used to deliver your body from point A to point B - even though many, if not most, trips require carrying cargo (even as little as a laptop bag; but often groceries are also required.) This works only on absolutely flat land, and in good weather. In case of an accident your body will be neatly squashed by wheels of larger vehicles, making it a death trap. There are no creature comforts, such as a/c or radio or headlights, which makes it dangerous to drive at high temperatures (half of the year in half of the USA) or at night (other half of the year in another half of the USA.) Usability-wise, it's another Ginger (Segway,) only even less practical. Only well trained young men can ride the thing. Children cannot use it; older persons cannot use it; women, being statistically weaker, cannot use them. Even tired people, after a full day of honest work, may not need another exercise on their way home. Riders will arrive to their destinations soaked in sweat, stinking, dusty; their arms and legs will be shaking from exertion, and it will take some time for them to cool down and be ready to work at the office. All in all, this is yet another fringe vehicle for the same, well known fringe group that insists that public roads are their personal gym.

Re:A great vehicle for a few who are interested (5, Informative)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 years ago | (#41870565)

Your post show how misinformed you are:

This vehicle combines the worst parts of bicycle experience with the worst parts of car experience. It only can be used to deliver your body from point A to point B - even though many, if not most, trips require carrying cargo (even as little as a laptop bag; but often groceries are also required.)

See this video. [youtube.com]

This works only on absolutely flat land, and in good weather.

See this video. [youtube.com]

In case of an accident your body will be neatly squashed by wheels of larger vehicles, making it a death trap.

See this video [youtube.com] and this video. [youtube.com]

See this video [youtube.com] and this video [youtube.com]

Only well trained young men can ride the thing

See this video [photobucket.com]

As for the rest of your comments, you'll find plenty of videos and sites to prove you wrong. I can't be bothered to find them for you just right now.

Re:A great vehicle for a few who are interested (2)

tftp (111690) | about 2 years ago | (#41870673)

Good collection of links! But many of these videos are outright scary. Note the windshield is covered in water - is there a wiper? Two crashes were shown; one is a minor bump of no consequence to any vehicle; another was a series of photos where the smaller vehicle was seriously damaged and overturned. Given tight quarters, the driver could be hurt even from that. Lack of crumple zones and small weight means that in a high speed collision the whole vehicle is accelerated to the speed of the other car in milliseconds, with enormous G forces. Most of the length of the car is occupied by your body, and your legs are only protected with a paper-thin decorative epoxy layer. A driver of a bus may not even notice your "car" down below, as he drives his huge vehicle all over you. A larger car would be better visible, and in case of a collision it would be only pushed aside - not driven over.

With regard to headlights, I cannot imagine having 2x100W headlights in such small vehicles - the battery alone would be prohibitive. What I saw in the video was more like 2x10W light bulbs, not really enough to see and be seen at night - except in a well-lit city.

With regard to age, that older guy is obviously in a better shape, physically, than I am. I know plenty of people with blood pressure problems and other ailments who are not advised to exert themselves. One needs to be healthy to do this thing; and you cannot take this vehicle for a casual 100 mile spin like I intend to do tomorrow, in a car, to visit a friend in another city.

Comments to some videos specifically mention that you get all sweaty even in cold weather. This is a dangerous combination!

Re:A great vehicle for a few who are interested (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870835)

With regard to headlights, I cannot imagine having 2x100W headlights in such small vehicles - the battery alone would be prohibitive. What I saw in the video was more like 2x10W light bulbs, not really enough to see and be seen at night - except in a well-lit city.

20W with modern LEDs is over 1500, possibly 2000 lumens; a single (non-HID) headlamp is typically about 1500 (varies by type). Since car headlamps have to light up rather farther out (for top legal speeds of 75mph vs 25mph), the notion that half as much light is "not really enough" makes me laugh.

I had 45W total of LED lighting on my last bike before some motherfucker stole it, and when a car passed me at night, I washed their headlights out. My current ride has only 25W, which is ample, but not spectacular; it's waiting for me to make a bracket to mount a 35W HID projector over the front fender.

Re:A great vehicle for a few who are interested (2)

tftp (111690) | about 2 years ago | (#41870881)

Since car headlamps have to light up rather farther out (for top legal speeds of 75mph vs 25mph)

Bicycle riders going downhill need all the light they can get. There are places nearby that gather their toll of crashed riders every week. (Many crashes occur in daylight, though - the road is winding and the downslope is steep.)

You are right about higher efficiency of modern headlights. My car has 2 x 35W [vfaq.net] HID headlights, and your single 45W LED light could well be brighter than that. But that's still some serious power. Where on a bike do you get this much power from? Not from the rear wheel, I suppose? Your muscles produce only 100W over 1 hour, per TFA. Riders around here do use lights, but they are just 2-3W LED lights that are barely legal; they are powered from a battery.

Re:A great vehicle for a few who are interested (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41870689)

Most seemed to prove him right. I didn't look at all of them. But 2 of 2 I did look at proved him right. They are unsafe, slow, and expensive.

Re:A great vehicle for a few who are interested (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 years ago | (#41870911)

The "arriving at your destination drenched in sweat" part is quite enough to disqualify this vehicle. I tried actually riding a bicycle for transportation and quickly discovered this. I note also that this vehicle discriminates against the differently-abled.

Differently Abled???? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871149)

Differently Abled? Like how? Somebody who can play the piano well? Or walk a circus high-wire?

Because if you mean people who can't walk or have physical impairments, the word you're looking for is HANDICAPPED. IMPAIRED is another good word.

I work with a guy in a wheel chair. He doesn't have any different abilities. He has less. He is disabled.

If you imagine this word to be negative, that definition exists within your mind.

Re:A great vehicle for a few who are interested (3, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | about 2 years ago | (#41871055)

You've obviously never even been moderately fit. If you're only moderately fit, even an hour on a bicycle won't leave your limbs shaking. That only happens when you're unfit.

Also women can ride bicycles very long distances at pretty impressive speeds. It happens all the time outside of the USA. Since this thing is supposed to reduce the effort of cycling, it should make it more accessable to anyone not super-fit.

Re:A great vehicle for a few who are interested (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871125)

You didn't read the article at all did you? The point of the fairing was to reduce wind resistance and *provide storage space*. The point of the electric motor was *to get up hills*. The thing is specifically geared so the motor is most effective at getting off the line and up hills.

Next time, read at least some of the article.

Re:A great vehicle for a few who are interested (1)

ion++ (134665) | about 2 years ago | (#41871451)

Next time, read at least some of the article.

And go see in in person. I have one, and I am fat. 110 kilo naked. I still have had room my laptop bag, my gymbag and some groceries. It is only in the most warm days of summer that I get sweatty when riding to work, probably because I dress lighter than other modes of transportation would. And no, I do not freeze either, the shell protects me from the wind, the cold and the rain. I ride in t-shirt well into October.

"Ample space for luggage" (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41870345)

I keep seeing the author use the phrase "ample space for luggage" without once saying what that means. I doubt we'd agree on that phrase either. I think I routinely have more junk packed into my car than could fit in his velomobile even if we took everything out, including the driver and all internal machinery.

And I don't relish turning a day long trip of 750 miles (a particular trip which I do several times a year incidentally, hence that specific number) into a multiday expedition, with my body contributing most of the work. I think most of humanity has established that they prefer quicker travel times and more comfortable commutes over better fuel economy.

Widespread adoption of velomobiles (as the author advocates at one point) or similar vehicles incapable of long trips at fast speeds seems a big step backwards in human progress.

Re:"Ample space for luggage" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870505)

And I don't relish turning a day long trip of 750 miles (a particular trip which I do several times a year incidentally, hence that specific number) into a multiday expedition, with my body contributing most of the work. I think most of humanity has established that they prefer quicker travel times and more comfortable commutes over better fuel economy.

Please don't put so much effort on being stupid. The velomobile isn't meant for highways, it can't fly and neither can it cure cancer. They could be sued weren't for the fact they never promised it'd do any of these things.

Re:"Ample space for luggage" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870789)

You seem to have read his post without correlating what he was talking about back to the quote, thus missing the whole point. I believe his 750 mile statement is poking holes in this statement.

"so much so that it is able to replace most, if not all, automobile trips"

The same line caught my attention too. It honestly couldn't replace a single trip for me, but I assume I am outside the norm. I have to travel an hour down the highway (after driving 6 miles down an extremely bumpy dirt road) just to get to a major grocery store, and then carry 2 weeks worth back with me. Not something that this is ever going to do without spoiling the milk (I would estimate ~2.5 hours each way in this "toy").

Re:"Ample space for luggage" (1, Flamebait)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#41870531)

> And I don't relish turning a day long trip of 750 miles (a particular trip which I do several times a year incidentally, hence that specific number) into a multiday expedition, with my body contributing most of the work. I think most of humanity has established that they prefer quicker travel times and more comfortable commutes over better fuel economy.

Look on the bright side. The more people using these things, the more gas for the rest of us.

Re:"Ample space for luggage" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870607)

I keep seeing the author use the phrase "ample space for luggage" without once saying what that means. I doubt we'd agree on that phrase either. I think I routinely have more junk packed into my car than could fit in his velomobile even if we took everything out, including the driver and all internal machinery.

You'll pardon the rest of us for not accommodating your pack-rat nature. People sometimes make an effort not to be like that.

Widespread adoption of velomobiles (as the author advocates at one point) or similar vehicles incapable of long trips at fast speeds seems a big step backwards in human progress.

So tell me, where were you when people were laughing at those fancy motor carriages that got caught in the mud, had to be refuel at inconvenient times and couldn't even be used to make sausage?

Me, I would love to be able to travel on mass transit for long distances rather than drive myself round on the highway. And I would sincerely love being able to reach a convineint store within walking distance.

Re:"Ample space for luggage" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870735)

the motor carriages suck, we should remove the motor, go back to tiny thin wheels, and make it sausage shape

Wow - just wow! (1)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about 2 years ago | (#41870363)

I want one! I work from home - so if there's room for groceries, this would handle 80% of my driving, and give me a workout while I'm at it.

Re:Wow - just wow! (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 2 years ago | (#41870547)

why dont you just get a bicycle, lazy ass?

Re:Wow - just wow! (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 years ago | (#41870579)

A velomobile is a bicycle.

Looks like a Sinclair C5 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870369)

The velomobiles look a lot like the Sinclair C5 electric vehicle, which put Sir Clive Sinclair's company out of business. People hated the C5 because it was impractical, expensive, dangerous, and because it looked silly.

They appear to be considerably more dangerous than a normal bicycle - they surely lack maneuverability, handy for avoiding accidents, and they operate much nearer the ground, making them invisible to vehicles with a high ride height.

Wind Turbines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870441)

Good god, I hope you don't mean industrial scale mega turbines? So we can continue to have our power centralized and out of our own control? Rooftop solar is the only sane solution.

Re:Wind Turbines? (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | about 2 years ago | (#41870731)

"Out of our control?"

If the situation in your nation has degenerated to the point that the electric grid is used as a weapon of coercion, some solar tiles on your roof aren't going to fix anything. Luckily, no part of the developed world is like that, or for that matter even the developing world to any real extent.

Yeah... No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870447)

I don't wanna get hit in one of those... It's not a bicycle and not on the path... its in the road and you're gonna die because eventually your luck runs out.

Velomobiles are fast without a motor (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 years ago | (#41870453)

These bikes can easily cruise at 30 mph on the flat on muscle power alone for extended periods of time.

See this video [youtube.com] or this one [youtube.com] for instance,

Re:Velomobiles are fast without a motor (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41871001)

We have different definitions of "easily". It's an interesting video, but it shows is being used under absolutely ideal conditions: flat, few junctions (and I didn't see any indicators or hand signals), light and amazingly polite traffic, few stop-starts.

Note at 9:00 a Honda CBF125 disappearing into the distance, getting in excess of 100mpg as it does so, and not riding in the Door Zone. With lights, indicators, better brakes, better visibility, more ability to filter through traffic (without pavement hopping like at 15:25), and the rider won't arrive at his destination sweating like a politician being forced to give a yes/no answer. Oh, and it costs less than the recumbant.

Two words... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#41870537)

osteo arthritis

Re:Two words... (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#41870619)

That is a plus point. It reduces Osteoarthritis.

Re:Two words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870693)

Another two words: myocardial infarction.
Which you are much less likely to get with routine aerobic exercises.

I think I saw that in Austin Powers... (0)

Rostis (797) | about 2 years ago | (#41870573)

Johnson:Colonel, you better take a look at this radar.
Colonel: What is it, son?
Johnson: I don't know, sir, but it looks like a giant--
Jet Pilot: Dick!
Dick: Yeah?
Pilot: Take a look outta starboard.
Dick: Oh, my God! It looks like a huge--
Bird-Watching Woman: Pecker!
Bird-Watching Man: Oh, where?
Bird-Watching Woman: Wait! that's not a woodpecker. It looks like someone's--
Army Sergeant: PRIVATES! We have reports of an unidentified flying object! It is a long, smooth shaft, complete with--
Umpire: 2 balls! What is that? That looks just like an enormous--
Teacher: Wang! Pay attention!
Wang: I was distracted by that enormous flying--
Musician: Willie.
Willie: Yeah?
Musician: What's that?
Willie: Well, it looks like a giant--
Colonel: Johnson!
Johnson: Yes, sir!
Colonel: Get on the horn to British Intelligence and let them know about this!

Right (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41870647)

Let's see people use these things in Phoenix, Arizona, in the summertime.

These are so damn cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870687)

These are so damn cool, I would love to drive one, if I could avoid getting squished by SuV's and 4x4 pickups with massive tires twice as big as me.

I would so consider this... (4, Insightful)

pongo000 (97357) | about 2 years ago | (#41870727)

...if air conditioning was an option. Seriously. I couldn't imagine being couped up in one of these things on a 100F day. Or pedaling one to work on a muggy 80F morning. That's the main reason I don't ride a bike to work (a couple miles away): Summer mornings are nasty hot, and I simply can't show up to work dripping in sweat as there is no shower.

Give them some climate control, then you might see more adoption.

Re:I would so consider this... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41870949)

Bingo. And there is a shower at my workplace. One shower. For, what, 100 people? How many of us can commute by bicycle without making the place smell like a a Turkish flophouse?

Pedalling is a great means of transport for filthy hippies. Literally.

Re:I would so consider this... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#41871225)

How many of us can commute by bicycle without making the place smell like a a Turkish flophouse?

You call it "Turkish flophouse" . . . I call it, "home" . . .

I do a train and Brompton http://www.brompton.co.uk/ [brompton.co.uk] combo to work, and have no sweat problems. Ten minutes train, twenty minutes bike, each way. I am physically fit and ride at a relaxed speed, so I never break out in a sweat. Hmmm . . . maybe I am physically fit, because I ride a bike. No, that can't be, people are fat because of large drink sizes, chemicals in soda cans, toys in Happy Meals, and other things beyond their control.

Pedalling is a great means of transport for filthy hippies. Literally.

So what is the transport for a nation of Honey Boo Boo families . . . ?

Actually, you've stated the problem with bicycling as a means of transportation in the US right there. It's psychological. Bikes are for little kids and exotic sport freaks. When you are old enough to drive, you should be driving a car, or there is something wrong with you. Also, cars are wealth to be flaunted to impress others. No one is very impressed by a bicycle, no matter what the cost.

So until the attitude about bikes in the US changes, no spiffy technology is going to get folks on bikes.

80 times more efficient, maybe. But... (3)

multicoregeneral (2618207) | about 2 years ago | (#41870799)

It really does look like they would be a piece of cake to steal. I mean, the biggest obstacle to stealing a regular car is its size. Plain and simple. There's no possible way you can lift one up, and put it in the back of your pickup. You actually have to put work into rewiring it, or hacking it in some way. These things... you would need some kind of embedded gps system or similar deterrent to keep them from being stolen. Hell of an opportunity for guys who do that kind of coding.

Restrictive laws on e-bikes don't help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870837)

Laws need to change in some countries to encourage people into these. Australia has one of the most restrictive policies (200 watt max) and not a snowball's chance in hell of seeing sense in this area any time.

What happened to electric motor in hub? (1)

Jonah Hex (651948) | about 2 years ago | (#41870883)

I can recall some exciting work which involved placing an electric motor in each wheel hub and returning energy from braking, and having a small diesel engine running at a constant and tuned RPM topping off the system. Why not do this for a small compact car instead of messing with what would be a soap bubble compared to what much of the world deals with on it's roads. No way one of those would survive even the local roads around Detroit (and elsewhere of course), and highways are a necessary evil that these would never be allowed on. - HEX

Re:What happened to electric motor in hub? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870925)

This is what the hybrids do. They are not efficient enough, when compared to these though.

Hub motors have poor unsprung weight (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 2 years ago | (#41871185)

Mitsubishi abandoned hub motors for its miev precisely because they make the unsprung weight too high. The results is poor handling as the wheels bounce around. It is better to go down the Toyota route with a hybrid design that uses two electric motors to provide the variable gearing (there are explanations on the Web). The Yaris hybrid already achieves 79g/km for carbon dioxide emissions using an optimised gasoline engine, and a Diesel variant wouldn't be worth the additional build, servicing and repair cost.

Power required (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870927)

And the power required to overcome said drag force increases at the cube of the velocity.

History repeats itself (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#41870993)

Sir Clive Sinclair said he had an extremely efficient electric vehicle [wikipedia.org] . It also turned out to be too slow for traffic, dangerous, and uncomfortable,, and the company was put into receivership in 1985.

uneven playing field? (1)

gadget junkie (618542) | about 2 years ago | (#41871013)

I do wonder how a car built to the same downgraded specs would cost. I always come away with the impression that all these contraptions, driven by a pint-size diesel engine, would do 200 km/litre, cost half the price of the electric version, and on a total life accounting probably be as environmentally friendly not to notice the difference. And remember, a well thought out diesel engine is good for 300.000 km, my car has 130.000, and a cousin of mine's is ticking after 500.000.

As always, tough, it's apples and oranges: a combustion engine driven contraption like this

a. would never get any authorization for the public sale,
b. "we want you to get Euro NCAP certification [euroncap.com] ",
c. would be shunned as a curiosity without a future.

I never, ever saw an "apples to apples" comparison, or serious feasibility study. For example, here in Italy, a local regulation practically prohibits linking your garage electrical system to your house in a condo: what do I do if I want an electric car? Either this regulation is a piece of crap, which I suspect, or the govvies think that I should not keep a refrigerator in a garage eventually subject to flooding, but that I can keep expensive rare earth batteries with nary a problem. Chemistry 101 , anyone?

bike vs auto (1)

Invalidator (444283) | about 2 years ago | (#41871043)

I live in the Netherlands ("the most bicycle-friendly country in the western world") and there is a major flaw in the article: it is that the only two means of transport compared are bike and auto. We also have here very extensive train and bus systems. I used to work for a small IT company about 70km from my home. My employer offered me an auto or a train pass. At the time, I selected the auto. However, since I had to drive to and from work during the rush hours, I spent between 3 and six hours per day sitting in the auto. Had I chosen the train, the trip would have taken a bit over two hours per day.

Transport is a bit like a tool: you choose the most efficient tool for the job. Yes, cost is also a factor, nevertheless, you wouldn't turn a screw with a hammer.

A common sight here in the Netherlands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871349)

However, it's not suitable for hilly areas. It's domain are flats. Like here in NL.

Road space (1)

Tim Ward (514198) | about 2 years ago | (#41871425)

Only suited, it seems to me, for use in large numbers if you've got more land to waste than you know what to do with (which is the case in some parts of the world but not others).

In constrained city streets there is neither the road space nor the parking space for vehicles like this. OK so it might be a modest improvement if motorists started using them, but it would be a pretty catastrophic backwards step if existing cyclists started using them in any numbers.

math problems. (1)

rew (6140) | about 2 years ago | (#41871479)

without mentioning it, the author of the article assumes that you will completely drain the battery on every commute, for both the velomobile, and the electric car. With that completely rediculous assumption, he comes to the figure of 25% of the windturbines.

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