Velomobile & E-Bike
2021-04-04 19:00 CEST
Unexpected things I ended up with
after researching for my next car.
Choosing the next car...
- 2018: I've been driving cars since 30+ years,
back then a ~13y old Toyota Prius II Hybrid.
- Time to research for potential next car:
- high efficiency, "as eco as it gets"
- reliability, usability
- acceptable price, ...
- Expected outcome: choose some "nice" electric car.
- Actual outcome:
I found that I don't really want any of those cars...
Requirements / Context
- move yourself + some luggage
- don't waste too much energy / resources
- avoid polluting the planet
- means: EFFICIENCY RULES!
- not too slow, but not too fast either
- not too uncomfortable
- most trips are rather short
- most trips are 1 person
Why not (E-)Cars?
Cars are way too heavy, even the "small" ones:
- 1600 - 1900 kg (Tesla Model 3)
- 1200 kg (E.go life)
- 900 - 1000 kg (Smart ForTwo)
- 500 kg (Renault Twizy [+ weight of opt. doors?])
A car mostly transports itself, not you!
- Too big, wasting a lot of space (traffic/parking).
You are not "stuck in a traffic jam",
you "are" the traffic jam.
Overall bad environmental impact.
- Cars are dangerous, big&heavy cars even more.
- Better weight ratio than a car, but:
- not much luggage space
- usually no weather protection
- Most other problems are similar to cars.
- Thus: NOPE, that's no solution either.
- Helps unathletic types getting uphill. :-)
- ... which also helps a lot with motivation!
- ... but could be 1-way: once E, ever E?
- Relatively inexpensive.
- Mature tech, thus: low risk of investment.
- Also: low TCO (mostly standard bike parts).
- Good weight ratio (bike: ~20-40kg).
- limited luggage space (cargo bikes have more)
- no weather protection (= need good clothes)
- slow and/or complicated / limited by law.
- Overall: good and cheap enough to just try!
- E-Cars are not booming, but E-Bikes are!
So I got a RadRhino:
- I never liked sports.
- I never found motivation for it.
- ~40y ago, this spoiled cycling for me:
- cheap go-to-school bike (3 gears)
- south-west germany's hills
- Didn't touch a bike since then, until that E-Bike.
- So, how did it work in practice?
Distances / Speed
- FUN! Did lots of trips up to 40km distance (one way) with my E-Bike, no problem, works for me.
Rides are often "shorter than expected!?
- different routing (compared to a car)
- more fun or relaxing
- less boring / annoying
- Distance averages per person (Germany, 2017):
- 12km per way
- 39km per day
- Speed avg., rush hour, main routes (Germany, 2019):
- 17km/h Frankfurt / Berlin
- 20km/h Hamburg / München
- 26km/h Stuttgart
- For longer trips into unknown territory it is advisable to do some route planning beforehands.
- As a "long years car and never bike" user, you'll have to get used to bike routing/routes initially.
- Navigation helps, so you'll never get lost.
- OpenStreetMap (OSMand) is nice and powerful:
- needs some time to get used to it
- special profiles for misc. bikes, by foot, car, ...
- many details about bike paths, road quality, ...
- can be combined with brouter.de
- save nice routes for future use
- is available on F-Droid
Health & Time
Get exercise by using an E-Bike:
- without needing much extra time or money
- with good reasons (helps with motivation)
- make it the default, a routine, not some extra task
- E: as much excercise as desired, not forced
- gradually improve health / endurance, lose weight
- less time wasted in traffic jams (bike paths!)
- less time/$$$ wasted for parking the vehicle
- sometimes more time needed due to lower speed, not wasted because used for exercise / relaxation!
- bike: relax & free your mind vs. car: stress
Environment / Weather
Closer to nature / environment:
- fresh air, not isolated in metal box.
- more open / less speed: better perception.
- your body has a good temperature regulation!
- wear appropriate, layered bike clothing.
- drink / eat appropriately.
Rain / snow:
- good clothes and tires help.
- timing: use weather forecast and "rain radar".
Sun / UV:
- sun blocker / UV blocking clothes.
Load / Capacity
- With standard bikes, you can increase capacity by:
- front / rear racks, misc. bags, backpacks, ...
- if you need more, you can occasionally add a trailer (e.g. for children, pets, large stuff, ...)
- use multiple bikes for multiple people
Cargo bikes are specialized for heavy / big loads.
- You could still share/rent a car/van when it is rarely needed (instead of permanently paying for one).
- Avoid buying a car for the maximum use case (cargo / passengers / range / speed) - that would logically imply that you use a way too big, inefficient and expensive vehicle in most cases!
E-Bikes: Types / Legal
Pedelec, E-assist 25km/h(*) 250W(**),
legally like a normal non-motorized bike,
this is what most people get nowadays.
Speed-Pedelec, E-assist 45km/h(*) 500W(**?),
more expensive, much stricter regulations (no bike paths, checks/repairs, insurance/license plate, driver license).
- (*) by pushing the pedals, you maybe can ride faster than that - up to the legal speed limit.
- (**) not max. power, but nominal continuous power. For short, the motor may have 2..3x more power.
- Pedelec, E-assist 25km/h(*) 250W(**),
Mid motor (uses multiple gears) is better than a
hub motor (usually only 1 fixed gear or direct drive).
- Good range of gears (min. 7 gears, better more).
- Weight (but also consider rider weight)
- SPD pedals + shoes:
- click-in pedals for better power transfer
- you can still walk around with the shoes
- recumbent bikes are more efficient and more comfortable than upright (more later ...)
- Mid motor (uses multiple gears) is better than a
- robust tires + tire sealant: slower, less punctures.
- fast tires: thinner, thus more punctures.
E-Bikes: Battery & Range
- better compare the Wh capacity (V * Ah)
- because range specs are unreliable, depend on:
- rider weight and power
- riding style / speed / motor:pedals ratio
- terrain flat vs. hilly, frequency of stops/turns
- temperature and degradation of battery [age/usage]
- air resistance, rolling resistance, road quality
- battery price: bike: 0.3..1 kEUR vs. car: 10..30 kEUR
- its power determines the pause you may need after riding until the battery is empty.
- e.g.: 10Ah battery + 2A charger = pause at least 5h.
- e.g.: 700Wh battery + 100W charger = pause at least 7h.
- remstalkind.de did a cost calculation for E-bikes vs cars:
- saves ~4000 EUR/y for the family
- got rid of 2 cars (bought used, relatively cheap)
- got 2 E-bikes (bought new, not cheap)
- relatively high initial fixed costs for the bikes
- but low long-term running costs
- even considering expenses for train / rental car
- See their Excel sheet so you can do your own calculation:
- health benefits
- environmental, ecological and climate benefits
- After the positive E-Bike experience, I wondered:
Does it get better than that?
- More weather protection.
- More speed without losing bike path access.
- More range (not having to recharge after 40km).
- And I found ...
Velomobiles & Others
- Recumbent bikes with low, comfortable seat.
- Closed or mostly-closed aerodynamic shell.
- High tech materials, carbon fiber composites.
- Low weight: 15 .. 40 kg
- Good gearing with wide range.
- Resulting in: the most efficient vehicles!
- Default: no (E-)motor
(optionally available, but maybe not needed)
So I got a QuattroVelo...
VM: Distances & Speed
- up to 40km regularly (one way), sometimes more
- no E-Motor / no motor battery, thus:
- no vehicle range issue, no range anxiety
- no recharge duration issue, no outlet to search
- no big&heavy battery / charger / motor to carry
- High Efficiency == Speed:
- Flat: easily 30-40, sometimes 50 km/h
- Downhill: 80 km/h (100+ possible)
- Uphill: slow, but stable (3 or 4 wheels).
Shift down & try the Zen thing.
- Air resistance is futile!!1
- Law of conservation of energy FTW!
Doing some analysis...
- I personally do not use Strava, thus showing some rides from other VM riders.
- Rider/VM 1:
- After7: brand new, very fast & efficient VM model
- with hood
- athletic, very experienced (20y+?), best long range rider, 55+y old
- Rider/VM 2:
- DF: proven, rather fast & efficient VM model
- with hood, wheel house cover, race cycle tires
- sporty, experienced (10y), long-term commuting rider, 50+y old
Hamburg - Berlin Ride
flat, 280km with 800hm
HH-B Rider1 + After7
- 54km/h avg., 235W avg. -- and max. 90km/h
- high power long distance racing
HH-B Rider2 + DF
- 40km/h avg., 131W avg. -- and max. 80km/h
- long distance relatively relaxed travel
flat+hilly, 280km w. 1500hm
Harz - Rider2 + DF
- 34km/h avg., 141W avg. -- and max. 105km/h
- long distance normal travel
Records / Remarkable
- Nicola Walde: 1088km in 24h
Velomobile, on Opel test course.
- Christian von Ascheberg: 1219km in 24h
Velomobile Milan SL, on DEKRA test course.
- Roland Schell: 1074km in 33h
Velomobile, across Germany.
- "Narvelos" from France: 12000km
Velomobiles, Europe round trip.
- Todd Reichert: 144 km/h
StreamLiner (faired bicycle), Men's World Record.
VM: Comfort & Security
- No PITA: comfortable seat / recumbent position
- Luggage space: ok
- Weather protection:
- some UV / IR protection
- some / complete rain protection
- no cold & icy winds
- Crash protection:
- carbon fairing
- legs first, not head first
- you can hardly "fall off" from it
- with or without extra helmet
VM: Reactions / Interaction
- "you are easy to overlook" (said by biased car driver)
- lots of positive reactions (that means one is seen)
- more careful overtakes by cars
- VM usually very colorful and almost 3m big
- good lights, reflectors and blinkers
- similar speed as city traffic
- Reasons for bias?
- psychology: lower=inferior, higher=superior
- sometimes just bad excuse for not even looking
- some real visibility issues remain, be careful
- FUN! The QuattroVelo is faster than my E-Bike, so
actually preferring it over my E-Bike mostly.
- Fixing a flat is easy! (one-side mounted wheels)
- Turning radius can be large (depends on model/tires).
- Narrow enough for bike paths (QV VM: 77cm).
- Speedy on decent surfaces (roads, good bike paths).
- Loud on bad surfaces (low frequency though).
- Lost more weight.
Car: burn oil, get fat. VM: burn fat, get fit. :-)
- First, practically try it:
- fairs, manufacturers, dealers, owners
- needs adjustment for rider size
- try without motor
(optionally check if E-motor can be added later)
- ... then consider buying a used one:
- less waiting time
- sell it again if you do not like it or when you got your next VM.
- ... then ride it to its new home:
- did that, ~230 km, no problem
- some ride way farther than me
- ... or put it in a transporter or on a car roof.
VM: the price...
VMs: made by small companies, low production volume, lots of manual work, expensive materials.
- So, let's compare apples to oranges... :-)
- New VM: usually 5.000 .. 15.000 EUR.
- New car: usually 15.000 .. 50.000 EUR (and more).
- Price(car) >> Price(VM), also TCO(car) >> TCO(VM)
- VMs are bikes, do not require:
fuel, drivers license, insurance, paid parking place, regular dealer's garage visits for maintenance, obligatory 3rd party technical inspections
- So, do we need a price attitude readjustment? Like:
- car: pay for lots of power / size / weight and all bells and whistles one can think of.
- VM: pay for lightness, high efficiency, construction.
relatively light vehicles...
- Often have E-motor, these are not velomobiles.
- Some still classified as E-Bike / Pedelec though.
- Power ratio human / motor varies.
- Still relatively low weight (e.g. the ELF has ~ 77 kg).
- For some, might be more practical than fast VMs:
- easier/quicker to get in/out
- sometimes more luggage space
- sometimes space for (small) addtl. passenger(s)
- Speed depends on motor, vehicle class, ...
- Sounds good for fetching kids or groceries.
- Not as efficient as a fast velomobile, but way more efficient than a car.
- Bike path access allowed? Also practical??
Car is over, almost.
- E-Bike and VM works for me personally for most trips.
In 2y, did ~4000km on E-Bike and ~6000km in the VM.
- Since having them, used the car only rarely:
- carry big / heavy stuff (no trailer / cargo bike yet)
- transport people who can't ride/drive on their own
- extremely ugly weather
- very long distance and train unsuitable
- Maybe I won't get another car when the old one dies, at least not anything that is currently on the market.
- Hopefully some reasonable vehicle or ride sharing model will then exist at my location.
- YouTube-Channels of:
saukki (en), velo-ads (en), rhein228 (de), Veloxiter
- velomobilforum.de (de)
(also there: Recumbents and Velo Cars)
- Web / YouTube search terms:
- velomobile, velomobil (de), velomobiel (nl)
- quattrovelo, quest, strada, snoek
- df, alpha 7, milan, go-one evo-r
- leiba, leitra, sunrider
- elf, pebl, podbike
- "SPEZI" spezialradmesse.de
Q & A
So, which questions do you have for me?
VeloMobiles, Light Vehicles, (E-)Bikes + related.
Not: Electric Cars, Heavy Vehicles.
English or German.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on this - just a user.
Contact: twaldmann @ thinkmo.de
By Thomas Waldmann