Velomobile & E-Bike

Thomas Waldmann
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.

(E-)Motorcycles?

  • 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.

E-Bike

  • 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).
  • But:
    • 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:

Context

  • 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

Bike Routing

  • 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
  • Time:
    • 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.
  • Temperature:
    • 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

  • Types (Germany/EU):
    • 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.

E-Bikes: Efficiency

  • Efficiency rules!
    • 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 ...)
  • Tires:
    • robust tires + tire sealant: slower, less punctures.
    • fast tires: thinner, thus more punctures.

E-Bikes: Battery & Range

  • Battery:
    • 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
  • Charger:
    • 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.

Costs

  • 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:
    https://remstalkind.de/mobilitaetskosten-auto-vs-autofrei/
     
  • Invaluable:
    • health benefits
    • environmental, ecological and climate benefits

Improve?

  • After the positive E-Bike experience, I wondered:

    Does it get better than that?
     
  • Desired:
    • More weather protection.
    • More speed without losing bike path access.
    • More range (not having to recharge after 40km).
    • ...
       
  • And I found ...

VeloMobiles!

 

short:  VM

 

not: Velo

Velomobile Models

Text

Velomobiles & Others

(Fast) VeloMobiles

  • 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.
  • Physics:
    • 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

Harz Roundtrip

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)
     
  • Experience:
    • lots of positive reactions (that means one is seen)
    • more careful overtakes by cars
  • Also:
    • 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

VM: Experiences

  • 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.  :-)

VM: Buying

  • 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
    • cheaper
    • 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.

Other

relatively light vehicles...

PodBike

OrganicTransit's "ELF"

VeloCars

  • 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.

More Infos

  • 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
     
  • kreuzotter.de

Q & A

 

So, which questions do you have for me?

 

Please:

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

Velomobiles

By Thomas Waldmann

Velomobiles

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