Velomobile & E-Bike

Thomas Waldmann, Dec 2019 @ 36c3

Unexpected things I ended up with

after researching for my next car.

Choosing the next car...

  • I am driving cars since 30+ years,
    currently a 14y 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 the cars...

Requirements / Context

  • move yourself + some luggage
  • don't waste too much energy / resources
  • avoid polluting the planet
  • 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.


  • Range e.g. up to 40km (then recharge x hours).
  • Helps unathletic types getting uphill. :-)
  • ... which also helps a lot with motivation!
  • 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:


  • 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?

E-Bike: Experiences

  • Fun!
  • Lots of trips up to 40km distance (one way).
  • Get around traffic jams via bike paths.
  • Get exercise w/o much extra time and with a reason.
  • 750W geared hub motor, E-assist up to 25km/h.
  • Got bike wear and some side bags: works for me.
  • Used car only rarely:
    • carry big and/or heavy stuff
    • extremely ugly weather
    • distance > 40km (== battery capacity of my E-Bike)

E-Bike: Observations

  • Rides are often "shorter than expected"!?

    • obj.:  different routing (e.g. across some field)
    • subj.:  less boring than sitting in a car
  • OpenStreetMaps (OSMand) is nice and powerful
    (but it needs a bit to get used to it).
  • Close to nature and environment,
    not isolated in a metal box.
  • Improved health / endurance, lost weight.
  • E: one can get as much exercise as one likes!


  • 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 ...



short:  VM


not: Velo


Velomobile Models


Velomobile Models

(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!

Speed etc. (HH VM rider)

Records / Remarkable

  • Nicola Walde: 1088km in 24h
    Velomobile, on Opel 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
      (just 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 get 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...


OrganicTransit's "ELF"

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).
  • 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??

More Infos

  • YouTube:  channels of saukki and velo-ads
  • Web / YouTube search terms:
    • velomobile, velomobil (de), velomobiel (nl)
    • quattrovelo, quest, strada
    • df, alpha 7, milan, go-one evo
    • orca, leiba, leitra, sunrider
    • elf, pebl, podbike
  • "SPEZI" (April 2020!)

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 @


By Thomas Waldmann


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