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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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?
- 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)
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?
- More weather protection.
- More speed without losing bike path access.
- More range (not having to recharge after 40km).
- And I found ...
- 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!
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)
- 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
(just 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 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...
- 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??
- 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" spezialradmesse.de (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 @ thinkmo.de
By Thomas Waldmann