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Navitas bicycle trailer/generator concept

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As a final year design student at the University of Derby in England, Paul Smith designed a bike trailer that doubles as a generator. “It’s a pure concept in sustainable transport” explains Paul. The trailer concept, called Navitas, is the first to create its own renewable energy. The rear wheel splits 3 ways to become a vertical axis turbine. In addition to the wind power, a compact solar panel helps to provide a charge to the onboard 24V battery “It’s purely for the cyclist adventurer who likes to pedal around the country but also likes a bit of creature comfort,” says Paul.

Read the text on Paul’s poster to find out more about the Navitas concept. Over the course of the last few months, Paul has sent me a few different iterations of his design, so I can attest to the fact that he put a lot of work went into this. I think his final design turned out quite nice. Incidentally, Paul just recently graduated from the University of Derby and won a place to go to New Designers 2007 in London this July. Congratulations Paul and thanks for sharing your design.

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  1. Fritz June 26, 2007 at 3:19 pm -  Reply

    Seems like a cool idea for touring. Ride all day charing the battery, then use that power overnight for lighting, entertainment, perhaps to pump/purify water, cook food, etc.

  2. Phil June 26, 2007 at 9:40 pm -  Reply

    I’m liking it. Pushes the ideas about whats possible for touring into another realm.

  3. Jun June 26, 2007 at 10:42 pm -  Reply

    old idea, seen it before, sorry… several design flaws from the looks of the CGI render… etc.

  4. Paul June 27, 2007 at 2:20 am -  Reply

    Hi, Paul here, thanks for the comments…even the throw away line from Jun (well we can’t please everyone eh?)

    The concept is fairly sound and its a look at how we can push the boundaries. But as with most designs they can evolve, so the first stab isn’t necessarily the killer blow.

    please keep the comments flowing, good bad or indifferent.

    Oh and please back up, your arguments against why it has flaws…

  5. suganick June 27, 2007 at 9:49 am -  Reply

    I think the concept is fantastic, great work. However a bit confused on 2 things:
    1, how the rear wheel would perform if it was to hit a pothole or large bump if it were to hit in the parting line of the wheel.
    2, how the rear “taillight” connects/works with a bicycles braking system. Having sensors connect to a slowing wheel or wired directly to the bikes brakes would be expensive and very tricky.

  6. skierpage June 27, 2007 at 9:20 pm -  Reply

    Good luck making the synergy work. If you’re towing a bike trailer, it’s tempting to add onto it to generate power, and the wheel that converts to a windmill is mad genius. However I think putting a dynamo on the front wheel and a removable battery pack somewhere on the main frame would be better, and just let the trailer be a trailer. Also like suganick, how would the trailer know you’re decelerating so it can do regenerative braking?

  7. Chippy June 29, 2007 at 10:10 am -  Reply

    Cool idea. I could do with one of these for my solar computing bike tour!

    Are there any stats on how much the trailer would generate and how much human power it takes to pull it along? Are the batteries lead acid? (i.e. very heavy?)


  8. Wiley July 2, 2007 at 6:57 pm -  Reply

    I like the idea of using the trailer for power generation primarily because it means you can convert any of your bikes to being generated, without having to install a dynamo hub in each bike.

    As for the wind mill, a lot of measurement would need to go into determining whether or not it would be more efficient simply to carry a deployable attachment and have a lighter wheel, or if merging the two functions is really the most efficient way to go.

    Overall I really like the concept. My final objection is to the hitch. Atatching the trailer at the seatpost is a terrible way to go for a trailer that will be hauling weight long distances. I’d not buy this trailer for the hitch alone, no matter how great the other qualities. The trailer would tow much more nicely if the hitch connected at the rear axle.

    Again, I think the idea is great, aside from the high-mount hitch.

    • Bingo Sun Noon April 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm -  Reply

      Robobike built a number of these 30 years ago to power a warming oven, electric cooker and other picnic tools and implements such as blenders et al. fuel was alcohol with castor oil, engines used were tiny little 4 stroke engines we built our selves, batteries were SLA 62 pounds each, two per trailer. Towing was found to work best when connected to the seat post. We had one instance where the frame of the bike broke when the trailer was attached to rear axle. Brakes are not needed, regen is dumb. There is not enough energy stored in a biker moving down the road at any speed to warrant an attempt at recovery.

  9. Wiley July 2, 2007 at 7:34 pm -  Reply

    Also, it would be pretty straightforward to incorporate the braking sensor into the hitch (sort of like surge brakes on a car trailer) so that when the force on the hitch becomes a forward force rather than a rearward force, a switch is thrown that activates the braking system. You’d need a brief duration before activation to prevent braking while climbing hills, but it could all be done without the need to wire anything to the bike.

  10. Roberto August 22, 2007 at 12:22 am -  Reply


    Seems like a great and very marketable idea. Actually a team and I are working on a marketing plan to market this in Australia for our Masters of Marketing course at the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia. One of our thesis plans is to develop a marketing campaign for an invention still in the design stage. We will be working on how to market your product as one of our thesis project to be completed in the next few weeks.

    Was hoping to get some more info from you and ideas for the assignment as we are thinking of creative ideas on how to market your design. You can email me at

    Talking to you would be of great benefit as this is a fun project for us to be working on.


  11. Anonymous December 16, 2007 at 2:39 pm -  Reply

    I like the idea, but see allot of issues.
    First, the trailer itself has very little room for gear.
    Second, I’m wondering how this will work in the real world, like say an eight hour day in the rain?
    Third, the arm that connects to the bike is not right, to high for good balance. low center of balance for anything beyond the seat post is key.
    I like the power idea, but really in real life bike touring you just don’t need that much electricity.
    Third issue, the rear wheel being used as anything is unwise, the wheel needs to be bomber, able to bang over pot holes and mud and water, creek crossings etc.

  12. Magna January 25, 2008 at 7:24 pm -  Reply

    The single most exciting piece of design I have seen anywhere for years.These cycle touring dudes seriously know their stuff and can come up with some very technical details so tap into that and you’ll be a millionaire one day! Good luck.

  13. GeologyJoe October 26, 2008 at 5:27 pm -  Reply

    im wondering if there’d be a ‘thump’ at each place where the wheel is split.

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