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A student-designed velomobile

Student Design 18 1119

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  1. Andrew October 23, 2009 at 8:59 pm -  Reply

    I like some of his thought process, and he's addressed some of the technical issues quite well (I like the car-like chassis, for instance), but I feel like there's a bit of a fundamental problem with the packaging. If you're going to make your vehicle as big as a small car, you should certainly try and maximize that package as best you can. Perhaps a quadricycle would make more sense, or a slightly taller cockpit where the rider sits more above the rear wheel.

    As it is, sitting inside a long-wheel based bunker of a vehicle doesn't really seem to solve the issue. Some sort of innovative safety systems would be nice to see, if you're going to remove a bicycle's inherent narrow-profile and agility.

    …certainly gets the juices flowing, though, and has me thinking about a better version…

  2. B. Nicholson October 23, 2009 at 11:12 pm -  Reply

    Yeah, start by enclosing the wheels, since open wheels, even in open wheel wells, are really draggy. Then put a bumper on the nose.

  3. Tim October 24, 2009 at 1:04 am -  Reply

    Nice project, very positive thought process. I am also a final year ID student working on a Velomobile (I really don't like that word, who still calls a car an automobile?).

    My final outcome is somewhat different to yours but I enjoyed seeing the design and how you have justified it. My motivation was trying to blend my knowledge from years of building and racing recumbent trikes with the practicalities of everyday commuting.

    I would however disagree with you when you say that "Currently most velomobiles are small, very aerodynamic………." as most commercially available velos are aerodynamic disasters.

  4. Andrew October 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm -  Reply

    Yeah, it seems to me that the basic mandate in designing a micro-commuter vehicle should be to use every single square inch of your footprint as effectively as possible. Having the front and rear wheels so far outside of the body doesn't make sense from an efficiency, safety, or packaging point of view.

  5. Pixelman October 25, 2009 at 6:41 am -  Reply

    Are Americans bigger than Europeans?
    Have the Americans more power in the legs?
    (I know: you have Amstrong…)

    Think smart, think…

  6. Joseph October 25, 2009 at 10:03 am -  Reply

    Thank You for the comments, I do appreciate them.

    The space could be maximized and it was considered but I worried it would run into the problem of the bicycle powered art car that was pulled over by police in Toronto Link where people don't know what to consider it anymore. This still resembles something bicycle powered.

    The line of sight is close to a car. If you go to my online portfolio you'll see more pictures of the proposed frame design. The wheels are based on 29" mountain bike wheels so overall it looks a bit smaller then it actually is. With this and the raised body you should have no problem making eye contact with someone in a car.

    Yes, I design all my stuff for Lance (just kidding) I do agree it would be heavier and significantly larger then a traditional velomobile. An electric assist was planned into the original concept but time restraints limited what could be done. Overall the intent of the concept is to "get the juices flowing" and get people to think what if we do it different.

  7. totobobo October 27, 2009 at 10:42 am -  Reply

    Thinking about the systemic perspective is a great trigger. If it doesn't fit into the grid it would be harder to push.
    On the other hand, it may be more effective if we simply cut the current lanes in half (narrower). When there is safe route >> there will be more cyclist >> less drivers >> less car >> more space for cyclist…

  8. October 27, 2009 at 1:31 pm -  Reply

    You have very talented, and creative students. This is a great idea. I too believe that bicycles do not fit in. I went to Amsterdam this past year and was azazed at how advanced their streets were. A sidewalk for the walkers, a larger sidewalk for bikers, the road for cars, trolleys, and riverways for boats. Maybe America should take some notes.

  9. Bicycle and Bikes October 30, 2009 at 6:02 am -  Reply

    Pictures look fantastic. Would certainly be an eye opener on the road.

    Curious to know how much one of these would weigh, and whether there was any 3D animation as part of the design project to get a better feel for how it might work.

  10. Stevbike November 6, 2009 at 12:46 am -  Reply

    I rode a velomobile built buy a person that lives in the Niagria on the Lake area. The vehicle weighed in at about 100 lbs, is 8 feet long and in a very nice design. The persons name is Reg Rodaro. Here is a link to a site that showcases his work. I have one of his fairings on a bike I built. The link to see this is at

    I had a chance to ride one of Reg's velomobiles around my home town and a distance ok 22km to close-by small town. The body of the vehicle did its job well on level ground. However,on small up-hill grades, the weight of the vehicle off-set any advantage the bike of the bike's body provided. I have done this ride on a road bike and these trips proved faster times for the trip. In saying this, the road bike did not provide any type carrying space. The velomobile did. The velomobile provided me protection from the environment and Reg did a nice job of working out venting to provide air into this machine.

    Any velomobile design needs to be worked out to provide a good balance of compact sizing and a low weigh that still provides sound and safe structure for the rider.

  11. sveti jebem November 11, 2009 at 6:12 am -  Reply

    I am also vorking on simmilar project, but took a bit differnt aproach, since I am European. Small and weak 😉

    Generally we have two types of roads, in cities there are more or less narrow streets (50km/h) with sidewalks (if lucky even bike lanes (25km/h if vehicle is assisted by motor), more and more areas of cities are only accessible for pedestrians and bikes…
    The other type are roads outside cities: no sidewalks, no bike lanes the speed limit is 90 km/h, pedestrian or cyclist just share the road with cars. (Highways and some other roads are reserved only for motorised vehicles.)
    Most commuters live (up to 30 km) outside the city with bad or no public transport. The road is problematic, since it gets jammed in the rush ours. To gain any advantage result should be as thin as possible to pass the standing cars on the right side (as pedestrian and bike) or use a bike lane. Using bike lanes is an delicate question, but in case of wider popularity of such vehicle governments will be somehow forced to introduce a new solutions.
    My focus are families with more than one car. I tend to replace the second car. My prediction is: such vehicle will be more interesting for men, since many women at the moment want urban SUVs for (egoistically safe) school-runs and over-emancipation.

    I have test ridden a Leitra, and similar home made velomobile on 3 wheels. I found both of them top heavy, visibility was poor and compared to bike they were extremely slow (especially in acceleration) and clumsy… also sounds inside were scary. I was realy disappointed and encouraged to improve it at the same time.
    I assume something cheap, practical, fun to ride and fast (for HPV) will do.

    I'd like to know more about other countries traffic situation… mentality and laws.

  12. Anders Løberg November 28, 2009 at 4:45 am -  Reply

    Interresting vehicle. I wonder about weight, point of gravity and aerodynamics. The wheels gives a lot of drag, and the with makes it more difficult to manouver amongst other bicyclists and in crowded areas. Why make a cycle look like a car?

    I use a WAW velomobile, and it is efficient, and no problem with visibility. Strong colours, lights and flags gives the necessary attention in traffic.

  13. Phil November 30, 2009 at 1:59 pm -  Reply

    All these comments are great. The deal with the 3 basic questions:
    1. The design of the vehicle. To this discussion I’d like to suggest John Tetz’s foam core velomobile as a lightweight and very quiet alternative to heavy velos. Also consider electric assist to get more people attracted to getting out of cars.
    2. Infrastructure this is a huge discussion and no matter how we change the infrastructure, it won’t necessarily get more people on human powered vehicles. We need not only design new roads, we need to attract people to the viability of getting around on their own steam. This is a marketing issue: showing cars in their real environment rather than the TV ads. Maybe taking a page from the drug & anti smoking campaigns.
    3. 3. Creating new environments through altering existing systems: There is a natural evolution of infrastructure to the vehocles. Take, for example, the development of the parkway, and then the development of the interstate highway. Again, it comes back to the realization that the car is not a sustainable mode of transportation given its environmental impact. However, selling that t to the average 9-5 commuter will take a bit of selling. In conclusion, the more experimental HPV we get on the road, the wider the discussion and innovations become.

    Phil Hammerslough

  14. Christopher Stube March 10, 2011 at 8:24 pm -  Reply

    It is a really beautiful design reminiscent of the carriages of the horse era. I had been reading papers lately on Series hybrids where the chain and bike drive train is replaced by a pedal generator and electrical system with lithium batteries and a final drive motor. You could also use a plug in assist and not have to worry so much about the meeting the ergonomics of such a wonderful design. I really like the large wheels and torsion bars.

  15. Amoeba March 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm -  Reply

    A very beautiful design, and apparently a leaning trike as well! I don’t know how aerodynamic it would have been, those exposed wheels look very drag-prone. The radial spokes on the drive wheel look like an error.
    I can’t help thing that it could have been the next big thing in velomobiles, what a shame it seems to be dead.

  16. Ari March 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm -  Reply

    Beautiful but probably not so aerodynamic!

  17. Prof.Prodromal May 1, 2015 at 2:54 pm -  Reply

    Does it use lean steering? How else can it steer?

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