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VeloTilt: Design of a low drag practical velomobile

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  1. Andy says

    Good to see they are actually identifying places to improve – I wish every project you posted had done that! I wonder what the visibility is like in that. I know on a velomobile, it’s not easy to turn your head, but this does look like a rather tiny window to look through on the sides. While racing velomobiles should be enclosed for the best aerodynamics, a real-world one should be open on top, otherwise you will bake inside.

    Standing on end is a good idea in theory, but that image looks like a $5000 cabon fiber frame is balanced on a point, and I’d sure hate for a breeze or bike-tipper to knock it down and ruin the shell.

    • Impossibly Stupid says

      In there you’ve hit on one big impracticality of all velomobiles that was not on the list: Crazy expensive. I’ll believe this is more than a pipe dream when I see a price that is less than a motorcycle (or car!) would cost.

      • Arnold says

        Not saying that velomobiles are cheap, but if you look at the total cost compared to running a car they are affordable at least. Here in the Netherlands we pay tax to get a car on the road, lots of tax when buying the car, high prices for fuel (1.86 euro per liter) and the maintenance and write off on a car are also high. Compare that to the relative high purchase of a VM and low running cost and I’m sure a VM (or bicycle) is cheaper than it looks.

        • Andy says

          It’s not that easy in the US. A new velomobile at around $12,000 might be a cost savings compared to a new small hatchback (lets say a Honda Fit at $17,000). But a new commuter bike (typically about $700 would yield a more than sufficient one) does nearly everything that a velomobile can do. Yes, it’s a little slower and is open to weather, but it can still take one rider across many miles, even fully loaded with touring bags full of groceries. It’s also easier to carry, can fit on/in a car/train/plane when needed, and costs a heck of a lot less. That’s why it’s hard to compare these two given the price differences. That is specifically the reason why on a typical nice day out I might see a few dozen cyclists, yet I have never seen a velomobile on the roads. That doesn’t mean I don’t want one, or that they aren’t practical, it just means that the price point is a significantly enormous barrier.

          Your designs for an efficient and racy velomobile might yield you a few sales at a high price. But I think what I.S. and I would agree on is that if instead you made a velomobile for $2,500 that fit commuter needs instead of racer needs, you’d likely sell hundreds instead of single digits.

          Just my 2 cents.

          • Arnold says

            Hi Andy,
            all I can say is : come to the Netherlands. Here if I go out on a sunny day I see a few hundred cyclists, possibly some recumbents and maybe a velomobile or two.

            I don’t think it is possible to market a velomobile at 2500 dollar, that offers the same advantages over a regular bicycle that current velomobiles do. Here in the Netherlands they are truly used as replacement for cars. Owning a car (not even riding it) is very expensive and it’s very busy on the roads.

            I don’t expect to sell single digits of the VeloTilt :-) At the moment I am not so sure that price is the most important factor for people why they are not riding velomobiles en masse. I think it’s more a mindset change, before anything else. True price can help convince people to take that step, but I don’t see that this would make the market 10 times bigger.

        • Impossibly Stupid says

          Like Andy says, you just can’t compare a human powered vehicle to a car (or, really, anything with an engine). Just because the total expense of a car is higher, it is not *comparably* higher given the perceived advantages of motor vehicles. It’s not convincing to say, “Yeah, it only seats one person and they have to pedal like mad to get any speed out of it, but it costs just 75% of the thing that weighs 100 times as much and can carry a whole family without any physical effort!”

          I also doubt those “maintenance” costs won’t find there way into any serious velomobile usage. Bike trail aren’t designed to have something going super-fast on them, and riding on roads mixed with regular traffic is going to require more than a few concessions to fit in. As much as I would like one, if I could afford it (and, yes, I’d snap it up for even $5K along with probably thousands of others), I have absolutely no idea how a velomobile would fit in the current transportation infrastructure *anywhere* in the world.

          • Arnold says

            Hi IS,
            I do think you can compare the two. They offer a similar solution to the problem of getting somewhere. In the Netherlands we already have 3 velomobile manufacturers and a lot of people with experience in riding them. Even on my open bikes people cycle up to 50 km to work (and back in the afternoon).

            The maintenance costs are relatively low. Most VM’s have a completely closed chainline, so derailleurs, chains and cassettes tend to have minimal wear. The most important costs are tires and brakes. There are quite a few comparisons between car costs (based on the Dutch situation) and bike costs.

            We aim for 55 km/hour at 150 w. 150 watt is something an average person can deliver for around an hour and a sporty person for 4 hours. So not exactly pedaling like a mad man…

            I do appreciate your feedback, so keep it up!

            • Impossibly Stupid says

              “They offer a similar solution to the problem of getting somewhere.”

              Not really; I gave the reasons that, for Americans at least, they’re not that similar. More to the point, it is a solution that is most similar to other recumbent trikes. THAT is the comparison that most people are going to make, and you may indeed compare favorably to that, but I have yet to see a velomobile that didn’t triple the cost of the underlying bike while offering very little speed advantage for most trips done by people who weren’t cranking like mad (and, yes, sustaining a 150W output is a high activity level for any human, regardless of their endurance ability). In fact, I would *love* to see some evidence/study that shows what actual difference there is for people who normally tool around at 20kph (~12mph) when they are put into a velomobile and exert the same effort.

              Of course, little of that has to do with the design itself, which I do think is quite nice. I’m just trying to stress that if “practical” is a major bullet point, then you actually have to get practical on how people will view it in relation to the alternatives. The biggest obstacle to velomobiles has always been their price compared to other bikes on the low end and cars on the high end.

  2. Arnold says

    Hi Andy,
    thanks for the positive comments. We are looking at designing two different hoods for the bike. One pictured above for fast commutes and racing (with less practicality) and one that will allow you to ride the bike open top. Together with the open top we will have the option to add a hood, so you can ride it closed again, however the total combination will be a little less aero efficient than the racing hood.

    There is an update here which addresses some of your questions:
    http://wimschermer.blogspot.nl/2012/10/velotilt-update_17.html

  3. Ron Richings says

    I would be interested in one of these, PROVIDED that it is made large enough to fit a ‘Clydesdale’ rider. 6 ft 2 in and near 300 pounds in my case. Will it accommodate that size of rider?

  4. Darryl Jordan says

    I”d like to sere more trunk space or towing capability for getting groceries. Also, some consideration should be paid for parking as in bumper guards and securing the trike and insides at bike racks and hitching posts. I’m not worried about the upfront cost as this is not a department store bike for kids.

  5. Bubba Nicholson says

    The place velomobiles are most frequently damaged is on the nose. A foam front bumbper with 100% recovery sufficient to cushion a dead stop from 30 mph without damage would cost very little. It takes awhile to get the hang of driving one of these. My Quest velomobile (with trailer hitch) rides like a canoe. The outboard wheels, even as these-faired, are a source of drag. The tadpole design out performs single front wheels, although the ability to lean may improve that balance. The added weight may not be worth the trouble.
    In traffic, high, bright, LED lights are required with convenient turn signals on the tiller (with a motorcycle switch), a technology sadly lacking on today’s vehicles.

  6. art says

    Nice design overall, but the unsupported rear trailing arms are going to come apart on the first corner. I would also like to know exactly how you think that suspension design is going to allow the vehicle to tilt.

    • Arnold says

      Art,
      thanks for the compliment (I think). Please do not dismiss this project as another one of those renders. The team behind this consists of two current recumbent manufacturers. Most everyone in the team has a lot of cycling experience. The design of the VeloTilt is based on : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JSTqIOORgI

  7. Peter says

    How about a used Velocity Velo velomobile with ~600 miles on it for $5200? It was $7200 new with 22 speed internal gearing and etc, etc. See: http://www.sale.bicycleman.com, email pete@bicycleman.com

  8. mgb says

    Hi there,

    I liked the Munzo TT design very much and would love to see your design in production and eventually for sale, but price is a valid consideration for many, especially those who don’t earn European salaries. The rear wheel tilt mechanism reminds me of the Nissan tilting concept electric car “LandGlider” http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dFLKhvdzJec

    BTW, since you are Dutch, do you know what happened to the Drymer (semi-upright, mostly covered tilting tadpole trike with elec. assist)? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRxJXkw5aLs Not much was ever available on that project in English though it has been around for at least 5 years now.

    Cheers, and all the best.

    • Arnold says

      Hi mgb,

      thanks for the Nissan link. At the moment we are mainly looking at technical feasibility of the bike. It obviously can exist in CAD, but what happens when we take one to the roads. How will it perform in windy conditions, will we achieve the speed potential, and so on. We are looking at pricing as well in terms of design choices versus manufacturing costs, but only on a limited scale at the moment.

      On Drymer: Last thing I heard is that the company was bought by one of the suppliers. This was in 2011. In June of this year apparently it was introduced. No news after that. This project has been around under various names and owners for a long time indeed.

  9. stevbike says

    I test rode a Reg Redaro velomobile design in 2001. It used a front wheel drive design and rear steering. With standard bicycle gearing,I found the machine to be on the slow sie mainly due to the use of 20″ drive wheel. I would find tht a more common up-right bike (any design type) is more practical then a velomobile due the structures presently in place in most citys. There is really no structures in place ight now due to the rarity of the velo design. Given time, the velo will make a great alterative to the open up-right and reumbentbike designs. What is needed so push of the velo design in the main stream to showcase it urban cycling mode. The price will have to come down to make it worth while to the mass market.

  10. Amoeba says

    One of the factors that makes cars and driving artificially inexpensive, are the hidden subsidies to car drivers. This is the consequence of external costs that are not charged to the motorist, but shared-out among the population.
    In the UK each registered car is subsidised on average to the extent of just over 2000 Euro per year, or over 20000 Euro per decade. (2008 figures). Ref.

    It is common for motorists to maintain incorrectly that the vehicle-tax and fuel duty that they pay ‘subsidises’ cyclists and other road users. This is untrue, in-fact, the reverse is often true. There are numerous externalities of motor-vehicle use: air-pollution, noise pollution, deaths and morbidity arising; diseases of inactivity (from creating a hostile road environment that deters active transport); etc.

    Like anything that is artificially under-priced, there is an excessive demand with frivolous and unnecessary driving is encouraged. People have apparently lost the ability to walk further than a few tens of metres.

    If motorists were to be charged the full cost of these externalities, charges would necessarily need to be levied on mileage and fuel, probably with a time-of-day component, to iron-out congestion peaks.
    Driving would become less popular, while walking, velomobiles, cycling and Public transport would become increasingly attractive and with less motoring, the world would be a less-congested, safer, quieter less polluted and healthier place.

    Ref.
    The True Costs of Automobility: External Costs of Cars
    Overview on existing estimates in EU-27
    Final Report
    TU Dresden
    Chair of Transport Ecology
    Prof. Dr. Ing. Udo J. Becker
    Thilo Becker
    Julia Gerlach
    Dresden, October 12th, 2012
    http://tinyurl.com/c67dwq3

  11. Amoeba says

    Looks really nice, of course, I’d like to see one in the flesh. But since I’m considering a VM, I’m potentially interested.
    But it looks too hot, for warm weather use.

  12. Christophe says

    Ride in a Velomobile make sweating a lot. Don’t forget that !

  13. Sylvain says

    Hi Arnold

    When you say “We aim for 55 km/hour at 150 w. 150 watt “, could you explain us the way you defined the required power to ride at this speed ? I assume this is directly linked to the aerodynamics of your Tilt VM. Is this required power based on calculation or testing on a prototype ?
    Thank you
    Sylvain

Continuing the Discussion

  1. chidd.org » I want one… linked to this post on October 18, 2012

    [...] I do hope they make these things. It would be even cooler than my egg. Although it might be even sweatier than the current design. Checkout their website. [...]



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