Velomobiles are interesting - usually three or four wheeled lightweight human powered vehicles they are often a tadpole tricycle (two wheels up front) with an aerodynamic body that keeps the driver out of the elements and vastly improves efficiency above 15 mph. To date they are either made by enthusiasts (a bulletin board on a recumbent bike site and a DYI example of a homemade shell on a production recumbent trike) or produced in small production runs - usually in Europe. The production models don't enjoy the benefits of volume production and prices usually range from $5k to $15k. (current examples from Europe for sale on a Canadian site)
. Velomobiles are certainly within the range of the homebuilder - paritularly recumbent trike conversions and kits - and you will have something much more exclusive than common cars like a Ferrari ... but an inexpensive and practical design is another animal entirely.
Apart from the price there are several issues that require large improvements if these are ever to catch on:
° parking (you can't easily carry one into your home, office or the store)
° appropriate roads - the are faster than bikes, but slower than cars
° rider comfort and the possible incorporation of an electric motor and battery
° bad weather use .. snow, rain, wind, heat and cold need to be addressed if velomobiles are to move beyond the enthusiast stage.
° load capacity - how much stuff can it carry and is it easy to stow your stuff?
° safety - real safety and addressing fear potential riders may have
Some of these are design issues, others are infrastructure and policy issues. Roads with 25mph speed limits are common in Europe, but rare in the US - that may be necessary for safe traffic integration. Slower speeds - say 15 mph - may be good for bikes, but too slow for velomobiles and cars. (that speed limit is also common in Northern European cities and suburban areas).
There is no reason why a good high-volume design couldn't sell for under $3k - and possibly lower - but a market needs to be created first. The only trigger I could see for something like this is a quick ramp well past $10/gallon for gasoline.
... but on to the competition
A design competition for three wheeled velomobiles:
- Tricycle, 2 front wheels, 1 rear wheel
- Max length in use: 200 cm
- Maximum width in use: 80 cm
- Max height: 175 cm
- Turning radius: 270 cm
- Power : human, in association with a 250 W motor
- Carrying weight:: 130 Kg
- 1 Driver
- Driver height : 150 cm min size / 195 cm max size
- Driver max weight: 130 Kg
- Driving position (inner-city): seated, back straight, head high
- Driving position (outside of the city): slightly reclining position
- Accessible Price
- Access to pedestrian zones, bike paths, areas where cars are forbidden
- Good Ventilation
- Weight- storage – easy parking
- In your presentation please make sure you show the following:
- 1 Side Profile View
- 1 3/4 Front View
- 1 3/4 Rear View
- 1 additional view of your choosing.
- 1 Technical view showing the dimensions as well as battery and motor placement.
- 1 View showing the removable wind/ rain/ dirt protection.
- 1 view showing the steering system, how it works to turn the front wheels.
- 1 view showing the change of user position.
- 1 view showing the folding of the bike for storage
- Please make sure to indicate the following:
- Headlight(s) Tail LIght(s) Turn Signals.
- Docking point for child seat.
- Smart Phone docking.
- Storage Space.
- Adjustable Driving Position.
- Keep in mind that:
Over 80% of competition winners post their designs early and win because the integrate community feedback into their designs. If you have any questions about what to deliver, the Local Motors Design Team recommends you post your project early on to gain feedback.
- First Prize(B'TWIN jury selection): $7500
- Second Prize: $5000 (Community Favorite)
- Third Prize: $2500 (Community Runner-Up)
And the entries ... ranging from the naïve to the sort of practical - a few nice looking ideas that may make sense.
It would be nice to see real prototypesas there are so many engineering issues, but that would cost much more and require much larger prizes. It would tend to only be practical in limited regions of the world where velomobiles make sense, but it would almost certainly be worth doing.