Reflections on the potential of human power for transportation

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Prius Electric Bicycle at the Detroit Auto Show

The Detroit International Auto Show has been going on this week and the unanimous star of the show is the new 2014 Corvette Stingray. With 450 horsepower, 450 of torque, a seven-speed manual transmission (starting to sound like derailleur transmissions here) and a 52K$ price tag, the ‘vette excited a lot of sports-car minded attendees and journalists.

While the Corvette launch is typical fare for large auto shows, what is less typical is the presence of vehicles at the other end of the horsepower spectrum, electric bicycles. Both Toyota with its Prius Parlee and Daimler AG with its Smart E-bike displayed models.

 The Smart bike is shown below.

This is not the first time that vehicles with pedals have show up at large auto shows. In 2011, Ford displayed an E-bike at the Frankfurt Auto Show, but Europe has always taken the bicycle more seriously that the US as a transportation alternative to the car. I like to think that the appearances of these bikes in Detroit is an acknowledgement that human-powered commuter vehicles are playing a more significant role in the transportation matrix

Now, while pedalectric bikes offer one form of hybrid human-powered commuter vehicle, they are ill-suited to commuting in inclement weather. An extensive discussion of the characteristics of an ideal HPCV are discussed in “Rx for a Healthy Commute”, below

Now to get displayed at a large auto show, a HPVC needs to be a product of an auto company, like Toyota or Daimler AG. Even though they are developed by non-auto-company enterprises, there  was one vintage and is one new vehicle that deserved and deserve to be displayed to the general car public at a large US auto show.
One HPVC was the Pedicar from 1973, below.

Production of the Pedicar was only 20 vehicles. It didn’t catch on, even though there was a gas crisis going on during its public release. At $550, the cost may have been a deterrent when compared to a bicycle and, even though similar vehicles were used in Europe after WW2, US consumers were just beginning to think of bicycles as commuter vehicles.  If it had an electric assist, which it was ideally suited for, it might have experienced the sales it deserved.
The auto companies did take notice of the Pedicar, however. An industrial designer from Chrysler drew this lampooning cartoon of it.

A modern vehicle which deserves recognition at a large US auto show is the Drymer trike from the Netherlands. With a bit more weather protection, the Drymer would be an ideal all-weather pedalectric commuter vehicle.

So the future is looking up for human-powered commuter vehicles. If the general public begins to consider pedalectric bicycles as viable transportation alternatives, they may be ready to accept and purchase vehicles like the Pedicar and the Drymer.



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  3. I have to say that this is the best investment I made , since I can take this bike on long drives, it looks good, people loved seeing it in Big Sur, I plan to ride to Yosemite sometime soon, thanks to my new friend Biruni :) electric bikes

  4. Hi,
    Electric powered Bicycles are particularly terrible for long-distance touring, since with current battery technology.Electric bicycles are good for city use, but really only city use.Thanks!!!!!!!!!

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  6. If your just starting out with clipless, it might be worth teaching yourself to clip in the left foot last when pushing off and uncliping it first when stopping, this way you will always be leaning away from the traffic.pop over here

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  8. Nice post.I like it.If it had an electric assist, which it was ideally suited for, it might have experienced the sales it deserved.
    The auto companies did take notice of the Pedicar, however. An industrial designer from Chrysler drew this lampooning cartoon of it.
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