People who cycle often identify themselves as cyclists. But if you drive to work everyday in a car, you wouldn’t tell people you are a carist! At best you might say you were a driver or a commuter, but it’s not like driving to work is your hobby or your interest. So if you have a short commute, and you’ve thought there might be a better way than a car everyday, we thought that too. And we think it might be a velomobile — an enclosed, human-powered vehicle (HPV).
Being human powered, it offers all the health and fitness benefits of a bicycle and then adds some extra practicalities like:
- Better aerodynamic efficiency, which means higher cruising speeds.
- Secure, internal storage.
- The enclosed body gives you protection from:
- the wind,
- the rain,
- the cold,
- road dirt,
- scuffs and scrapes.
We’re not the first people to have this thought. The idea of a velomobile has been around since at least 1925 when Charles Mochet was making Velocars that were faster than bicycles and cheaper than cars.
And we’re not the only people doing it today. There are companies intent on making the most efficient HPVs and racers going over 82mph from just the power in their legs. There are DIY kits for €2500 and carbon fibre, aerodynamic eggs for $10,000. But we think there are some things that need to be looked at differently.
If you’re going to replace a car with a bicycle, then you want it to cost less than a car. Especially if it is not going to be used for all of the journeys that a second car might be. Yes, it will save you money over the long run, but we think the current high entry cost is one of the reasons stopping more people from changing to a velomobile. We’re going with a different construction method to most manufacturers. It should give a lower unit cost of production; and production should scale better than using composites.
For most people I know who have a car, they want to be able get in and drive to their destination. They want some comfort when they do. And they want to be able to get out the other end, lock it up, leave it and do what they came for. Your mode of transport should be there when you need it and fade into the background when you don’t. It should be a tool, not a headache. Having come from an automotive engineering background, we’ve got some great ideas about turning velomobiles into practical modes of transport that will fit comfortably into your life.
Open Source Design
Everything must have a beginning, to speak in Sanchean phrase, and that beginning must be linked to something that went before. … Invention, it must humbly be admitted, does not consist in creating out of the void, but out of chaos.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Authors Introduction, 1831
Good ideas take off and have a life of their own, and poor ideas wither in the face of scrutiny. But to say that some one person controls an idea is nonsense. People work on an idea and the law allows them privileges to try and make money from the fruit of that. But there is no reason why I know the only way to make a velomobile. Openness and accessibility produces better engineered products, just look at the open source software movement.
So we’re designing and making the Atomic Duck velomobile.
Maybe you like the idea and would like to own one?
- I don’t blame you! We’ll be in production later this year with build-your-own kits and ready-to-ride Atomic Ducks.
Maybe you’d like to build your own? Sounds fun, enjoy!
- You’ll be able to buy printed plans, instructions and kits, or use the free downloadable plans.
- We’ll be offering the option to register your self-build, so if you sell it second hand, the buyer knows we’ll support them too.
Maybe you like the idea and want to make and sell it your area? Then I’d like to licence the design to you.
- We’ll be offering per-vehicle commercial licenses.
- We like the idea of local production, so we’d like to tell people where they can buy near to them.
- And we want to offer the support to producers so their versions are as good as (or better than!) the ones we produce.
- It’ll be the same if you want to produce it exactly, or make alterations to suit your clients.
Maybe you’ve got an idea to customise it for your own needs?
- Then please tell us how you made it better for yourself.
- We’ll have forums and a wiki open soon.
Maybe it sparked an idea in your head and you’d like to go off and do something different?
- That’s part of the fun, go forth and multiply :D