Semi-Enclosed Utility Bikes & Trikes
Foul Weather Friend: the German-engineered Projekt Läufer [Project Jogger] is a 'human-powered travel vehicle' (Photo: projekt-laeufer.de)
Unlike the other pages in this section, this page is less about bicycles and HPVs available for purchase today and more about a style of narrow-track two- and three-wheeled covered pedal-electric vehicle (pedelec) we could see on streets around the world in the coming years.
When it was introduced in 1886, John Kemp Starley's Safety Bicycle with its identically-sized wheels, chain-driven rear wheel and diamond frame, was a major advancement in bicycles and made cycling safe enough for the general public to get interested. The recumbent bicycle emerged shortly afterwards in the late 1890s, a design that in 1934 was banned after bicycle manufacturers lobbied the UCI, the international governing body for the sport of cycling, for being faster than upright racing bicycles. Undoubtedly, this ban (still in effect to this day) significantly altered the course of bicycle manufacturing and accordingly the frame layout of the bicycles the majority of people around the world ride today. While the recumbent design re-emerged in the 1970s it was never a mainstream success, perhaps due to the additional cycling skills it demanded or to the low seating position and poor visibility to other traffic participants. The so-called comfort bike, a design where the rider's position is somewhere between upright and a recumbent bicycle designs, started to appear on a commercial level in the 1990s. The comfort bicycle design shows good promise to get would-be and former- cyclists (especially older cyclists) out of their cars and on to bicycles.
Note that while after-market canopies and fairings providing various degrees of weather protection on upright and recumbent bicycles are considered on the all weather cycling page, most designs have repeatedly received very poor market reception to a buying public normally very open to exploring alternatives. Most utility cyclists are prepared to make compromises regarding protection from the elements. Most all-season cyclists will prefer to get damp or wet by rain or snow than to cycle using a contraption susceptible to side winds or one that is asthetically questionable or both.
The cabin cycle is an emerging class of vehicle that further evolves the utility cycling concept for personal mobility by combining the semi-recumbent seating position of the comfort bicycle with the basic load carrying capacity of the city bike and the weather protection aspect of the velomobile. Cabin cycles designs are usually of a hybrid human-powered / power-assisted specification to accomodate the additional weight of the vehicle including the integrated front fairing and canopy.
With hybrid human/electric power, the cabin cycle appears to be the vehicle providing the right mix of comfort, convenience and safety to make the car-buying and -driving public consider human/electric bicycles and cycling as an alternative to neighbourhood electric vehicles.
Several independent research projects and designers, the majority from Europe, have pursued cabin cycles with the hope of developing the next-generation utility cycle. The resulting two- and three-wheeled design concepts, prototypes and pre-production models are featured below.
Projekt Läufer (Germany, 2001 - 2003)
Back to the Drawing Board: the electric propulsion concept was being reworked (Images: projekt-laeufer.de)
Initially engineering by Michael Graeff und Christian Hessling at the University of Darmstadt, the Projekt Läufer design was penned by Michael Kirch and Max C. Neumeyer.
As of 2004, five prototypes had been built with a total of ten planned. After the project moved to the Technical University of Munich at Garching, there seems to be little or no activity since 2007. This is not surprisely as Hessling said in 2003 that the project will likely serve as an inspiration to similar commercial ventures. One of the prototypes is on display in the collection of the German Museum in Munich since 2008.
ThisWay (Sweden, 2008)
Way Up: the ThisWay computer rendering shows potential but will it be built?
Torkel Döhmers' ThisWay concept pedelec rendering won the 2008 commuter bicycle design competition at bicycledesign.blogspot.com.
An early sketch (before the tape line drawing shown above) follows very similar lines and porportions as the BMW C1 motorized scooter produced from 2003 until 2003. The final rendering varied from an early sketch with a longer wheelbase. (Interestingly, the early C1 prototypes by Naumann Design implemented a less upright seating position than the final production model.)
MITKA (The Netherlands, late 1990s - early 2000s)
Retractable Roof: the MITKA's technical development was backed by major players (Images: kathalys.com)
The Mitka [website offline] was a carving electric trike co-developed was developed by three Dutch companies: Kathalys Centrum voor Duurzame Productinnovatie, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research and the Delft University of Technology with in cooperation with Nike and Dutch bicycle manufacturer Gazelle. The semi-enclosed tricycle is described as 'a mobility concept for individual transport for short distances'. The designer Michiel van den Brink described as follows:
The MITKA is a new environmentally friendly vehicle, which has been developed in a joint research project for future mobility. Van den Brink started with a clean sheet to develop this all new concept in cooperation with TU Delft, TNO, Gazelle, Nike Europe and Van der Veer Design.
"The MITKA is very suitable for distances between 5 and 20 kilometers and has several innovative design features, such as a rain protection system, power assistance and a three-wheel chassis design for natural corner leaning.
The Kathalys website that hosted the MITKA website further indicated (as of 2001?) that the MITKA is being tested at the headquarters of Nike and that it is not yet known when the consumer version of the Mitka on the market will appear. However, in 2008 website went offline.
Drymer (The Netherlands, 2006-Present)
Hybrid Drive: the Drymer Business prototype on the road to production (Images: drymer.nl)
The Drymer is a pedelec trike with carving steering. The development project has been managed by the TechnologieCentrum Noord-Nederland (TCCN) in Groningen. From the Drymer website (machine translated from Dutch):
A totally new innovative and futuristic concept bike with two front wheels. The two front wheels of the Drymer ensure a stable and unprecedented driving experience. Through an ingenious tilt system, both front wheels tilt around corners. It is not necessary to use a stand, a bolt / brake system ensures that the Drymer remains upright. The bicycle is assisted by an electric motor, which provides a comfortable driving experience.
As of winter 2009/20190, the Drymer website gives the impression that the prototype is on track to commercialization in Europe. Like all pedelecs available for sale in the European Union, the Drymer provides electric assistance up to 25 km/h while pedaling. A 250 W electric motor and 48 Volt Lithium-Polymer, 15.4 Ah battery provides a range up to 80 km. Luggage capacity is 20 L.
Pricing will be € 6 000 for Drymer Business (pictured) and € 3 000 for the Drymer Leisure, a version without the outer body shell.
Trik.E (USA / South Korea, 2009)
Safe Curves: the Trik.E concept pedelec (Images: speedstudiodesign.com)
The Trik.E concept rendering describes another carving pedelec trike. From the Speed Studio Design website:
The Trik.E is a human/electric powered 3-wheeled vehicle with weather protection for all-season riding, and storage capacity for a few bags of groceries. An innovative lean-steering system provides nimble yet secure handling."
The designer goes on to state that the vehicle is envisioned not as a bicycle, but a true alternative to the car for around-town transportation with all the benefits of bicycles and human powered vehicles including being easy to park and no license or insurance requirements.
Revolution Cycle Company Trimtab 3x3 (USA, 2009 - Present)
Lean Steered: the Trimtb 3x3 pedelec recumbent tricycle prototype (Photo: David Parrot)
David Parrott is a graduate student in the Master of Design program at the University of Cincinnati, College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. He received his bachelors degree from DAAP and is currently (Winter, 2010) completing a Masters in Design with the development of a human/electric hybrid vehicle designed through the lens of slow design.
According to David, the Trimtab 3x3 is,
a 3WD, electric-assisted, lean steered delta trike with seasonal fabric skins & seating (breathable, ripstop nylon for summer; therm-a-rest style inflatable skins for winter), an acrylic aircraft-style canopy, and flatbed storage.
Developed in collaboration with Losantiville Kunstwerkhaus and Stress Engineering Services, the vehicle concept presents a composite fender that provides mounting for nylon skin, which stretches around windscreen and comes in seasonal versions, such as water-resistant ripstop, breathable nylon for summer and waterproof insulated nylon for winters.
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