I decided to continue the cars & bicycles theme, I started with my previous post and write a quick summary about an interesting article I found a few months ago. LowTechMagazine is a website dedicated to the technology that may make or made our life simpler, more efficient and less energy-dependent but without the unnecessary complexity of many modern solutions. Bicycles, as one of the most efficient transportation vehicles known to a man, obviously fit well in this category. But they are not perfect:
This fantastic efficiency of electric velomobiles comes from the fact that
At speeds below 10 km/h (6 mph), rolling resistance is the biggest challenge for a cyclist. Air resistance becomes increasingly influential at higher speeds, and becomes the dominant force at speeds above 25 km/h (15.5 mph).
which means that once we keep moving in a velomobile, we can easily reach "average speed of 40 km/h (25 mph)". But since velomobiles are heavier than regular bicycles, bringing them up to that speed takes some extra energy. This is where electric assist comes handy. The assisted velomobile author tested had a suprisingly small battery on board, only used for acceleration, not cruising. But as calculation showed, "adding only 6 kg of batteries increases the range of the electric velomobile to 450 km". This is much, much better than any electric car that exists today. For example,
The Nissan Leaf takes you at best 160 km, when you drive slowly and steadily, and when you don't make use of the air-conditioning, heating or electronic gadgets on board.
This answers any questions on why electric cars still have such a pathetic range today, despite all progress in battery and electric motor technology. They are just too heavy and too complex. We are so used to our gasoline-powered cars that we don't want to give up on air conditioning, powered windows, heating system, radio and navigation. But all these things suck juice from batteries very quickly and decrease car's range. Velomobiles, thanks to their simplicity, don't have this problem. In fact,
when we compare the (electric velomobile) with the electric car, still viewed by many as the future of sustainable transportation, it's a clear winner.
Unfortunately, this kind of future doesn't look very bright. It is because
The biggest obstacle for manufacturers and drivers of electric velomobiles is legislation.
the very strange fact that a car, for instance a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S with a weight of 2,355 kg, an engine of 382,000 watts and a top speed of 270 km/h can be driven anywhere on Earth, while an electric velomobile with a weight of 35 kg, a motor of 250 watts and an electric assistance of up to 50 km/h is illegal in most countries.
Can electric velomobiles be the future of mid-range transportation? The author seems to think so. And even if the rest of the article considers an utopian scenario of replacing all cars with velomobiles, it is an interesting read.