Pedal, solar power aims to be the new hybrid

January 8, 2016
Craig Sparks of Organic Transport shows the Elf solar- and pedal-powered vehicle touted as the world's most environmentally frie
Craig Sparks of Organic Transport shows the Elf solar- and pedal-powered vehicle touted as the world's most environmentally friendly form of transport at the Consumer Electronics Show on January 7, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Is it a car, a bike or some other kind of contraption?

It looks like an inverted with an egg-shaped shell. The makers of the Elf vehicle tout it as the future of environmentally friendly urban transport, combining pedal power with battery propulsion and solar charging.

Take a look inside: there are no doors or floorboards, making it appear like a car that came out of a "Flintstones" cartoon.

"We believe in human-powered mobility," said Craig Sparks, showing off the vehicle from startup Organic Transit at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"This is a town runner. You can run your errands, go to the grocery store. You don't need a car."

The price tag starts at $7,000 but it pays for itself because it uses no fuel, he said.

You start it up with a modified bicycle pedal crank, and steer and brake with handlebars. The battery kicks in to take it up to a speed of some 40 kilometers (25 miles) per hour.

The Elf has a solar panel on the roof that charges the battery, which offers a range of around 50 kilometers (30 miles)—or more, if you are willing to pedal.

Sparks said the Elf is "street legal" and requires no registration or insurance, with federal rules classifying it as a bicycle. But some state or local rules may be different.

In terms of technology, El uses a Trylon plastic body and aluminum frame and features "dynamic dampening suspension."

The motor and pedal system operate independently. It uses lithium-ion manganese batteries and has an optional continuously variable transmission. In future versions, Sparks said the devices will use pedal power to charge the batteries.

The company has been selling them over the past year online and plans to ramp up production.

"Our costs will come down," he told AFP. "Right now we produce around 20 per week and there is a long waiting list."

But he said the company has no plans to sell itself to another manufacturer for mass production.

"If we got a million orders today, a lot of those people could just have to wait," he said.

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19 comments

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Scottingham
3 / 5 (2) Jan 08, 2016
There is one of these around where I live. It can't go with the flow of traffic so cars have to go around == dangerous.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 08, 2016
Yabba dabba doo! gskam!
MR166
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 08, 2016
"The price tag starts at $7,000 but it pays for itself because it uses no fuel, he said."

Oh I would just love to see this piece of crap in a head on with a 2 ton suv.
Solon
5 / 5 (2) Jan 08, 2016
Need to add a flywheel too. Pedal like hell while you are waiting at the traffic lights, pop the clutch when the lights change, burn rubber!
Jeffhans1
3.5 / 5 (2) Jan 08, 2016
Need to add a flywheel too. Pedal like hell while you are waiting at the traffic lights, pop the clutch when the lights change, burn rubber!

I still am surprised no one has put a flywheel inside a motorcycle wheel. When you come to a stop at a light, the moving flywheel would keep the whole bike upright without needing to use your foot. When you let off the brake, the remaining stored energy in the flywheel is fed back into the bike and you get a boost of acceleration.
Frosted Flake
3 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2016
Naturally, I could be mistaken, but HR 727, the Federal Electric Bicycle Law says that an electrically driven bicycle is considered a "bicycle" and the laws of bicycles
apply if:
o Electrically driven bicycle has less than 750 watt motor
o Functional pedals
o Max speed (without rider input) is less than 20mph
· The Federal law shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed
electric bicycles. (The state must regulate the electric bicycle as a bicycle)

(snip)
Frosted Flake
not rated yet Jan 08, 2016
Yeah, I cut-n-pasted. So the likelihood of a mistake is quite low. The Elf would seem to be a moped, requiring a license, license plates, license plate tabs, possibly insurance, and stay the heck off the sidewalks and bicycle paths.

That does not mean the machine could not be altered very slightly to conform with federal law as a bicycle. That mod would be, omit the throttle and use a pedal-elc system instead. That way, the bike cannot go anywhere under power unless the rider is pedaling. Everybody wins.
Steve 200mph Cruiz
5 / 5 (3) Jan 08, 2016
This thing is pretty sweet, it seems easy to modify too
ddroesse
5 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2016
Need to add a flywheel too. Pedal like hell while you are waiting at the traffic lights, pop the clutch when the lights change, burn rubber!

I still am surprised no one has put a flywheel inside a motorcycle wheel. When you come to a stop at a light, the moving flywheel would keep the whole bike upright without needing to use your foot. When you let off the brake, the remaining stored energy in the flywheel is fed back into the bike and you get a boost of acceleration.

probly cause of that little problem with momentum
DavidTheShepherd
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2016
"If we got a million orders today, a lot of those people could just have to wait," he said.

So if that happens at all, why not simply licence the tech to someone else instead of being greedy or just plain obtuse?
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2016
I still am surprised no one has put a flywheel inside a motorcycle wheel. When you come to a stop at a light, the moving flywheel would keep the whole bike upright


With that much spinning momentum, it would make for truly terrible and downright dangerous handling for the bike.

Remember that flywheels direct forces 90 degrees off the plane of torque you apply. The bike stands upright because the flywheel directs the force to turn the bike along the vertical axis. The sideways traction of the wheels stops the bike from turning, so you got a stalemate of forces and the bike stays upright.

But when there's little sideways traction, such as driving over a puddle of water, leaning would send the bike into a spin and tumble. Even without slippery roads, the flywheel would oppose turning because you have to lean into the curve, but if it's spinning the other way it can also amplify the turning.

To get around these problems, the flywheel has to lay flat.
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2016
It can't go with the flow of traffic so cars have to go around == dangerous.


That's the problem with all these velocipede-moped-quadricycle-NEV-golfkart proposals.

Real traffic goes 35-40 mph (~50-60 kph) outside the immediate neighborhood, so you can't actually go anywhere without acting as a road plug and causing annoying traffic jams and dangerous overtakes. Connecting traffic between suburbs and town/city centers is even faster, between 40-55 mph (60-80 kph) and in most places these vehicles aren't even allowed on such roads.

Besides, human power works reliably only up to about 15 mph because you have to consider that the driver is not a Tour de France professional cyclist. For most people maintaining 15 mph would be hard work, and inclement weather puts that down considerably.

When you're going 25+ mph with an electric assist, the pedals are really in just for show; you should go completely EV motorcycle and make it go 40 mph.
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2016
The power required to maintain speed against air resistance goes up in the cube of velocity, so taking the bike from 15 mph to 25 mph takes 4.6 times the power. In other words, the human pedalist is only supplying 22% of the power at the top speed.

The averge person can output 200 Watts for 1 hour before they get exhausted, so that would put the power budget of the vehicle at approximately 1.2 HP which is less than the engine power of a 49cc monkey bike at around 4-5 HP.

That's telling how well aerodynamic the vehicle has to be if you want to get it even to 15 mph on human power. It's also telling that as soon as you got a tiny gust of wind or uphill, the whole thing just stops going - the electric motor has to be much more powerful than the rider, and at that point you might as well drop the pedals off the design, because they're just pointless complexity.

Another way to look at it is, if you pedal hard you can go an extra 14 km on the battery. Hardly worth it.
Eikka
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2016
The main point seems to be:

requires no registration or insurance, with federal rules classifying it as a bicycle


The rest is just greenwash.
rrrander
3 / 5 (4) Jan 09, 2016
It's a death-trap for European or N. American roads, but maybe Indians could use it to replace those horrible 2-stroke cart "pollution machines" they use in their cities?
Eikka
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2016
It's a death-trap for European or N. American roads, but maybe Indians could use it to replace those horrible 2-stroke cart "pollution machines" they use in their cities?


It looks to be too small, slow and weak to replace a tuk-tuk.

And they're already replacing them with 4-stroke NG engines similiar to what's used in forklifts, which is better for the local economies because the fuel can be made from sewage and waste by the locals in a pinch, or substituted with alternatives (propane/butane) depending on availability and price.

WIth an electric vehicle, they'd be completely dependent on expensive imported batteries.

argzzz
5 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016
I'd prefer if there was a floor board. If a coin or your mobile phone fell out of your pocket while pedaling, stopping and going back for it is very inconvenient (and may even be dangerous). It'll also be convenient for bags of groceries.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jan 11, 2016
I still am surprised no one has put a flywheel inside a motorcycle wheel

Already done:
http://www.gizmag...e/21002/
keeps you stable (even stabilizing during accidents)
Or you can just go the mechanical route that drops out some stabilizing wheels when the vehicle is stopped (Monotracer):
https://peraves.wordpress.com/

It's a death-trap for European or N. American roads

I don't know about North America, but in large parts of Europe bicycles are a normal part of road traffic. Since this would actually have the speed to flow with normal car traffic in cities it would be even less dangerous to ride.
ddroesse
5 / 5 (1) Jan 18, 2016
Already done:
http:/ /www.gizmag...e/ 21002/

I don't think vaporware qualifies as "already done"

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