One part bicycle, one part solar, and one part car. It’s a Velomobile! The first velomobiles or velocars showed up around the 1930s and ’40s. During the oil crisis in the 1970s, Pedal Powered Vehicle, or PPV, was introduced to the United States. They were manufactured in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and sold for less than $400. Unfortunately, they did not win over the hearts of U.S. citizens even with all that trunk space.
But these fun bicycle like mini cars continue to have a fanship and I can see why. They look extremely fun to ride (or is it drive?). Two companies in the United States are producing Velomobiles that have solar power; North Carolina-based Organic Transit developed the ELF, and Massachusetts Better Bike offers the PEBL.
Both are three-wheeled electric tricycles with enclosed seating and they will do speeds of up to 20 mph under electric-only power. Both off a roof-mounted 100W solar panel. Like most electric bikes these velomobiles can be charged quicker by a standard outlet.
These fun little three-wheeled mobiles, under federal law, are allowed in bike lanes. I’m not sure that is a great idea, being someone who rides in limited space bike lanes, but these could be an interesting car replacer or a sweet pedicab. I know I’d love to give one a try! But they are not cheap, the starting prices for the Organic Transit ELF 2FR is $8,895 and the starting price for the Better Bike PEBL is $7,950.
What do you think, would you ride a velomobile? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
*Update 6/12/2020 to reflect the federal law of e-bikes in bike lanes: Federal E-bike law — The federal Consumer Product Safety Act defines a “low speed electric bicycle” as a two or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor under 20 mph (32 km/h) and an electric motor that produces less than 750 W (1.01 hp).