At first glance it might look a bit like an elongated pedal car for kids, but its designers are convinced the HumanCar Imagine PS is a serious player in the search for cleaner, greener ways to get around. The vehicle converts the rowing motion of the driver and any passengers into rotational thrust to charge a battery and power the vehicle in conjunction with an electric motor. So not only is it healthy for the planet – it is healthy for the occupants too. And as an added bonus the vehicle can also be used store energy and act as a backup power generator to provide electricity to the home.
Searching for a full-body workout Greenwood eschewed a bicycle-type mechanism in favor of the rowing-like mechanism and developed the forerunner to the Impulse PS, the FM-4 (Fully Manual – 4 people). This was a research “skeleton” car that was built to test the concept of a human powered vehicle and the lessons it provided eventually led to the development of the Impulse PS (Power Station).
The car includes seating for four, with rowing handlebars for each passenger. It can be powered by one, two, three or four people, the battery-powered electric motor, or any combination of human and electric power. The battery can also be charged via a standard electrical outlet if you feel you’ve had your quota of exercise for the day.
To make the most out of the power generated the vehicle also incorporates a regenerative braking system and an advanced power system to enhance overall efficiency. Because steering using the rowing handles would be too difficult to control the vehicle is steered by "Body Steering" (read leaning into turns). According to Chuck Greenwood, HumanCar Inc. CEO and son of Charles Greenwood, this is apparently much more intuitive (not to mention more fun) than using a conventional steering wheel.
The vehicle’s custom CPU operates off trigger buttons on the center brake handle to engage functions such as regenerative power, power up and cruise control. Other available features include a human/machine interface (HMI) touch-screen display with GPS and biometric data logging, iPod integrated sound systems, and Bluetooth compatible on-board computing/communications devices. The vehicle is especially suited to generate the power required to operate these devices. An all-weather foldout ragtop roof is also available for commuting in the rain.
In the near future the company also plans to integrate proximity braking systems and multi-stage airbags into production units. And as features such as park assist and crash control become more "off the shelf" they will also be integrated.
Versions that employ “more traditional operator inputs” are also in development.
Already the company has received more than 200 orders for the current Imagine, which are currently being produced as pure research/exotics with a price of US$75,000. Full commercial production of the Imagine PS will begin once the break even point of around 800 orders are reached, which looks to be sometime this year. The vehicles will be priced at US$15,500 each.
For the moment the HumanCar is limited to non-highway or ‘neighborhood’ roads, but there are higher performance versions under development that are planned for highway travel.
There’s no doubt that in the race for green power the human body has been overlooked in favor of alternative fuel sources such as biofuels, hydrogen etc. But the human body is a veritable powerhouse that so many of us under utilize – as our expanding waistlines will attest to. With the majority of car trips people make falling into the short, local variety the Impulse PS could well be a viable, reasonably priced alternative that not only helps the planet, but helps the health of its occupants too.
For more info, or to place an order head to HumanCar's website.
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