Early next year, the Pedalist, e-fox, Elf and Tripod could all be in for some competition. That's when Illinois-based inventor Eliel Rojas plans on launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of his human/electric hybrid vehicle, the Ego Urban Transporter. Like those other models, it's what's known as a velomobile – a pedal-powered tricycle enclosed within an aerodynamic shell. Also like them, it's a velomobile that stands about as tall as a car. Its rider, however, stays pretty laid-back.

The main advantage of "tall" velomobiles is that they're more visible to motorists, plus they provide their riders with a better view of the road. Shorter models present less frontal area, so are generally considered to be more speed-oriented – they're also better-suited to a more comfortable recumbent seating position.

With the Ego, Rojas has sort of split the difference between the two. At a height of 4' 8" (1.4 m) it isn't hunkered down against the road where it won't be seen, yet the rider still sits back in a comfy reclined seat, with their legs out in front of them.

As is the case with an increasing number of existing velomobiles, plans call for the Ego to have an electric-assist motor as a standard feature. Users can still propel the vehicle by human power alone if they wish, but they can also use the 750-watt motor to augment their pedalling power, or they can run on electric power only. In the latter of the three modes, an electronically-limited top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h) is possible, along with a claimed battery range of over 30 miles (48 km).

Some people might wonder about the open sides of its composite shell. These are included for added ventilation, plus they allow crosswinds to blow through the Ego instead of pushing it over. There are nylon curtains that can be rolled down to cover those openings, when riders want better aerodynamics and/or more protection from the elements. Even when those curtains are drawn, however, fresh air can still get in through openings in the canopy.

That canopy is hinged at the front, incidentally, which is how users get in and out of the vehicle. Some of the Ego's other features include front and rear lights, turn indicators, side mirrors, disc brakes and a suspension system.

If you're interested in getting one, you can monitor the project website (linked below) to see when the Kickstarter campaign begins. Rojas tells us that the first 20 backers can get an Ego for US$3,750 if everything works out, while the estimated retail price will be more around $5,000. Although that might sound like a lot, it's actually right in line with cost of other electric-assist velomobiles.

The prototype can be seen in use, in the following video.

UPDATE (Jan. 13/16): The Kickstarter campaign is now live, and provides additional information on the Ego.

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