Urban Transport

Electric-assist velomobile is dually driven

Electric-assist velomobile is ...
Fabrizio Cross cruising the streets of Victoria, in the Electrom
Fabrizio Cross cruising the streets of Victoria, in the Electrom
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Fabrizio Cross cruising the streets of Victoria, in the Electrom
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Fabrizio Cross cruising the streets of Victoria, in the Electrom
The Electrom's rear hatch can be removed to reveal a cargo compartment and back seat
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The Electrom's rear hatch can be removed to reveal a cargo compartment and back seat
Besides its unique looks, one of the things that really distinguishes the Electrom is its dual drivetrain
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Besides its unique looks, one of the things that really distinguishes the Electrom is its dual drivetrain
Plans call for the Electrom to be sold as a partially-assembled kit
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Plans call for the Electrom to be sold as a partially-assembled kit
The Electrom is currently electronically limited to a top speed of 32 km/h (20 mph), which is the electric-assist bicycle speed limit in British Columbia
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The Electrom is currently electronically limited to a top speed of 32 km/h (20 mph), which is the electric-assist bicycle speed limit in British Columbia

Former bike shop owner Fabrizio Cross once asked himself, what would it take to get more people out of their cars and onto bicycles? His answer was "A bike that could do more, go farther, and take less effort." That vehicle now exists, in the form of the Electrom LEV (light electric vehicle). Although it's currently a one-off, he does hope to put it into production.

Cross started work on his eye-catching creation 20 years and four prototypes ago. The present incarnation has been on the roads of the Canadian city of Victoria, British Columbia since April 2016. In that time, he's racked up over 4,000 km on it (2,485 miles). It's a daily commuter, used for everything from getting groceries to ferrying his kids around in a sort of "rumble seat" in the back.

Besides its unique looks, though, one of the things that really distinguishes the Electrom is its dual drivetrain.

At speeds up to 10 km/h (6 mph), the rider's pedalling power goes directly to the rear wheel via a long chain drive. At higher speeds, however, that chain drive starts freewheeling, allowing the pedalling power to go to a generator. The generated electricity supplements the electricity from a battery that powers a 500-watt rear hub motor.

This means that once they get going faster, the rider's cadence doesn't determine the speed of the vehicle. They can just pedal at a comfortable rate – around 80 rpm – and use a throttle to control the speed. No shifting of gears is necessary.

The system is explained in more detail, in the following video.

Electrom Generator Drive

The Electrom is currently electronically limited to a top speed of 32 km/h (20 mph), which is the electric-assist bicycle speed limit in British Columbia. Travelling at that speed with a single 72V/20Ah battery, it has a range of approximately 80 km (50 miles) – needless to say, that depends on how much pedalling the rider does, and how fast they do it.

It's made from a variety of materials, including carbon fiber, fiberglass, Kevlar, aircraft plywood, and even hickory wood. "The production frame will be made of aluminum and possibly carbon fiber," Cross tells us. "I used the materials I did for the prototype because I was able to work with them in my garage."

Some of its other features include 100 liters of rear cargo space (if a kid isn't being carted around back there), a swing-away front fairing, and a full LED lighting system with turn indicators.

The Electrom is currently electronically limited to a top speed of 32 km/h (20 mph), which is the electric-assist bicycle speed limit in British Columbia
The Electrom is currently electronically limited to a top speed of 32 km/h (20 mph), which is the electric-assist bicycle speed limit in British Columbia

Fabrizio hopes to launch a crowdfunding campaign sometime next spring (Northern Hemisphere), to raise production funds for the commercial version of the vehicle. If all goes according to plan, it will be sold as a partially-assembled kit for no more than US$8,000 – perhaps a lot less, depending on sales volume.

"I come from a long line of mechanics/inventors," he says. "My father ran a country mechanics shop and built many innovative things to help the farm function. Watching him made me understand that it is possible for anyone to build something new, they just need the idea, time and materials."

You can see a bit more of the Electrom in action, in the video below.

Product page: Electrom LEV

Introducing the Electrom LEV

9 comments
Riaanh
I really like this, the hybrid setup sounds ideal. The lazy ones can possibly have a larger battery which can be charged with a solar panel at home. I would have liked to see the rear cargo area.
JoelTaylor
One note: The title is incorrect. A two wheeled bicycle with a full faring is called a streamliner not a velomobile. Now that is out of thew way, good to see someone using heavier duty scooter parts for wheels and breaks as off the shelf bicycle parts aren't made for dealing with the extra stresses that higher speeds bring. Reminds me of a story about a guy who put a e-kit on his recumbent trike and removed the speed limiter so he could go above the 20 MPH federal limit. He had to do an emergency break from about 35 MPH and put flat spots on all three wheels due to the softer compound used in standard bicycle tires.
VincentWolf
Choppy ride with those small tires. No thanks. Ugly too.
kwalispecial
Cool idea, but that windshield looks like it would be a guillotine in an accident.
fred_dot_u
I'm not sure why designers choose to go the mechanical to electrical to mechanical conversion route for providing transfer of human generated energy. Well lubricated chain drives for bicycles have proven over decades to be the most efficient means of transferring power from a human bean to a wheel. The efficiency losses of a generator do not compare favorably with the overall efficiency of a chain drive. The amount of power generated by a human, albeit small scale is going to be more effective at propelling the vehicle directly than it is going into generator losses followed by motor losses. In some regions of the planet, once you take the direct human power out of the picture, as in this vehicle, it ceases to be a bicycle and becomes unlawful to operate on public thoroughfares. Joel is correct about velomobile versus streamliner. Break = destroy, brake = slow/stop. In the USA, the CPSC provides guidelines for bicycles and electric assist bicycles, among other products. Their recommendations are not federal law. Individual states will frequently enact regulations regarding electric assist bicycles and they are sometimes based on the CPSC guidelines, but that is not universal across the USA. Prospective purchasers of an electric assist bike would be well-advised to read the state statutes carefully to ensure adequate understanding. Equally important is to not consult law enforcement as they rarely have a correct understanding of these statutes.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The motor-generator set should allow you to pedal at a pre-set aerobic rate while stopped and going up and down hill. This will allow you to stay warm in the winter and get a good aerobic workout in stop and go traffic. Ease of operation will outweigh efficiency loss.
michael_dowling
Well,I wouldn't want it for going to work and back. I would need a shower at the office,as I sweat profusely with little exertion. It is also too exposed,you would get soaked if it rained. As another commentor noted,the windscreen would be like a guillotine in an accident. Give me a proper enclosed velomobile, 100% electric powered.
Rustin Lee Haase
These kind of vehicles are only practical where it never gets too hot or too cold and never snows or rains. The only places I know about that meet that description are indoor spaces, certainly not outside. One cold wet day trying to bring home a load of groceries would change anyone's perspective on this. In the real world, you need a full enclosure for dryness, security, and comfort. We don't all live in Hawaii where the weather is usually near perfect.
Fabrizio Cross
I try not to get too worked up about comments. good ones are nice and the negative ones, well, I guess that's an opinion... What I'm not into is flat-out-wrong or misleading. So, let's set the record straight on a few of these. Choppy Ride – you're wrong there, the ride is quite smooth. If the Electrom used tiny and skinny bike tires it might be choppy, but it uses 3.5 inch air-volume scooter tires, and has 4 inches of suspension travel front and rear. I specifically designed it to handle potholes and the junk that is scattered on the side of highways. guillotine – Wow, this comes up a lot, I should start writing something in the description to begin with. No, the windsheild will not decapitate me or cut my throat. It's a flexible plastic that is actually so flexible when un-supported that it is shipped rolled up. It is supported on a carbon and foam beam that is designed to crumple in the event of a head-on collision. I'm not into being impaled either. pedaling efficiency – You've missed the point. It's not about efficiency, it's about simplicity-of-operation and exercise. The Generator Drive is designed to allow the rider to pedal as little or as much as they want to while not having to worry about shifting through 28 bicycle gears. If the genera public was truly interested in efficiency there would be no SUV's on the road and we would all be in Velomobiles. If you actually read the article you will also note that the system is connected via chain to the wheel at all time, and absolutely qualifies as a bicycle. never snows or rains – It's true that the Electrom is not fully enclosed, but it is by no means a fair weather vehicle only. I live in Victoria British Columbia and ride it all year long. The front fairing keeps my legs dry in the rain so I need only wear a decent jacket. Yes, it doesn't keep you as dry as an enclosed car would, and if that's important then the Electrom is not for you. However, I felt that the trade-off was worth it. The Electrom is not fully enclosed because I wanted to keep it narrow and on two wheels. After all, what's the point of having the privileges of a bike if you are too wide to get through congested traffic. I'm also not inclined to hog the bike lane. It's true that Lit Motors is working on a self-balancing two wheel motorbike, and I think that will be great, but it will cost more and not have the rights of a bicycle. I do agree that most two-wheelers are not a good choice for cold and snowy environments, but there are plenty of temperate and warm places where the Electrom will be a viable alternative to a car.