Environment

Hundred Watt Hybrid sets off on Eco Tour across America

Hundred Watt Hybrid sets off o...
Next stop, the West Coast - the Hoovers began crossing the U.S. in a hybrid human/electric vehicle (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
Next stop, the West Coast - the Hoovers began crossing the U.S. in a hybrid human/electric vehicle (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
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And they're off - Pierce Hoover and son Nash in their custom-built Hundred Watt Hybrid (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
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And they're off - Pierce Hoover and son Nash in their custom-built Hundred Watt Hybrid (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
Next stop, the West Coast - the Hoovers began crossing the U.S. in a hybrid human/electric vehicle (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
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Next stop, the West Coast - the Hoovers began crossing the U.S. in a hybrid human/electric vehicle (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
The Hundred Watt Hybrid is so named because the vehicle energy supply is limited to 2,400 Wh per day - the equivalent of leaving on a 100W light bulb (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
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The Hundred Watt Hybrid is so named because the vehicle energy supply is limited to 2,400 Wh per day - the equivalent of leaving on a 100W light bulb (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
Full windshield, roll bar and side-by-side seating - the Hoovers' hybrid human/electric vehicle pictured before starting off on a tour across America (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
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Full windshield, roll bar and side-by-side seating - the Hoovers' hybrid human/electric vehicle pictured before starting off on a tour across America (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
Map of the Eco Tour route (Image: Popular Science Magazine)
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Map of the Eco Tour route (Image: Popular Science Magazine)

To the continued annoyance of his father Pierce, twelve-year old Nash Hoover was forever leaving his bedroom light on when he wasn't in the house. Determined to teach him the real value of wasted energy, Nash's journalist father popped the young wastrel on an exercise bike that displayed the amount of energy being produced and told him to pedal away until he managed to produce enough watts to power a standard incandescent light bulb. Then the pair had the notion of spreading the now fully-learned lesson by traveling across America in a vehicle that uses no more energy than a light bulb left on each day.

Pierce Hoover had considered charging his (now) 13-year old son for the amount of electricity he wasted by leaving lights on when no-one was at home, but with the bills only adding up to cents rather than dollars, such an action was hardly likely to leave a lasting impression on the youngster. The message was driven home with the aid of an exercise bike which, while only requiring a moderate pace to achieve the 100-watt light bulb's energy requirements, needed considerably more effort from Nash to match the power needs of his video gaming system.

The discussion didn't end there, though. "Nash and I wanted to demonstrate how much we could do with the energy we'd save by turning off one light," says Pierce Hoover. "Together we set the goal of crossing the country on the power of one bulb per day."

Full windshield, roll bar and side-by-side seating - the Hoovers' hybrid human/electric vehicle pictured before starting off on a tour across America (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)
Full windshield, roll bar and side-by-side seating - the Hoovers' hybrid human/electric vehicle pictured before starting off on a tour across America (Photo: Popular Science Magazine)

The journalist already had some build experience from converting an old golf cart into an off-roader named the Swamp Crawler a few years back, and so set about designing and building a lightweight vehicle capable of taking the two of them on a 4,500-mile (7,242 km) journey from Yorktown, Virginia to Portland, Oregon.

Hoover and son came up with a four-wheeled, side-by-side two-seater, human-electric hybrid vehicle with a fast-turning, stand-alone EcoSpeed brushless electric motor connected to the vehicle's existing chain drives, and a roll bar structure to the rear of the vehicle to afford some crash protection for the occupants.

While hub motors could have been used for electric assist, Hoover needed a configuration that could be easily maintained on the road using readily available parts and which had less of a power requirement on hill climbs (and there'll be lots of those along the chosen route - from the Appalachians to the Ozarks to the Rockies). The multi-sprocket drive system uses a chain rather than belt drive for similar reasons.

The EcoSpeed solution also benefits from a speed controller with Velociraptor microprocessor that rations the power based on factors like the condition of the battery, the load on the motor, and working temperatures.

The custom-built four-wheeler has a top speed of 25 mph (40 kph) - so that it can be legally classed as a bicycle by limiting its power output and speed - and is said to achieve the equivalent of over 1,000 miles to the gallon (.24 L/1000 km). The vehicle gets its power from a combination of onboard 1,400 watt-hour battery pack stored in the trunk at the rear and kinetic energy from pedaling. It's available energy supply is limited to 2,400 watt-hours per day, which is the equivalent of a 100W light bulb left on all day.

The intrepid father and son team intend to travel a good 60 miles (97 km) every day, while stopping off at various towns and cities along the way to spread their energy conservation message. By comparison, Hoover worked out that an electric golf cart would get about 10 to 12 miles (16 to 19 km) per day on the same energy ration. To offer some protection from the (hopefully) blazing summer sun, a soft top cover runs from the full-width windshield at the front to the roll bar at the back.

Map of the Eco Tour route (Image: Popular Science Magazine)
Map of the Eco Tour route (Image: Popular Science Magazine)

A travelogue of the adventure is being posted by Popular Science Magazine, which is also sponsoring the trip together with GE. Regular updates are also being sent to the Eco Tour's Twitter page.

After posing for the press in New York on May 31, the Hoovers and their Hundred Watt Hybrid set off for the first full day of the Eco Tour from Yorktown, VA the next day. At the time of writing, they are about to hit the hills outside Charlottesville, Virginia.

We wish them luck.

19 comments
Todd Dunning
Too bad this poor kid has to support his Hippy father\'s church of Eco-Sanctimony. Other kids get to embrace forward-looking technology that accomplishes great things. But, like the Amish, dad\'s Eco-soul will only be saved with giant leaps backward in time to show us all what sinners we are. With gigantic untapped power sources on earth, in the earth, and the sun, the rest of us will create a better future that advances the human condition. Without guilt.
Scion
Todd, between you and Mr Stiffy I wonder about the type of people who comment here. I\'d love to do something like this with my daughter. It would be a fantastic adventure of a lifetime. The hybrid bike is purposefully extreme to draw attention to itself and in that way get people talking and thinking about the sort of technology you (Todd) mention. It\'s called publicity and it is what people use to be newsworthy so they get a chance to spread their word. I\'m quite certain this \"Hippy Father of the Church of Eco-Sanctimony\" is well aware that the bike is impractical. The whole thing stems from him being cranky about his son never turning his light off, not from some deep seated desire to have everyone pedal a power limited bike around the country. Grow a brain, honestly. And leave the Amish alone, they aren\'t hurting you or forcing you to reject modernity.
P.J.Clemons
No kidding, Scion. Amen.
Mike Kling
Looks like they\'ll be traveling over part of my usual bike route. Old route 66 between Rolla and St. James MO. I\'ll have to keep track of their progress and join them for a ways. I\'d love to have build something similar to this.
Russ Pinney
Dear heros at Gizmag, as soon as you implement a vote up/down function for comments, can you please add a thumbs up for me to Scion\'s comment above. Oh, and Todd, can you please point me to all the great work you\'re doing personally to create a better future for us all? I\'m so looking forward to that.
froginapot
I\'m reading some of the comments. Yes, this is not showing any new technology. Yes, this will not make any difference as far as influencing people to save energy. People have been doing things like this for years and no effect. This is just about a son and his Dad doing something together. As far as its signifigance on Gizmag, its a \"Puff Piece\".
Todd Dunning
\"Oh, and Todd, can you please point me to all the great work you\'re doing personally to create a better future for us all?\" Scion and Russ, we all do great work all day long and it all contributes to a better future as you know. We call it \'the way the world works\'. And Gizmag features many great forward-looking innovations of course. It\'s what Greenie Utopians are completely ignorant of. So it becomes their duty to lead the rest of us morons out of the mud. Only their priestly robes could point the way to their radically new technologies and innovations that improve the human condition... like quad cycles with the \"EcoSpeed\" brushless motor. It\'s breathtaking that so many will fall for snake oil \'solutions\' to make you feel good inside. None of us will ever consider driving something so backwards and useless. Maturity lets you accept the reasons why.
P.J.Clemons
And the name-calling and rudeness are necessitated by what?
P.J.Clemons
I don\'t think every endeavor must involve new technology to have value or to be noteworthy for a popular science magazine. Often it just takes a willingness to get your hands dirty which can lead eventually to new ideas. The Wright Brothers certainly were an example, and the same criticisms were made of them (hopefully without the epithets). So were all those kids who were out there bulding rockets and telescopes in the 1950\'s. A fair number of them went on to create innovations, but it was those simple, early efforts that made it possible.
Joseph Mertens
It Could be a \"Better\" vehical or it can be what it realy is, A vehicle for an idea that more can be done with less and a little energy saved can go along ways.