Urban Transport

Raht Racer velomobile may let riders pedal "as fast as a car"

Raht Racer velomobile may let ...
The prototype Raht Racer – Raht standing for Recumbent Human Automobile Transit
The prototype Raht Racer – Raht standing for Recumbent Human Automobile Transit
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The prototype Raht Racer – Raht standing for Recumbent Human Automobile Transit
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The prototype Raht Racer – Raht standing for Recumbent Human Automobile Transit
Instead of directly driving the wheels, the Raht Racer's pedals are connected to a unique flywheel generator that powers the vehicle's 20-kWh electric motor
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Instead of directly driving the wheels, the Raht Racer's pedals are connected to a unique flywheel generator that powers the vehicle's 20-kWh electric motor
As with regular pedal-assist electric bicycles, the Raht racer senses the torque being applied to the pedals by the rider, then uses the motor to amplify it
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As with regular pedal-assist electric bicycles, the Raht racer senses the torque being applied to the pedals by the rider, then uses the motor to amplify it
Pedaling power is amplified to the point that an average adult should be easily able to maintain a cruising speed of around 30 mph (48 km/h)
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Pedaling power is amplified to the point that an average adult should be easily able to maintain a cruising speed of around 30 mph (48 km/h)
Some of the pedaling power is also used to charge the 9.2-kWh li-ion battery pack, helping to extend its range
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Some of the pedaling power is also used to charge the 9.2-kWh li-ion battery pack, helping to extend its range
The battery gets its full charge from a wall outlet, between rides
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The battery gets its full charge from a wall outlet, between rides
If used in throttle-only mode, in which the rider does no pedaling, it has a range of approximately 50 miles (80 km)
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If used in throttle-only mode, in which the rider does no pedaling, it has a range of approximately 50 miles (80 km)
A rendering of what might be the final commercial version of the Raht Racer
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A rendering of what might be the final commercial version of the Raht Racer
A rendering of what might be the final commercial version of the Raht Racer
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A rendering of what might be the final commercial version of the Raht Racer
A rendering of what might be the final commercial version of the Raht Racer
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A rendering of what might be the final commercial version of the Raht Racer
A rendering of what might be the final commercial version of the Raht Racer
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A rendering of what might be the final commercial version of the Raht Racer

With their sleek shells providing both protection from the elements and an aerodynamic advantage over bicycles, human-powered velomobiles do offer an intriguing alternative to cars. Unfortunately, though, they can't go as fast as automobiles, meaning that they often still have to be ridden along the side of the road. Minneapolis-based inventor Rich Kronfield wants to change that, with his Raht Racer. It's an electric-assist velomobile that amplifies the rider's pedaling power, reportedly allowing them to move as fast as the cars around them.

Most velomobiles consist of a recumbent tricycle body, enclosed by a full aerodynamic fairing. Some of them also have an electric-assist motor, although the top speed possible with these is usually limited to around 20 mph (32 km/h) – any faster, and they'd have to be registered and insured as motor vehicles.

Kronfield apparently thinks that would OK, though, given that users would still save all the money they'd otherwise be spending on gas.

Instead of directly driving the wheels, the Raht Racer's pedals are connected to a unique flywheel generator that powers the vehicle's 20-kWh electric motor
Instead of directly driving the wheels, the Raht Racer's pedals are connected to a unique flywheel generator that powers the vehicle's 20-kWh electric motor

Instead of directly driving the wheels, the Raht Racer's pedals are connected to a unique flywheel generator that powers the vehicle's 20-kWh electric motor (located in the rear wheel hub). As with regular pedal-assist electric bicycles, this system senses the torque being applied to the pedals by the rider, then uses the motor to amplify it. In the case of the Raht Racer, however, it's supposedly amplified to the point that an average adult should be easily able to maintain a cruising speed of around 30 mph (48 km/h) – or over.

Some of the pedaling power is also used to charge the 9.2-kWh li-ion battery pack, helping to extend its range. That battery gets its full charge from a wall outlet, between rides. If used in throttle-only mode, in which the rider does no pedaling, it has a range of approximately 50 miles (80 km). Full-out, throttle mode will take the vehicle to a top speed of 100 mph (160 km/h).

As with regular pedal-assist electric bicycles, the Raht racer senses the torque being applied to the pedals by the rider, then uses the motor to amplify it
As with regular pedal-assist electric bicycles, the Raht racer senses the torque being applied to the pedals by the rider, then uses the motor to amplify it

The two-seater Raht Racer itself has a carbon fiber body with an aluminum roll cage, and includes features such as headlights, tail lights, seat belts, air bag, trunk space and full suspension. The current prototype tips the scales at 570 lb (259 kg) so yep, it's a good thing that it's not purely human-powered.

It all sounds pretty intriguing, and it will be interesting to see if the Raht Racer lives up to the hype. If you want one, though, you'd better plan on it saving you a lot of gas – its estimated price is between US$35,000 and $45,000. Should you still be interested, Rich and his team are currently raising production funds, on Kickstarter. A pledge of $250 or more will get you on the waiting list.

You can see the vehicle in action, in the following video.

Sources: RahtMobile, Kickstarter

RAHT RACER Launch Video

25 comments
joeblake
259 kg traveling at 160 kph??? On a mixed use cycle/pedestrian path? No way. This should not be classed as a velomobile. It needs to be registered and restricted to driving on the road with cars.
Rehab
will take a good e-bike over this any day. You sit higher and can use your feet for balance if running on the motor.
Robert Bulthuis
this is not very new, http://www.twike.com/ or http://www.veloschmitt.com/
MadMaxx
Idea, great. Price, uuurrrrkkkkk!
Daishi
This looks like a cool concept.. *looks at price*... nevermind. I don't really expect something like this to be cheap but at $40k it costs more than Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf and doesn't come with the $7,500 tax incentive that a regular vehicle would have. Outrider USA makes decent Y config hybrid trikes for about $10k. They are smaller (
Vadim Romanovich
This is the perfect vehicle. I hate it when they come out with nice concepts that can only do 25 or 35mph. Being highway ready is awesome! Finally a solution for when I can't ride my motorcycle or bicycle in the winter or on rainy days. If or when you make a $10k version, let me know, I'd love to own one!
TogetherinParis
I already have one of these, a Velomobiel.nl Quest with electric motor. I've had it up to 65 mph, but it was a little scary. I've since improved the rear shock. 1. Make the wheels aerodynamic taking them into the body. 2. The weight that you propose is absurdly too much. 3. The color black is highly dangerous. Luminous paint would help. 4. It should be much better lit up with very big LED's, EL wires. I recommend an LED covered fishing rod high enough to be seen from an 18 wheeler cab.
Germano Pecoraro
This vehicle has several contradictions: 1 - the mass / weight is excessive, 2 - the fairing aerodynamic advantage in part only at the front, while it is a problem with the side wind 3 - the pedal assisted bicycle is a contradiction, because then you always travel motor 4 - on the contrary this architecture vehicle is suitable for a city car "we say sporty" (in the forms) 5 - the front wheels is better carenarle with fender 6 - the lights are brought out of the bodywork like of insect antenna 7 - I we would see a vehicle or hybrid electric propulsion and not to pedals 8 - There is an intrinsic defect configuration front-tricycle: there is a danger of rollover
Mzungu_Mkubwa
I think this is an amazing accomplishment for an "out-of-his-garage" inventor to achieve - wow! And so much is right on this - in particular his original vision: a year-round commuting electric vehicle in which you can also get some exercise. The estimated price is very high, something that I think could be made more realistic with a little creativity and the right partners (anyone at Zero listening?) Two thots: it really needs to have at least limited (and controlled) tilting, so that it will lean into corners a bit. Secondly, Mr. Kronfield needs the right partners in this. I'll reiterate Zero motorcycles... if he was able incorporate their drive-train technology and manufacturing efficiencies, the price *surely* wouldn't be that much more than a fully-loaded SR. And think of the performance numbers he'd get! Likely close to double the range, and top speeds wouldn't be an issue at all! And keeping the trike configuration, registration remains in the motorcycle realm. It would be a frickin' thing of beauty! Then, add a few practicalities, such as a set of voluminous-yet-sleek panniers, and he's got gold! (Note to Mr. Pecoraro above: the front-trike layout is far more stable than a rear-trike design for rollover stability! Add in a tilting chassis, and this sucker would rock! Look up the European "Tripendo" cycle to see what I'm talking about!)
JonathanPDX
Why would anyone in such a vehicle WANT to go as fast as a car? All it takes is one good hit and both vehicle and rider are toast. Something like this might be OK out on the salt flats, but in the real world, it's just an accident or death waiting to happen. But experimenting is fun and a great way to learn new lessons...keep at it!