Hands-on: The Veemo pedal-electric velomobile gets put through its paces
When it comes to electric vehicles, there's definitely a gap between small, simple ebikes and larger, costlier electric cars. The new-and-improved Veemo velomobile is intended to firmly fill that niche – and I recently got to try it out for myself.
We first heard about the pedal-electric Veemo back in 2016, when it was being developed by Vancouver-based startup VeloMetro. Although that firm ended up going bankrupt, Canadian company Envo Drive Systems acquired the rights to the vehicle earlier this year.
Whereas VeloMetro was putting all its eggs in one basket (the Veemo), Envo has a considerably wider range of micro-electric mobility solutions to its name. These include various ebikes and e-trikes, along with things like a SnowBike, an e-ATV and even a Water Bike.
For this reason, the company's founders believe that they have the experience, resources and diversified portfolio necessary for making the Veemo into a successful commercial product. They're confident enough that they invited members of the media to ride a prototype version of the velomobile last week at the company's headquarters in Burnaby, British Columbia.
For readers who aren't familiar with velomobiles, they're essentially recumbent tricycles that are enclosed within a streamlined shell that reduces wind drag and provides protection from the elements.
The Veemo is no exception to that design, although with its relatively tall stance of 150 cm (59 in), it's definitely made more for comfort, rain protection and visibility. In fact, one of the target markets is seniors looking for a comfier and more stable alternative to an ebike.
On the final market-ready version of the Veemo, the rider's pedaling power will be augmented by a house-brand geared rear hub motor (in a choice of 250, 500 or 750 watts), which will allow for a top assisted speed of 32 km/h (20 mph) in North America or 25 km/h (16 mph) in the UK. Riders will have five assistance levels to choose from, along with a throttle mode for quick starts.
One charge of the 48-V/15-Ah LG lithium battery should reportedly be good for a range of up to 69 km (43 miles) depending on factors such as terrain and electric-assist level.
Some of the final-version Veemo's other features will include a Shimano Altus 9-speed chain-drive drivetrain; front and rear suspension; 60 liters of cargo space behind the seat; Tektro hydraulic disc brakes on all three wheels; plus LED headlights, tail lights and a windshield wiper.
The whole thing should tip the scales at 61 kg (135 lb).
The prototype that I tried isn't all that different than the planned final model of the Veemo – it's essentially just the second version that was made by VeloMetro. Its main differences include a Bosch BES3 mid-drive motor, a belt-drive drivetrain, and an Enviolo automatic hub transmission. According to Envo, all of these things were swapped out in order to boost affordability, serviceability and durability.
On a group ride in downtown Burnaby that lasted about 45 minutes, I found the Veemo to be smooth-riding, solid (not rattly), very comfortable, and easy to quickly get up to speed … on flat roads, at least.
The motor definitely helped when climbing hills, although as is the case with all ebikes (and with all recumbents), some effort definitely still was required. Having the ability to manually down-shift on the Altus drivetrain should help in that regard.
Because I was really only in a semi-recumbent riding position, my head was still high enough to easily get a good look at the road and other traffic around me. The Veemo was also surprisingly maneuverable. It can be reversed simply by placing your feet on the road and then walking backwards, Fred-Flintstone-style.
And should you be wondering, the vehicle is intended to be ridden in bike lanes, on paved bike paths, or along the side of existing traffic lanes. Riders are not expected to get right in amongst the cars and trucks. Indeed, getting prospective buyers to understand where the Veemo belongs – both on the road and in their lives – will be essential to its commercial success.
"This is a journey that needs to be taken together. Part of that is on us, to develop the technology and make it affordable and available," Envo founder/CEO Ali Kazemkhani told me. "There is a lineup of people who are waiting to receive this product, and they know how to use it. They can educate their communities on how to use it as well."
The Veemo can be preordered now, by placing a US$250 deposit on its full price of $6,199. If everything goes according to plan, shipping should take place next April.
You can see the vehicle in action, in the video below.
Product page: Envo Veemo