Northern Light velomobile may be blue, but its hybrid drive runs green
It was just this week that we told you about the Kinner, a rather attractive Finnish velomobile. Well, another head-turner has now come to our attention – this one is called the Northern Light 428, and it looks like a human-powered rocket.
Taking its name from the wavelength of the blue spectrum of the aurora borealis, the 428 is currently being developed by British startup Northern Light Motors. The company is headed by automotive designer Graham Browne – he previously designed sports cars for UK automaker TVR, including the one-off Scamander amphibious vehicle.
Like most other velomobiles, the 428 could be described as a recumbent tricycle that places the rider within an aerodynamic body. And while almost all others incorporate a chain-drive drivetrain, this one takes a decidedly different approach.
For one thing, the 428's pedals aren't directly linked to the drive wheel. Instead, the crankset spins up a generator, which in turn charges the 48V/10-Ah battery that powers the rear hub motor – we've seen similar arrangements in the Mando Footloose ebike and Podbike velomobile. This series hybrid system lets riders generate and store electricity while pedalling on relatively easy terrain, for later use when climbing hills or starting up from a standstill.
Although the motor has a nominal power of 1,000 watts, it can be electronically restricted to meet standards in different countries. According to the company, maintaining an electrically assisted cruising speed of 35 mph (56 km/h) should be possible "for those of average to good fitness."
The motor is reportedly able to boost the rider's pedalling power up to a battery range of over 50 miles (80 km) "with moderate human effort and non-aggressive driving" – although upgrading to a higher-capacity battery can double that figure. Beyond that range, the drive system simply relays the rider's existing pedalling power to the motor via the generator/battery, without adding any extra oomph.
And while many people may wonder about the safety of velomobiles, this one does incorporate a roll hoop and reinforced safety cell around the rider, it has front and rear crumple zones, plus all of its contactable areas are above the bumper height of other traffic. Its body is currently made of polystyrene foam coated in fiberglass, although Browne tells us that the production model will have a polyester resin skin.
Some of the 428's other features include front and rear composite leaf spring suspension, cargo space sufficient for three to four bags of groceries, hydraulic disc brakes, a touchscreen interface, a removable rain shroud, plus LED head- and tail lights. Optional extras include a detachable roof, turn indicators, a GPS tracking module, and a rear view camera. The whole thing tips the scales at 52 kg (115 lb).
We should also point out that while the 428 is the model which is currently in functioning prototype form, two higher-specced models are also being offered. They're called the 557 and the 630, referring to the spectra of green and the blue in the aurora borealis, respectively.
Pricing starts at a not-unreasonable £2,499 (about US$3,439) for the 428, although some assembly will be required. Buyers can get things started by placing a £250 ($344) deposit via the company website.
You can see the prototype in action, in the video below.