Of all the electric cargo cycles we've seen, including the Urban Arrow and 2X4, the Velove Armadillo promises the most pedal-assist cargo hauling capability. The four-wheeled platform supports a big, ol' cargo box or semi-trailer on the rear, making the typical two-wheel grocery getter look downright undersized. The pedaled quad is so cargo hungry, Velove believes it can replace the cargo van when transporting smaller loads over short distances.
The Armadillo project was born in Sweden, where bike couriers deliver more than just documents, muscling things as large as sofas and washing machines across cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg. Velove co-founders Johan Erlandsson and design firm Kanter & Karlsson came up with the initial design, and Erlandsson's dad engineered the first two prototypes, with Dutch recumbent manufacturer Flevobike stepping in on the third prototype. Erlandsson tells us they also received help from Erik Svetsare in designing the cargo hardware and have been testing the bikes in Erlandsson's bike delivery service Pling Transport.
The idea of the Armadillo is to provide a bike (okay, quad) platform large and sturdy enough to haul bigger, heavier loads while still remaining compact and fast enough to navigate bike paths without clogging up cycling traffic. Prototype 3 is outfitted with an integrated 35-cu ft (1-cu m) cargo box and measures no wider than 34 in (86 cm), which Velove classifies as slightly narrower than a typical family cargo trike and a lot narrower than cargo trikes designed for professional use. Velove is still testing cargo capacity, but it estimates that the bike can carry somewhere between 275 and 330 lb (125 to 150 kg) in its cargo box.
"The bike is narrow enough to fit, fast enough to keep up with or overtake other cyclists, and low enough not to obstruct the traffic overview of other cyclists," Erlandsson explains. "The risk of falling over is eliminated. Important aspects are also the fun factor and ergonomics. This is a bike many appreciate to ride, and it leaves you without numb or aching body parts after a full day's riding."
Pedaling a big, four-wheeled frame sturdy enough to carry hundreds of pounds of cargo isn't necessarily something that every human is built to do, so Velove has taken care to properly equip and tune the Armadillo so that it can be pedaled effectively. A combination of Rohloff internal gear hub and 250-watt Bosch Classic+ Cruise pedal-assist electric mid-drive gives the bike the power and torque it needs to mule large loads up steep, tough hills.
In working with Flevobike on Prototype 3, Velove redesigned its suspension. As described by Erlandsson, the new double-wishbone setup allows riders to roll over uneven surfaces at top speed without worrying about damaging the cargo inside, a large improvement over past prototypes, which had to be driven slowly and carefully when sensitive items like cakes were aboard. The suspension also helps in keeping the Armadillo nimble for its size, providing sharp cornering capabilities.
Pling Transport has been testing out prototype 3 since last September, and Velove has also been traveling around Sweden to offer test rides and get feedback. Erlandsson tells us that the testing with Pling has confirmed the vessel's user-friendly design in terms of hauling loads without taking too much a toll on the rider's body.
Velove revealed its pre-series production Armadillo at the International Cargo Bike Festival in the Netherlands earlier this month, showing the model with a 551-lb (250-kg) flatbed trailer in back. Erlandsson confirms that the Armadillo is a modular platform, so the rider can switch out the trailer for the cargo box as needed. Besides offering a higher weight capacity, the flat, open trailer also allows for hauling loads that don't fit neatly in a cargo box, such as large furniture.
Velove has also teamed with the DHL Express branch in Almere, the Netherlands, as another testing partner. After being impressed by a test ride, DHL agreed to pilot the Armadillo within its operations. It has been using the bike, which it calls the Cubicycle, for about a month.
"The Cubicycle is nice to ride and is surprisingly agile with a tight turning circle," says Kees de Lange, vice president of operations at DHL Express Netherlands. "Despite the large container of 80 x 120 x 100 cm, the bike fits perfectly on bike lanes. It takes into account, for example, the standard size of poles on bike lanes."
Compared to other cargo bikes that DHL Express Netherlands uses in its fleet, the Cubicycle/Armadillo offers the space for loading larger parcels, the company explains. Because its cargo box shares the footprint size of a pallet, the company says it has been easy introducing it into its standardized procedures, loading it up at the operational branch and delivering it to the city center, where the bike begins its route. On average, DHL loads it up with 275 lb (125 kg) of cargo, and the courier rides it 31 miles (50 km) during the day.
Velove is moving toward production and hopes to begin taking orders for the Armadillo later this year or early next year. It has not yet established pricing.