Automotive

The Velove Armadillo hauls cargo like a human-powered tractor trailer

The Velove Armadillo hauls car...
DHL Express Netherlands tests out the Armadillo
DHL Express Netherlands tests out the Armadillo
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Velove Armadillo Prototype 1
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Velove Armadillo Prototype 1
Velove Armadillo Prototype 1
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Velove Armadillo Prototype 1
Prototype 1 with an IKEA cargo bin
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Prototype 1 with an IKEA cargo bin
Velove Prototype 2 with cargo bucket
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Velove Prototype 2 with cargo bucket
A look at Prototype 2 shows how the Armadillo has evolved into a more market-ready design
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A look at Prototype 2 shows how the Armadillo has evolved into a more market-ready design
The Velove Armadillo can carry about 300 pounds in its cargo box
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The Velove Armadillo can carry about 300 pounds in its cargo box
Not quite a bike camper, but still plenty roomy
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Not quite a bike camper, but still plenty roomy
Riding the Froja ferry
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Riding the Froja ferry
The Velove uses a 250-watt Bosch electric-assist drive
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The Velove uses a 250-watt Bosch electric-assist drive
In addition to testing prototypes with delivery services, Velove has let people try it out and give feedback
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In addition to testing prototypes with delivery services, Velove has let people try it out and give feedback
DHL Express Netherlands tests out the Armadillo
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DHL Express Netherlands tests out the Armadillo
So far, DHL has appreciated the cycle's cargo carrying capabilities
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So far, DHL has appreciated the cycle's cargo carrying capabilities
The Armadillo with semi-trailer at the International Cargo Bike Festival (Photo: Velostrom.de)
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The Armadillo with semi-trailer at the International Cargo Bike Festival (Photo: Velostrom.de)
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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."

The Velove Armadillo can carry about 300 pounds in its cargo box
The Velove Armadillo can carry about 300 pounds in its cargo box

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.

The Armadillo with semi-trailer at the International Cargo Bike Festival (Photo: Velostrom.de)
The Armadillo with semi-trailer at the International Cargo Bike Festival (Photo: Velostrom.de)

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.

Source: Velove

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5 comments
Brian Taylor
Starting to get into the gray area between bike and motorized vehicle here, aren't we? Considering the monetary advantages (to the government) of declaring it to be a vehicle requiring licensing, etc...
Paul Anthony
The suspension is worth commending. The simple placement of a box atop the bike however is kind of lame. I would think they could make use of the deadspace that is underneath the rear of the box, and/or perhaps incorporate the box into the frame more. I understand that by incorporating the box into the frame the trailer might not be usable, but then again, why not?
The Skud
A useful delivery machine, but the 'Rhodes' car / bike company have been selling more than one cargo hauling versions of its quad for years, they deserved a mention.
Erik Sandblom
Paul, they put a box down between the rear wheels on an earlier prototype. You can see it in one of the pictures after the first paragraph in the article. I agree it's a great solution. I guess they felt the box on top was more convenient for frequent loading and unloading in courier service.
unklmurray
My personal experience.....Here in the west....if it has 4 wheels it is a car no matter how it is powered,and is subject to "car rules"....windshield roll bar full lighting,drivers lic. insurance / registration Etc., Take away one wheel and you are back into the realm of the bicycle/motorbike.....I have a problem with the design that puts your feet out in front making them 2 B the first things 2 get broken in an accident...I move the BB to right in between the front wheels...Of course my design uses 2-Rock Shock forks and the steering is then above the wheel not at the axle level.....