I recently stumbled upon an article about a new company in Durham, NC that has recently put into production a velomobile they are calling an “Elf”. For those that don’t know much about a velomobile ( I was one of them), let me explain what they are. Here is the definition from wikipedia:
” velomobile, or bicycle car, is a human-powered vehicle (HPV) enclosed for aerodynamic advantage and protection from weather and collisions. They are virtually always single-passenger vehicles. They are derived from recumbent bicycles and tricycles, with the addition of a full fairing (aerodynamic shell). Velomobiles generally have three, or sometimes four wheels, whereas two-wheeled faired bicycles are better known as a streamliner. It is streamliners that have set many HPV land records.”
Future for commuters??
The Elf is no ordinary velomobile though, there are a few things that make it really stand out and catch my attention. The Elf can be powered by you OR the sun. That is right, will go for up to 30 miles on electric alone at a speed up to 20 mph. In addition, it has the ability to carry up to 350 lbs cargo!! The roof is a solar panel and is constantly re-charging the battery, it can also be fully recharged in 2 hours by plugging it in. If you commute to work by bikes there are problems that everybody faces, such as getting too sweaty, dealing with inclement weather or plain just being tired. Here is where the Elf really shines, it completely takes away all the negatives of commuting by bike. First, being too tired or getting too sweaty is no problem since you don’t have to pedal at all. Second, if it is very windy, hilly or rainy, elf protects and assists you as well. Thirdly, and most importantly, you get EXERCISE every day without even interrupting your normal activities. Now you might ask, what does it cost? The cost starts at $4000.00 for a fully assembled Elf. That may sound expensive if you think you are buying a fancy bike, but if you look at it as replacing a car, then the price starts to seem much cheaper. It never needs to be filled up, it doesn’t need insurance and it will have very few and inexpensive repair needs.
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If you are as excited as me so far…. hold on… there is one very big CATCH!!! Is it safe? This is a difficult question to answer for several reasons. First, where do you live? If you live in the Netherlands or in a region where there is excellent dedicated bike lanes, then this vehicle is very safe. However, if you must share the road with other cars and trucks, it is a trickier proposition. On one hand you will be noticed much easier than a standard road bike, but on the other hand you will probably not be able to manuever as easily to avoid a collision. The elf does not have bumpers or air bags. The ultimate question I suppose is what is more dangerous, driving the Elf and getting exercise every day while you commute to work or not exercising and decreasing your life expectancy by lack of exercise???
Of course the Elf will also solve or substantially alleviate all the normal problems of congestion and pollution. These economic benefits alone would make you believe local, state and federal governments would be interested in finding the funding and laws to create the infrastructure to make these type of vehicles a safe option.
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