Hornet velomobile comes with power boost included


April 16, 2012

The Hornet is a new velomobile that is designed around an included electric-assist motor

The Hornet is a new velomobile that is designed around an included electric-assist motor

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If you take a recumbent tricycle and enclose it in an aerodynamic fuselage, what you end up with is known as a velomobile. The vehicles are significantly faster than bicycles on the flats and downhills, plus they offer more weather protection, but they do tend to be heavy – this can make hill-climbing quite an ordeal. Some manufacturers compensate for this limitation by offering electric assist motors as optional extras, although these just add even more weight, along with boosting what is already often a pretty high price tag. Toronto-based BlueVelo, however, has taken an interesting approach with its new Hornet velomobile. It was designed around its electric assist motor, which is included in the vehicle’s relatively low price.

Although BlueVelo began business primarily as an importer of European velomobiles, a year or so ago company founder Ray Mickevicius saw the need to create one for his young son.

“He has been around velomobiles most of his life, but wasn't able to ride shotgun with me any longer as he got bigger,” Ray explained to us. “As a result we talked about building a design that he could use himself for rides along our bike path system and in our local parks. We needed to improve the sight lines for him (due to his height, or lack of height), which is how we ended up with the bubble section on the nose. We also wanted to keep things pretty open around the cockpit area, so that he could talk to me, look around easily, and climb in and out ... We received a lot of positive feedback about the look of the design, so we started giving some thought to how we might make use of it in the future. Another project we had been considering was an electric assist runabout, and the two ideas just seemed to match up well.”

The resulting vehicle features a fiberglass body, full suspension, and a 37-volt 10 amp-hour lithium battery pack that delivers power to a 350-watt MegaMotion hub motor. This propels the Hornet to a top motor-only speed of 32 km/h (20 mph), which is the limit for electric-assist bicycles in Canada – riders, however, can push it beyond that speed by adding their own pedaling power.

Some of its other specs include the following:

  • Adjustable seat 
  • 25 Amp controller and throttle control
  • 9 speed 11-34 freewheel
  • SRAM X7 shifter/derailleur
  • Schwalbe Kojak (front) and Marathon Supreme (rear) tires
  • 70mm Sturmey Archer drum brakes
  • Side mirror
  • 3 x 20" (406) wheels

Available extras include an upgraded motor, front and rear lighting, turn signals, a 26-inch rear wheel, and a kayak-like cockpit “skirt” for sealing out the rain.

The Hornet velomobile, with an optional 26-inch rear wheel

Depending on the exact configuration chosen by the buyer, the Hornet weighs in at approximately 44 kilograms (97 lbs) with battery and motor included. The motor alone accounts for about four kilograms (9 lbs) of that weight. By way of comparison, the high-end motorless Go-One Evolution has a claimed weight of about 32 kg (70.5 lbs). Keep in mind that's the light end of the weight range for velomobiles, with many other models coming in significantly heavier.

If you live outside of Europe and wish to buy the imported-from-Germany Go-One, however, expect to pay at least US$12,980 – and again, that’s without a motor. Less exotic velomobiles still tend to start at no less than $6,000, and go up from there. A battery-and-motor-equipped Hornet, on the other hand, can be had for CDN$5,650 (currently on par with the U.S. dollar). Whether or not that is still too much comes down to what the vehicle is being compared to – it’s definitely pricier than a typical commuting bicycle, but it’s a lot less than a new car, and it won’t require gas, expensive repairs, or insurance.

An early prototype of the Hornet can be seen in action, in the video below.

Source: BlueVelo

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

It is nice to see some more reasonable prices for a velomobile. Making it an all weather vehicle (or at least ridable in rain) would be important in my book. It would also be nice to see some place to put cargo. I guess the area over the rear wheel would be available for some kind of panniers.

Michael Crumpton

If you take a look on their website, they address your concerns. Well, mostly.

Johnny Wiedmann

All weather? Ridable in rain? Cargo? Dude, you'll never get trendy eco-hippy chicks with that. This 'vehicle' will only leave the garage for pictures to post on a Facebook wall, then it goes on craigslist. To someone equally hip and cool.

Todd Dunning

These are too expensive and too heavy.

I'd also like to see the power requirements of the different models at say 50Kmh on a flat road with no head wind.

The CD and rolling resistance.

The glass fiber shell is a dumb and out dated idea, it's fine on faired motor bikes, but it's DUMB heavy cladding on a recumbent.

My bikes are way better.

Mr Stiffy

32kg being the leightest end of the weight range of the velomobiles is an outdated figure. The new Go-One Evo-K weights 20kg in its lightest version. For a really efficient velomobile, you can have a look at the Milan Sl as well. Cristian von Ascheberg managed to cover 1219km in 24hours with a Milan Sl. Their website mention 145W to maintain 50km/h.

Jerri Cornelius

"...rides along our bike path system and in our local parks."

...hehe... Surprised he doesn't know power-assisted bikes are banned in Toronto parks and pathways...

Lock Hughes

His son's bike doesn't have electric assist. That came afterwards.


@Jerri Cornelius - thanks for the tip off.

20Kg sounds MUCH better and so does 145W @ 50Kmh....

My evil plans for a twin seater with a 70Kmh+ easy cruising speed on the flats is evolving.

Mr Stiffy

@Mr Stiffy: The big problem you will have is that anything motorized above 25-30 kph (15-18 mph) will most likely require a license and/or vehicle registration - which is rather silly for what is essentially a bicycle with electric assist.

Velomobiles are not meant to replace cars, but provide better weather protection, speed (on flats at the least), and cargo capacity than normal bicycles. These are the things that people interested in commuter-cycling or long-distance cycle touring look for.

This is why velomobiles like the Mango or Quest (both from Netherlands) are so popular in Europe - it fulfills all those needs. Few things beat a Quest cruising (without motor) at speeds around 30-40 mph for everyday use. This also depends on the human-power applied - not everyone is expected to go that fast, hence the addition of electric assist.

And glass-fiber is not dumb, just cheaper than carbon-fiber (the other popular velomobile shell-making material). Built properly, the shell weight is only really noticeable when climbing, so you either pedal fast in a lower gear ("spinning"), or you use electric assist.

I went the basic way: bought a Steintrike Nomad, then built a Leitra Wildcat fairing to fit it. The results: a useable, comfortable velomobile for under $5000 USD. Photos available here:

Jimm Pratt

I have one similar to this and they are indeed comfortable to ride in bad weather. They are very heavy bicycles but ultra- ultra- ultra-light cars at the same time. They're perfect for around town shopping. I carry a bike trailer when I need a big capacity, but you can carry enough in one to go backpacking for a weekend in one. I believe this one is built on a German body that has been around for decades. Velomobiles like mine have seen more than two hundred thousand kilometers service. I would load up and get Bluevelo to put in your horn, turn signals, and lights for you. You won't be sorry you did.

Ross Nicholson

Nice velo, finally on the NA continent. 5650 CDN is pricy for almost all cyclists but there will be buyers. I do not understand how the front bubble helps visibility; it seems it would mostly heat up the occupant. The cockpit opening is much larger than their other models. It may help climbing in and out. The flat back seems non-aero. OTOH, it allows space and ventilation for a rear-mounted gas motor option.

Douglas Lowing
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