Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

FAB Velo: The DIY velomobile made from upcycled materials


February 16, 2014

"The project challenge was to design a DIY build system for a velomobile from easy-to-source materials with easy-to-access tools"

"The project challenge was to design a DIY build system for a velomobile from easy-to-source materials with easy-to-access tools"

Image Gallery (18 images)

Industrial Design lecturer Mark Richardson, from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, has created a velomobile prototype made from salvaged materials, a few off-the-shelf parts and modular 3D printed components. Dubbed FAB Velo, the open source project features a modular design that was developed with the aim of enabling users to build their own velomobile.

"The project challenge was to design a DIY build system for a velomobile from easy-to-source materials with easy-to-access tools," Mark Richardson told Gizmag.

After having worked for a decade designing cars for Ford Motor Company, Richardson decided to complete a PhD project that was based on sustainability principles and offered an economical transport option for people who do not wish to use, or may not have access to, a regular car. And thus the FAB Velo was born.

"I wanted to design something affordable and makeable, while being comfortable enough to tootle to the shops for groceries while feeling relatively safe in traffic," says Richardson.

Traditionally velomobiles are pedal-powered tricycles which feature a distinctive exterior shell and can come with or without an electric motor.

"It is generally understood that the aerodynamic gains from the faring can offset the energy deficit resulting from carrying its extra weight," explains Richardson. "It also offers weather protection, some crash resistance and built-in stowage space. In many ways velomobiles offer the functionality of a car but with a smaller spatial footprint, lightweight construction and energy efficient drivetrain."

The FAB Velo was built using salvaged materials and waste products sourced from hard rubbish collections and skips on the side of the road. For example the compression masts came from used whipper snippers, walking frames, deck chairs and disability aids. The running gear and rear wheel were sourced from two discarded bicycles and the front wheels came from a wheelchair.

"The rearmost compression mast was made from bicycle rear stays with an aluminum pole fixed into the seat tube to extend the frame above the head of the rider," adds Richardson. "The steering knuckles were adapted from children’s scooter handlebars with 3D-printed bushings and off-the-shelf bearings inserted into them."

Richardson experimented with several different materials to create the exterior skin of the velomobile, including paper, cardboard, tent canvas, trampoline skins and umbrella fabric, however in the end he chose to go with tent canvas and and clear semi-rigid PVC from a discarded advertising lightbox.

"While there is the possibility to reuse wire rope from demolition sites or clotheslines, it was decided in this case to source it as-new along with the accompanying ferrules and eyelets," says Richardson.

On-road visibility was also an important factor for Richardson and therefore unlike most velomobiles, the FAB Velo is the same height as the average sedan, giving the user improved visibility while also raising the rider's eye line to the same height as other drivers. "This was intended to give the feeling of being part of the traffic, rather than under it," explains Richardson. "When riding a typical velomobile, the rider’s eye line is at, or below, the beltline of the other vehicles on the road. Despite many contrary opinions in the VM community, I have personally never felt comfortable with this."

In Richardson's opinion the FAB Velo's frame is relatively easy to build and he hopes to publish its instructions in the coming months.

"While not yet fully released as an open source project, the FAB Velo has most importantly been designed to be hacked," says Richardson. "If you have the skills to rebuild a bicycle, you should be able to build a FAB Velo without difficulty."

Source: MADA

All images courtesy of Mark Richardson.

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema. All articles by Bridget Borgobello

dweez, it is different on 2 wheels. crosswinds!

i salute the full vehicle height realization. also the "off shelf" (pun) sourcing. however the 3D primted parts sort of negates that concept. overall B+

Walt Stawicki

Well done that man! Please design a open source 3d printed light weight aero streamlining wind shield/deflector that can mount to a standard bicycle flat bar handlebar to make it more efficient.

Dweezil Speedy

Some of the attachment methods are a little suspect, like the expansion plugs and zip-ties, but nothing that a bolt or two wouldn't fix. And the wheelchair tires might not ride very smoothly. Still, a commendable effort and a great base from which to work.

Bruce H. Anderson

Very Inventive..nice mustache aswell!

Rudy V


Germano Pecoraro

With any luck, an email and offer of payment would result in a set of plans and the 3D printed parts, all in a small box - or at least a file to download to print your own. If not, a resourceful person should be able to 'nut out' their own joiners where needed from available bits at the local hardware store.

The Skud

Clever but no really a practical street vehicle. I have ridden bicycles for years. Some years of my life I owned only my bicycle as my primary transportation.....so I feel like I have a special insight into alternative transportation. Bicycles/Tricycles have multiple drawbacks as daily commuter vehicles. Weather vulnerability and impact danger are the two largest. Yes we need alternative vehicles...it is ludicrous to drive an 8,000 lb pickup or a 4000 lb car to work with one seat occupied. I propose a 750 lb EV with 1/6th the size, weight and cost battery pack. Enclosed in a plastic shell, with a roll bar, side bar protection and potential road rash risk thus reduced. Also less exposure to rain & splashes. Proximity sensors and intra-vehicle collision avoidance communication can also be incorporated in the near term. This is a reverse tricycle velomobile built with motorcycle components instead of bicycle components for doing battle more effectively with pot-holes and shards of sharp objects that play havoc with bicycles ridden daily. I have also used motorcycles for primary transportation over many years....and they are clearly superior to bicycles in robust sturdiness, but zero real difference in weather & traffic vulnerability. The best thing a motorcycle has going for it (for experienced riders) is the ability to evade traffic through acceleration and ride safely in the open space between clumps of traffic. An enclosed e-tricycle motorcycle might be less able to do that, (because its fatter & less maneuverable) but at least it could keep up and flow with the traffic far better than a human powered or even electric bicycle.

Donald Eyermann

The problem with velomobiles is, the effectiveness you get while riding, you lose while puchasing, maintaining, finding a safe and tolerated parking spot, avoiding vandalism and so on, this all compared to a normal bicycle with a set of extra cycling clothes. Nevertheless, this layout has some nice ideas, it's just too bad that the publisher is holding back with the construction details (some high-res detail photos would do the job). I don't think it's fitting into times to hold back information, especially when your idea contains the flavour of being a solution to everyday's problems.

Leo Leiski
Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles