Urban Transport

Polaris Revolver Roadgoing Sport Quadricycle Concept

March 5, 2007 One of the most obvious trends in the development of personalised sporting vehicles in recent times has been the resurgence of quadricycles and an array of new takes on a very old theme – Henry Ford’s first vehicle was a quadricycle and the first mass-produced automobile, Karl Benz’ VELO which was first produced in 1984 and competed in the very first auto race was also essentially a quad. Quads get twice as much rubber on the road as a motorcycle, have a similarly excellent power-to-weight ratio and exude an air of fun which is very appealing. According to Polaris, research has shown that many of the ATVs currently sold in Europe are homologated for on-road use as quadricycles and that a market exists because virtually all of today’s rider active, street-legal, homologated quadricycles are off-road vehicles that have been adapted for on-road use. The Revolver Sport Quadricycle concept proposes a new solution – a purpose built vehicle designed to deliver good off-road performance combined with a new level of on-road capability. Powered by a lightweight 500cc liquid-cooled 4-valve engine, the Revolver debuted at the Paris Motorcycle Show in late 2005, and was reworked in its styling for the 2007 Michelin Design Challenge which was part of the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. Both times, it received rave reviews. Even the press releases from the company hint that it isn’t far away from a production announcement.Read More

The Thrustpac - propeller driven motive force for unconventional transportation

January 15, 2007 Now here’s an opportunity for a bright young lad. The Thrustpac pushes you along on the device of your choice, and can be used for motive power on skates, canoes and other water craft, scooters, wheelchairs, skis and bicycles and we’re sure there are lots of ways to use it. It comes in three different power specifications, from a 12 pound four-stroke pack offering 10 pounds of thrust through to a 20 pound (weight) pack offering 20 pounds of thrust from a two-stroke motor. Each ThrustPac is tailor-made for you, with prices starting at US$900 and running through to US$2000. One of these will enable your pushbike to do the round-town legal limit, so it’s a sure-fire enabling technology for something … perhaps even a shot at the Darwin Awards.Read More

Sony to enter personal transportation market?

January 3, 2007 New Scientist’s patent-watcher Barry Fox unearthed a ripper this week when he came across a patent application from Sony dated November 23, 2006 that details a new motorized, balance-steered skateboard from the consumer electronics giant. The patent covers “a vehicle steerable by movement of center of gravity” but unlike the many conveyances which are steered by center of gravity movement, the Sony patent looks to have many applications and is pictured in the patent application as a two-, three- and four-wheeler and also as two two-wheeled devices akin to motorised rollerskates, with each wheel powered by its own electric motor. Though the article suggests that Sony hopes to compete with the Segway Human Transporter, we’re more inclined to see the Sony patent as being applicable to a more sporting variety of personal transportation with a definite emphasis on the youth market – unless Sony has found a way of overcoming basic Newtonian physics, riders of the new vehicles, however many wheels they might turn out to have, are likely to have to take a few tumbles in the process of learning to master the devices. There’s every likelihood that the research behind the patent emanates from Sony’s work in the area of partner robotics and personal transportation devices we reported here. Fascinating possibilities!Read More

Dual-mode train-tram-bus systems gain momentum

December 2006 The concept of a dual-mode vehicle that will run on tram or train tracks and is also capable of driving on the road is gaining ground with the news that Japanese rail firm JR Hokkaido is poised to launch its dual-mode bus and rail vehicle we previewed two years ago. The company will begin conducting commercial tests in April 2007 and preliminary trials suggest the vehicle’s fuel cost is about a quarter of a diesel vehicle, and maintenance cost about one-eighth, while offering the flexibility to extend railed systems. Similarly, the European AutoTram concept is also gathering a following. The Autotram can be up to 36 meters long, can carry as many passengers as a streetcar while being as versatile as a bus. One of the key aspects of the Autotram is its flywheel energy storage system that facilitates a regenerative braking system and signficiantly cuts operating costs. The Bladerunner concept is another dual-mode transport system. Read More

Upmarkethort distance travel – the 3 kg Venturi Black Feather carbon fibre longboard

November 30, 2006 Like all consumer markets, the skateboard scene eventually established a luxury segment when BMW launched the Streetcarver five years ago. Now there’s a new (almost) unattainable object – it’s a relatively conventional longboard that befits a dotcom millionaire. Venturi of Monaco could convincingly lay claim to being one of the most innovative, futuristic and adventurous companies on the planet. It designed and built the World's first production electric sportscar, then partnered with Intel to make energy sharing possible, then backed it up last month with two announcments - the world’s first commercially-available electric-solar hybrid and the company’s pre-production energy-autonomous vehicle. Now the company offers an exclusive 200-only, collectors peice that is made entirely in carbon fiber and weighs just 3 kilograms. Combining light weight, a platform lowered to just 64mm and razor sharp steering, it offers a ride like no other. It is claimed to be the lightest and fastest longboard in the world. Remarkably, it only costs EUR480 (US$630). Be quick. Read More

The SPARTA ION CITYSEAT - intelligent electric-assist bicycle

November 23, 2006 Bicycles are a part of European culture, particularly in the flat countries of Holland and Belgium, and with well known Dutch brand Sparta celebrating its 90th birthday next year, and 75 years of motor-assisted bicycle production, the brand’s latest model is a logical development, albeit, a stylish and very practical one. Created for Sparta by internationally-renowned Dutch design company FLEX/INNOVATIONLAB, the EUR 1945 (US$2500) SPARTA ION Cityseat has the same classic lines of other ION bikes before it, but is equipped with electrical pedal assistance which can be activated at will by the rider with an extra “push in the right direction’. The Cityseat has a slightly longer frame which incorporates the 9 or 10-amp battery, with the pedals moved slightly forward and the saddle lowered for maximum seat comfort. The ingenious design – multiple frame sizes are available and an adjustable handlebar column - ensures ergonomics can be adjusted for every rider. Similarly, the ION’s compact and completely silent motor is hidden in the rear wheel hub so it looks just like a normal bike but provides pedal assistance to 25 km/h for up to 55 kilometres, and as much as 90 kilometres with the range extender battery fitted. The operating display on the handlebars handles all functions -, battery strength, pedal assistance setting lighting controls, speedometer, odometer and when removed, it disables the machine. You can switch to one of the three different power settings at the push of a button and the ION’s software even tells you when the bike is due to go to the dealer for maintenance. Like the Aprilia ENJOY we raved about, the ION has three different levels of pedal assistance to choose from, depending on the situation: ECO – The first setting provides comfortable support at a constant cycling speed, enabling you to get the best yield from the pedal assistance for leisure cycling or travelling to work. NORMAL – In addition to comfortable support at a constant speed, the second setting provides extra power when you set off. POWER – The third setting provides the most power under all circumstances and is mainly suitable when cycling in more adverse conditions, so you need to put in much less effort when cycling against a strong wind.Read More

Is the Sideways bike the big idea?

November 13, 2006 We’ve written about the sideways bike and its delightfully eccentric Dublin (Ireland) inventor Michael Killian before, and the response was so great that we thought our UK-based readers might like the opportunity to see plugging his invention on Sky One's The Big Idea TV show in a bid to win UKP100,000 next Saturday (November 18 at 9pm). The new prime-time series aims to discover the next great British/Irish invention or business idea. The bicycle is the world's best selling form of transport with 100 million sold each year – twice the number of cars sold - so a profitable niche market might exist for the more creative among us. Michael’s premise in building the sideways bike is that Left-Right balance is the most familiar and primary balance used for riding a conventional bicycle. Front-Back balance has little visual input and is the primary balance used in riding a surfboard, windsurfer and snowboard. Front-Back balance is a finer instrument than Left-Right balance and offers a greater degree of artistic freedom e.g. skiing (Left-Right balance) is faster than snowboarding (Front-Back balance), however people prefer to snowboard because of the greater artistic expression.Read More

The Fuel Cell Wheelchair

November 3, 2006 We’re growing more convinced by the day that the future of mobility does not look like the automobile – we suspect the old concept of lugging a few tons of steel around to carry one or two people will be seen as excessively wasteful very soon, and accordingly expect the market for short-distance, one and two person transport to offer a plethora of interesting alternatives. Like this one! Suzuki is showing an interesting fuel-cell-powered wheelchair prototype named the MIO to assess customer interest. The MIO features a fuel cell that uses methanol as a fuel source to generate hydrogen and therefore electricity. The tank holds 4 litres and that’s sufficient to provide MIO with a range of approximately 25 miles. There’s also an LCD display showing fuel level and power sources. Therefore, unlike wheelchairs that rely solely on mains charging of the battery, it addresses users’ fears of being stranded at some distance from their home. Read More

Another take on the future of mobility – the T3 MOTION

October 19, 2006 There’s no reason to assume that we have a clear picture of what the future of mobility might look like, even just a few years down the track, and the all-new T3 MOTION is different enough to challenge the notion of what personal transport could become. It was unveiled at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the body which is most likely to benefit by employing the new beastie. The T3 costs just 10 cents per day to run, charges from a wall outlet, has a top speed of 25 mph and depending on how much you spend on batteries, will have a range of between 15 miles and 75 miles. With a cost of US$6188 plus US$1800 for the long-range batteries, we see a huge market for these machines in everything from paper delivery to security – most significantly it rapidly improves response times because it is potentially so fast from point A to point B where cars can’t go – shopping malls, in lifts, down corridors, pedestrian environments, beaches, parks, historical sites. And as far as personal mobility goes, it’s reportedly very easy to drive and could enhance mobility for our aging population. It looks like a bunch of fun too.Read More

Opel’s Flex-Fix integrated bike carrier system

October 5, 2006 General Motors recently debuted this innovative integrated rear carrier system for bicycles named Flex-Fix” in its new European-only Opel Corsa, but such has been the reaction that it will also offer the exclusive extra with the new Antara as of early 2007. The four-wheel drive crossover Antara is currently debuting at the Paris Motor Show and will be available at Opel dealerships in a few weeks. Opel now sets new standards in exterior on-board flexibility with the practical Flex-Fix system as it can carry two bicycles and be easily pulled out like a drawer from the rear bumper, so no tools are needed at all. Two major benefits compared to conventional bicycle carriers are the more convenient loading, as bicycles do not need to be lifted as high, and the fact that Flex-Fix is always available, because it is an integral part of the car. Read More


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