How fast will you go on a velomobile?

12 02 2010

It’s probably old hat on the interwebs now, but this bike speed calculator is fun to play around with.

For instance to find out how fast you would likely go on a velomobile, put in your weight, and your height, your normal bike’s weight, and either your peak speed on your bike on the flat, or your average speed on your normal bike on the flat. Choose a bike approximately the same as your bicycle, and calculate your power in watts.

Then select the Quest and see how fast you would go on a fully faired trike.

For instance I average in the low 200 Watts over the first hour of a ride and peak at about 250 Watts. (It’s actually 500W minus  my 250W motor)

And then I select the Quest velomobile and it says I’ll average 41km/hr and peak at 47km/hr.

Then I add the 250W motor that is the legal maximum here in Aotearoa, and a few kilos for the motor and battery, and I’d average 63 km/hr and peak at 67km/hr.

That’s why I wanna ride a velomobile. Those buggers are fast.

I still haven’t ridden one, but I had my first go on a recumbent trike and I did notice a speed improvement over my normal sit up bike straight away.

Interestingly the bike speed computer says I’ll get more speed improvement on racing tyres then if I was to lose 20 kgs. So I say skinny tyres would be easier, rather than a skinny me.

500 Watts of electric assist and I’d be going over 80 km/hr.

Is that true? Anyone got a velomobile out there with 500W of electric assist? What speeds can you do?

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14 responses

14 02 2010
David Hembrow

We built two electric assist Mangos last week. On test rides, they do 38 km/h with a 180 W motor, making much more efficient use of power, whether from human or electric source.

The problem with wanting larger motors is that they’re heavier, and drain the batteries quicker. Quite honestly, if you have a 500 W motor, you have a motorbike. There is no longer much point in pedalling. 200 W average is actually quite high, and an output you can maintain over a short period of a few minutes is not the same as one over a longer period. Have you measured your output with an SRM meter or similar ?

This highly trained chap who set a 24 hour record was counting on only producing a bit over 110 W over that period.

15 02 2010
Matthew

Yeah it’s probably a bit high David as I was attributing more to me than my electric motor. Still it’d be nice to see how fast I can get one of your Mangoes someday with or without electric assistance. But I am in the bigger is better category when it comes to electric motors. I’d love to have the cycle paths to regularly do 50 km/hr on a bicycle or a trike, but I’m not going to get there without a bit of assistance. And no I don’t want a motorbike. They’re too noisy and polluting for my taste.

And the 24 hr record is impressive.

The 500W Bionx is 7.7 kg for motor and battery, and the 250W is 5.5kg. I’d still pedal with a 500W motor. It’s more fun that way.

17 02 2010
David Hembrow

Matthew, I should explain what I mean by “motorbike”. Once you have 500 W of pedal assist the extra that you can add yourself is really very small. Using the Kreuzotter calculator that you pointed to, if you’re going along using 500 W on a roadster you travel at 37 km/h. Add 100 W through pedaling and the speed increases to… 39.5 km/h

Why bother at all ? Most users of such a vehicle won’t pedal, and in fact you may as well claw back some of the weight by leaving out the chain and freewheel and fitting fixed pedals on the bike, as what you can add yourself is irrelevant. It’s no longer pedaling but motoring. This is exactly the process that motorbikes went through in their evolution from pedal cycles. Hence my quip about it being a “motorbike”. Yes, it’s a less smelly motorbike, and that has some merit in and of itself.

You can make anything go quickly with a big enough motor. Cars waste an enormous amount of energy in overcoming shortcomings of their own design. The driver is expected simply to press the accelerator pedal harder. Personally, I don’t find that very interesting. My interest is in efficiency, and non-assisted bicycles are the most efficient vehicles on the planet. Make the bike more aerodynamic, as velomobiles like the Mango are, and you gain a great deal without adding huge power inputs.

24 03 2010
StevieZ

David,

You have a guy here in Matthew who is excited about the sport, and wants to go fast. He’s looking for a little extra power – and maybe a little more fun, and you’re haranguing him because he’s not a member of the “purist highly efficient human pedal power only bike club”. Get a life.

Rock on Matthew! I have a Greenspeed Glyde Velomobile with a 1000w power assist motor and it’s a RIOT! I pedal it ALL THE TIME to push the top speed. I ride on the bike paths (safely and at a reduced speed) and on the roads when appropriate. I use mine as a vehicle replacement so I commute 20 miles or so (each way) back and forth to work each day, and I ride for fun too… and I have LOTS OF IT.

By the way – I often average over 60kph on the commute and it FREAKS people out – which I think is cool, because it changes their thinking about alternative modes of transportation.

Sometimes, I don’t even use the (much heavier and more burdensome – bleh) power assist at all, and that’s still fun too, and I NEVER regret having the bigger power inputs… I like huge power inputs – and you will too. Go for it!

Cheers.

26 03 2010
Matthew

Stevie,

You’ve got to tell us more about your commute, and your velomobile with extreme-grunt. Average 60kph over 20 miles!!!!!!

25 03 2011
Corran

Hi,

Just came across your site – just wanted to say I think you’re doing great work. I grew up in Levin and lived in Wellington for a few years and some safe cycle paths are definitely needed there (at least when I last cycled there 10 years ago).

For the last few years I’ve been living in the Netherlands. I’ve got a 70km round trip commute and a year ago I bought a quest. I love it! I sit at around 40-45km/h when I’m out in the countryside. The main drawback to a velomobile is cycling in cities with other cyclists and traffic.

So sorry I can’t give you any insight into speed with a help motor but just wanted to say hi.

2 01 2012
Colin

Much enthusiasm for Velo’s. Too bad you cannot just walk into Walmart and buy one…

11 04 2012
Peter

I have been looking into developing full fairings (like velomobile) to go on Perfomer recumbent trikes.

8 01 2013
John Blaine

Since 2010, I have owned a Quest with an EcoSpeed 1,000 w electric-assist motor. I live in Seattle, Washington so there are plenty of hills. Since I have a heart condition, I am not in the best of shape. On the flats, if I run full out pedaling with the motor assisting, I can achieve 50 mph, although I typically cruise 25 – 35 mph. Going up and down some of the local hills, it is common for me to hit 50 mph coasting. My maximum so far was 60 mph – very scary! The onboard computer predicts that I typically have a range of about 120 miles between charges. I am told that more conservative usage should get me around a 200 mile range. My drive motor power is a pair of 15 amp/hr LiPO4 36v batteries (total 30 a/hr). I have no regeneration as it is not necessary.

Johnny B.

8 01 2013
Matthew

Thanks John. Interesting figures. How much does your Quest and batteries weigh?

9 01 2013
John Blaine

Best guess on my Quest vehicle weight would be around 115 lbs. I have never actually weighed it, but I get asked that so much that I should do so. I believe the stock specs called for it to weigh in at about 86 lbs without the electric assist.

I must say though that the excess weight is certainly worth it for the gain in duration and speed (at least for me).

Another common question is, “How much did it cost?” In answer, I have $17,000 invested in this vehicle. For me, cost was not an issue at the time. I also did none of the work myself, and I requested all the ‘bells and whistles’ that I could get for it. The electric assist is probably $5,000 alone. I’m sure that there are cheaper ways of doing this, especially for those that are so inclined to do much of the work themselves.

Finally, with hindsight, would I do anything differently? Nope! And there are plenty of Quest owners out there that can explain why.

Johnny B.

8 01 2013
Colin

AWESOME!! !!! !! ! !!!

2 06 2015
Brian Templeton, Calgary, Canada.

Interesting comments about electrically assisted velomobiles! However, does anybody know the wattage electric motor needed to climb some of the 30 degree slopes near to my home, @ 20 m.p.h. with say a velomobile of about 120lbs., with a rider of 278lbs. (Me!) and some 50lbs. of luggage or groceries. I would also like a range of 100 t0 150 miles.

2 06 2015
Matthew

That’s answerable with simple physics Brian, not that I’m offering to do the calculations.

I think you’re looking more at an ELF rather than a pedal assist velomobile with those kind of design specs.

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