Imagine having a vehicle that allows you to travel in bike lanes and park on sidewalks and you don’t even have to pedal—but can if you want to. That’s behind North Carolina startup Organic Transit’s plans to build tribrid velomobiles powered by the driver (when they want to) as well a battery and a solar panel which power its electric motor.
The vehicles cost up to $3,700 and have a top speed of 25 miles per hour. Some communities limit electric bicycle speeds to 25 miles per hour, partly for safety concerns. Organic Transit already has more than 240 orders for their unique trikes. And the number is growing quickly as the company gets more press, like an article in the NewsObserver last week.
“We actually received 35 orders from that article,” said Organic Transit CEO Rob Cotter.
Only problem is, they haven’t made their first production unit—yet.
“We could have some units rolling out in the end of April or early May. We have a chunk of customers/fans that want to see this sooner than later, and they’ve paid full deposits,” Cotter said.
Those customers are mainly local and will help serve as a beta test bed for the first generation of the vehicles.
“We can keep full tabs on things and make changes as necessary,” he said.
Cotter’s also had conversations with people from across the country, like Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Co.’s Tour De Fat Impresario Matt Kowal, who organizes the annual bike-riding events across the U.S.
The company is designing four different types of drive trains for the vehicles that allow for different levels of human participation, according to Cotter. For instance, one design uses a continuously variable transmission, which can be powered directly by the driver, or they can choose to add power via the throttle. With another, all the power from pedaling goes directly to the battery, and the motor provides the direct power.
The vehicle provides 400 watts of power to the motor with the solar power helping to charge the vehicle throughout the day. Humans provide about 250 watts of power as well.
“With the electric power unit it’s almost like there are a couple extra people pushing,” Cotter said.
At present the company has two different models, Elf and Truckette. Each can carry the driver and a passenger. The Elf is designed as a commuter vehicle, and the Truckette can handle a payload of up to 350 pounds— the weight of a couple of kegs—one of the first purchasers is a local brewery, Cotter said.
The company will manufacture the vehicles in a setting where people can watch it being done, much like a brewpub.
“We wanted to do the assembly of these things in downtown areas,” Cotter said. As such it formed a partnership with Alliance Architecture, where it will assemble and display the vehicles.
As the company grows it will consider opening more assembly plants in urban environments, like perhaps Denver, according to Cotter.
“It’s part of a local movement, and we would like to have localized labor,” he said. “That’s why we focus on decentralized assembly.”
The company got a boost this year from Durham Chamber of Commerce's Startup Stampede, an incubator program that helps such projects gain traction and visibility, according to the NewsObserver.
Image courtesy of Organic Transit.