Monday, March 23, 2015

Lubbock on a Bike: Giving Velomobiles a Second Look

It's funny, really, how it all plays out. I have written about velomobiles in Lubbock knowing that ever actually seeing one here is highly unlikely.

Abilene is about 140 miles from here. Saturday we were in Abilene about to head into a restaurant when I spotted a velomobile in the parking lot. The Mesquite Hugger spirit in me leapt! I went over to get a photo for you and was struck with a funny realization - this gorgeous machine was from Lubbock. I even knew the pickup it was in. I had seen it at the grocery store and at the miscommunicated bike meeting I attended recently. There is a velomobile in Lubbock!

You may be asking yourself, "Okay MH, what's so cool about a velomobile?"
First, it looks like a torpedo, a retro-futuristic racer, or maybe transportation for a superhero. Second (and much more practical,) it is one of the most efficient land vehicles available. It is light weight, aerodynamic, and has very little rolling resistance. In West Texas terminology, it gives you the best bang for your horsepower buck!

Another big advantage for us bi-pedal humans - it places your body in an ideal position for pedal power. Even more bang for your buck! And if you add a battery pack and small electric motor...

Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before in this blog, it has a distinct disadvantage in the land of SUVs and diesel duallies, it could easily be squished by an inattentive driver - and we have plenty of those in our bike unfriendly town. So I admire these exotic and rare machines but have little desire to adopt one for my daily commute.

I have been composing another post lately about solar-powered vehicles, about the lure of self-powered transportation. The current struggle with those is how little power is produced by small solar panels vs. how much power is needed to move a large vehicle, especially one weighed down by a big battery pack. So, solar power combined with a hyper-efficient electric-assist velo...a pairing created in Mesquite Hugger heaven.

All this is to say that I become ever more intrigued by velomobiles in general and by solar-powered velos in particular.

The most prominent one these days is less hardcore than many, but it is commercially available and made in the USA. It is the Elf. In theory, I really want one!

Check out the solar panel on the roof!

You can get a naked Elf, a two-seater Elf, and a campus cop version - you could take Paul Blart-ism to a whole new level!

If you want to learn more about velomobiles, check out this great article from Low-Tech Magazine with lots of cool links.

May you be superhero cool while traveling about without fossil fuels!