Many of us have used bicycle-sharing programs in a city or perhaps used a car-sharing co-op, such as Car2Go in Calgary.The Car2Go is a great option for people who don’t own cars but have errands to run or groceries to buy. It’s also a great option for business folks in town for a day who want to see a bit of the city outside downtown.
Bikes are also fun for touring, but not everyone wants to pedal when they must get somewhere, especially when dressed up or in bad weather. And car-sharing co-ops require a driver’s license.
But there is a new form of transportation on the horizon, the Veemo Velomobile.
The Vancouver-based startup is developing a point-to-point service that will allow users to rent a sort of e-bike/car hybrid, the Veemo™.
Pedalled vehicles, known as velocars, were a popular mode of urban transportation in France during the 1930s and 1940s. These machines were breaking cycling speed records before being declared ineligible to race by cycling’s governing body. Inspired by this concept, VeloMetro is building Veemo to meet the demands of 21st century urban residents.
According to Veemo co-founder Kody Baker, studies have shown that more than half the population of many major cities would like to bike to work, but people don’t want to have to wear biking gear or helmets, and don’t want to have to worry about storing their bikes once they arrive.
The Veemo is built to address all of those issues, says Baker.
The Veemo is a tricycle enclosed in an aerodynamic body that provides protection from the elements. Think electric bike encased in a racing shell. Although users do pedal it, their pedaling power is augmented by a built-in electric motor, taking the trike up to an electronically limited top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h).
The shell ensures that the rider stays out of the elements, and obviates the need for a helmet. And the motor enhancement should mean that the rider won’t work up a sweat, so there is no need for a change of clothing. (Fitness-conscious users could dial down the motor-assist, if desired.)
The vehicles are technically classified as bicycles, not cars, so no license or registration are necessary to drive one, and its slim size allows for it to easily fit in bike lanes and parking areas. If that top end were any higher, the Veemo would be classified as a motor vehicle, and users would require a license.
Svelt as it looks, it wouldn’t be for just any user, I think. The target weight of the final client-ready version is 120 kg (265 lb). I suspect that a tricycle would be pretty stable, but I question how tip-averse it would be on a downhill with tight turns.
Other features of the vehicle include a composite monocoque body with integrated crumple zones, an aluminum composite sandwich frame, an automatic transmission (including a reverse gear), hydraulic disc brakes, and a full LED lighting system.
Plans call for users to pay a flat rate of CAD$0.28 (currently about US$0.20) per minute, payable using an app. The veemos would be parked in motorcycle spots and other drop-off locations for easy retrieval.
A though occurs: given its comparably light weight, what would keep a person from lifting one of the vehicles into the back of a pickup truck and taking off with it? These and other issues are being resolved, I would guess, as the fleet preparation is underway.
“We’re working with the City of Vancouver to get a few vehicles in with their private city staff fleet, so they’re going to be our early beta testers,” says Baker. “Then we’ll have a pilot fleet out at the University of British Columbia, for students and staff to ride around campus.”
The first Veemo-sharing service for the general public should subsequently be rolled out in Vancouver sometime next year, with other Pacific Northwest cities to follow soon after. And if you want a Veemo of your own, there are plans for individual sales to commence sometime in the future.