Raht Racer: A Long-Range Commuter Option
You open the door of your sleek new commuter and slide into the seat. First you turn it on and then start to pedal. The exercise will warm your system as it prepares you mentally for the day. It is more than 10 miles to work but there is no concern about arriving sweaty or taking too long. The electric drive will take that upper edge from your effort while it whisks you along at highway speeds. The vehicle could be a Raht Racer which is presently trying to collect funds on Kickstarter for its next level of development.
In the video Rich Kronfeld the creator and CEO of Rhatmobile speaks enthusiastically about the “amplification” electric drive can offer the cyclist. There is generally recognized understanding that there should be a separate set of laws for bicycles and for powered vehicles. E bikes stretch that limit but Kronfeld turns it on its head. Unlike the rest of the manufacturing field which has limited the power of e bikes he is targeting a longer distance commuter and is attempting to compete directly with cars. As such the vehicle also hosts a 9.2 kWh battery carbon fiber body, seat belts, air bag and a light kit. At 570 lbs it is also not the lightweight you might expect from a human powered vehicle.
An excellent article here says that the similar vehicles could be 80 times more efficient than a car. Even an electric car is only about 3 to 5 times more efficient than an ICE vehicle. The enclosed body makes a third wheel very helpful to keep the vehicle upright when stopped. As a “tadpole” recumbent trike even with the extra power the vehicle would only have to be registered as a motorcycle (not a car) and as such would also avoid crash safety tests. As an enclosed vehicle, a motorcycle helmet would not be required.
There are many connections between the pedaler and their vehicle including the fixed gearing of the track racer which has no freewheeling through various gear combinations and the newer continuously variable transmissions. Adding an electric motor can also be done in several ways. With most e bikes the electric motor can sense the operators effort and can also be used to “amplify” that force with the stored energy from a battery. Because the electric motor and the human operator, through the chain and gears, can each power the vehicle, this is known as a parallel hybrid. The Raht Racer offers something a bit different. Pedals power a flywheel. The flywheel powers a generator. The generator can both charge the battery and power the electric motors attached to the wheels. This configuration is known as a series hybrid, a potentially simpler and lighter design. It can lead to some unusual options like “spinning” at a stoplight or changing (the feel) of the rise of fall in elevation. For more on these interesting hybrid electric drive systems look here.
The body styling looks like the “Racer” that is part of its name. It is also an American product which is a little unusual in a niche that includes vehicles like the Twike, eWAW , and ELF among many others. The vehicle has also caught the approval of the Midwestern Clean Energy Challenge as one of its finalists. As it is not primarily an economical or conservative vehicle, I wonder if the Raht Racer will be the “Tesla” of velomobiles, something that will change the field forever. The price of $35000 suggests a similar “top down” marketing perspective. (If that is too much the vehicle is so unusual you could always try to find a sponsor here. )
Other sources not previously cited: http://www.gizmag.com/raht-racer-velomobile/36222/
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