For all intents and purposes, the automobile has remained largely unchanged in the past 100 years ever since the first Ford Model T started rolling off of assembly lines. Four wheels, an engine, transmission, and as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But with summer around the corner, so are high gas prices (which have shot up 20% in the month of May alone) and some people are taking another approach to personal mobility, such as an 8th grade project dubbed the Solar Human Hybrid Vehicle.
Based on the architecture of the Zero Emission Machine, an all-aluminum four-person pedal bike with room for the family dog and a few bags of groceries, the students at Novato Charter School attached a 1 horsepower 24 volt electric motor, solar cells, and an amp controller with electric regeneration properties, this street-legal road warrior actually seems like a viable alternative to cars for short hops to the supermarket, providing the weather is fair. It is technically classified as a motorized bycycle, is small enough to fit into most bike-only lanes, and has a limited top speed of 18 mph. The electric motor provides torque enough to climb hills, but even with a full compliment of passengers there is room enough for more than a few bags.
Would people actually buy and drive these things? I’m not sure, as cars still offer unmatched conveinece compared to anything powered by pedals. But for somebody living in the city or who doesn’t mind taking a little longer to reach their destination, a project like this could save mucho money in the long run. And if a bunch of 8th graders can build it, anybody can, and this is the sort of ingenuity that the world could use more of these days. Make sure to check out their website and get all the gritty details on this little wonder.