I have been following the saga of the HumanCar for a few years now. The idea was interesting from the onset, a plug-in electric vehicle that forced “drivers” to use a rowing motion to provide forward propulsion.
Of course, calling it a car is a stretch. There is no windshield, no roof, and the body is little more than a plastic mold fitted over a bike-like chassis. With a top speed of 30 mph on level streets, it isn’t going to get you anywhere in a hurry either. But it does combine mobility en masse with a bit of exercise, something most Americans (including me) could use.
The HumanCar was originally supposed to debut back on Earth Day in 2008. Better late than never though. And watching it in action, as per the video below, is actually kind of cool. It almost looks fun! Now, would I want to get to work every day in one of these? Probably not. If it had a roof though, it might not make a bad commuter. And this rendering seems to indicate there are plans for a roof at some point. The rowing action creates torque through a four-speed transmission that propels the vehicle forward. At just 300 pounds in weight, the “low mass vehicle” doesn’t take a lot of rowing to get this thing going. How do you steer it? Body lean, sort of like a motorcycle.
What I like most about this idea though is that it uses the oldest, most versatile energy humanity has; ourselves. Rickshaws are popular in many cities where driving cars is a tight prospect, and with four people rowing, I don’t imagine the HumanCar is particularly hard to power. In fact, it can also double as an emergency backup generator, as it has several A/C outlets. You can reserve yours for $50 (and there are well over 800 reservations already), though the full price of the human-powered vehicle comes in at a staggering $15,000. But if you get three friends to split the cost with you, the cost comes down to just $3,500 a head, a much easier pill to swallow.
Plus, you’ll definitely turn heads driving this contraption to work.