Yet another enclosed 4-wheeled bike (quadracycle?) appears to be close to production, as Sweden’s PodRide “bicycle-car” could be ready to order by this summer. And instead of adding an electric motor to the PodRide, as was suggested in its Indiegogo campaign back in 2016 (which would make it an e-quadracycle?), it looks like the designer is instead working toward finishing a fully pedal-powered 4-wheeled version for the US and Canadian markets, and then a 3-wheeled electric version after that, plus an electric 4-wheeled pedal-assist version with a 250W motor for Europe.
Designer Mikael Kjellman originally ran a crowdfunding campaign for the “4-wheel electric bike, with full weather protection” and ended up raising some $108,000 in 2016, but as we’ve seen, the road to a new production-ready vehicle of any type, let alone a non-standard bike-based design, can be a long and perilous one, so 5 years later it’s no surprise that the vehicle is still not available. With the standard layout of a tried and true design, such as a 2-wheeled bicycle, the engineering and design work necessary for building an electric version of one isn’t too wildly different, but add a couple of wheels and a different seating position to it, plus a fully enclosed cabin, and it then becomes what looks to be essentially a ground-up redesign.
One of the big issues with e-bikes and other electric micromobility vehicles is the differing regulations between the US market and the European market, with the EU only allowing pedal-assist models with electric motors of 250W or less, and a max speed of 25 km/h, whereas US residents can have much more powerful motors in theirs and higher max speeds, so either you make a one-size-fits-all model with a 250W motor for everyone, or you have to build multiple versions. And it seems as if PodRide came up against that issue and made the call to build several different models and to roll them out over time, because the first US/Canada version looks to be a fully human-powered (non-electric) 4-wheeled model, after which a 3-wheel motorized version — with potentially a 500W motor — will be offered to customers here. For EU residents, a 4-wheeled electric version with a 250W mid-drive motor will be available.
In places with regular inclement weather, an enclosed cabin would certainly come in handy, and four wheels are generally more stable than two wheels (at low speeds), so those with balance issues, or who need a different sitting position for pedaling, might find a bike/e-bike like the PodRide to be more their speed. With the option for a second seat, plus enclosed space for carrying work stuff, groceries, a litter of puppies, or whatever inside, the PodRide could effectively replace a car for local commuting. However, one of the things we still don’t know about the PodRide is how many pennies we’d need to save to purchase one, so it’s still hard to say whether or not it would be a good fit, financially speaking.
The latest update from PodRide reads:
“We don’t yet know what the price of PodRide will be, but are working to make this known as soon as possible. It’s also our goal to make PodRide as affordable as we possibly can, because we’re committed to making a positive impact on the planet through the widespread use of super efficient, eco-friendly, mobility.
“We plan to offer PodRide at a range of price points depending on the configuration that you choose. PodRide options will include with or without motor, options on gearing, battery capacity, etc..
“At this stage we believe we will start taking orders for the 4 wheel version of PodRide in mid 2021, with production starting shortly after. The 3 wheel version would likely be at minimum 12 months after the availability of the 4 wheel version. (Please note: These estimates will be affected positively or negatively dependent on the amount of resources we can garner moving forward.)”
Although I’m a big fan of the traditional and time-tested 2-wheeled bike design, whether they’re manually pedaled or electrically driven, I also know quite a few older folks who would never get on a standard 2-wheeled bike again simply because of physical issues with balance, issues with pedaling while sitting in a traditional upright position, or the exertion of pedaling in general is too much for them. However, with the rise in affordable e-bikes, the exertion of pedaling is now kind of a non-issue for many people, and the whole “baby boomers on e-bikes” trend is a very real one, but still leaves out those who may be concerned about balancing on two wheels or the potential for injury in the event of a fall. And that’s where 4-wheeled e-bike/quadracycles like the PodRide can really make a difference for certain populations, with their enclosed cabins, relatively better stability, cargo space, and their more natural sitting (riding) position.
On another note, if you’ve got tips for other unique or up and coming micromobility solutions, I’d love to hear them for possible inclusion in our continued coverage of electric mobility.
All images via PodRide.
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