Solar powered velomobiles are human-powered vehicles, protected either fully or partially from the elements, with an electric-assist motor powered from rechargeable batteries and an onboard (or even off board) solar array for battery charging.
These can range from two wheels, three wheels or even four wheels if not more depending on their use (there are even velomobiles used as moving pubs!), but until now the most popular velomobiles have been three wheeled recumbents, while solar power continues to be only an option among those interested in electric assist, solar power has still been gainingrecognition outside the area of cycling.
The expectation among sustainable engineers in the area such as Frederik van de Walle (who wrote “The Velomobile as a Vehicle for more Sustainable Transportation“) is that by launching more efficient and cost-effective velomobiles with electric assist, targeting people going to and from school or work everyday in their cars that both public awareness on sustainability and public health will increase immensely.
By offering the single-seat recumbent tricycle style velomobile that works efficiently, with thin-film solar cells used as a skin over the existing body and an electric assist motor, with powerful lithium batteries at an affordable price, and in abundance to the general population for short commutes, a whole new world of sustainable transportation could open up that would greatly impact our worlds current CO2 footprint not to mention reduce traffic jams and cases of road rage.
Solar powered velomobiles are as of yet still only a design concept; those that possess them are usually slapping them together on their own, by simply equipping their existing velomobile with an onboard solar array, but as of yet, the cases of these are few and only for the more hardcore velomobilists.
What could change all of that and cause a real rift in the way we see cars and traffic would be if this stuff got out into the mainstream.
Today in the US, the two more recently commercially available thin-film solar cells and the more potent lithium batteries, are the technologies that make this kind of a change possible.
Without those, this technology would still be in the dark ages, but most importantly, the price needs to come down to something reasonably acceptable and affordable to those who commute everyday in the city.
It has even been suggested that the type of materials used in the frame also be made of renewable materials like wood instead of metal alloys that have been melded and shaped to an exhausting degree.
The short commute vehicle that uses self-reliant energy generation, develops the owners health, manages to reduce traffic jams and road rage and is readily available to everyone not so sports inclined both financially as well as athletically, will quickly dominate the scene across the cities of our great nation, only time and lack of awareness impede the market now.
With solar powered electric assist, tricycle recumbent design and protection from the elements, this is more than just a solar bike; a well-priced solar powered velomobile could be the wave of the future.