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Homemade Electric Motorcycle Stopped on M25 in Hertfordshire (bbc.co.uk)
90 points by dustinmoris 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 116 comments

IMHO the future of personal transportation is vehicles like that. We don't have the space in cities to support 2-3 tons of steel per traveler, and plain bicycles are uncomfortable in bad weather, or when you are physically impaired. But small (electric?) velomobiles with three or four wheels are perfect for city commutes when cycling is not an option. They also don't need 15-20kWh/100km like an electric car would.

I've expressed the same sentiment before. The problem is that even talking about electric cars gets people's knickers in a twist; they need to be able to drive for 1000 miles straight while towing an apartment on wheels behind them and any vehicle which can't do that just isn't good enough. They'd rather be dead than have to drive one of these.

> The problem is that even talking about electric cars gets people's knickers in a twist; they need to be able to drive for 1000 miles straight while towing an apartment on wheels behind them and any vehicle which can't do that just isn't good enough.

I mean that's understandable, if the car you buy can only handle small commuting that means at the very least the additional cost of using other transport methods or renting a car or having a second car (all of which may be problematic or impossible) when you need to see friends, your family, or go on holidays. And that's not "par" money as the EV is not going to be significantly cheaper than an equivalent ICE.

A small and cheap comfy-ish EV might actually be a good option there, as it lets you have a regular car when you need to e.g. go to Ikea (which might be out of range of an EV depending where you live) or drive to the next country or go see your sister a few hundred miles away without significant additional costs, but it needs to be small (so it's not an issue e.g. for people living in cities who may not have access to a garage at all let alone a multi-car one) and cheap (so it's not a drain on resources, or at least not a big one, compared to just using the one car all the time).

Incentives are a thing, and currently EVs mostly incentivise using something else if you don't have fuck you money and more surface than you can use. As-is, plug-in hybrids are probably a better option for single people or single-car households.

I agree with what you are saying. The tradeoffs are complex between an electric car and something else. In many cases the only reasonable solution is to have both and use the appropriate vehicle for the appropriate trip. The downsides of that are many unless you already need two vehicles.

However, you seem to have illustrated exactly my point. An electric car has some limitations compared to a conventional car. But the gap from an electric car to an electric velomobile is probably even greater.

> However, you seem to have illustrated exactly my point. An electric car has some limitations compared to a conventional car. But the gap from an electric car to an electric velomobile is probably even greater.

The difference and point (as noted in the second paragraph) is that it is much more feasible to have a car and a velomobile than to have two cars.

I’d love an electric car but I also like my caravan (nice cheap (£20 a night) walking holidays in the countryside). I had to settle for a small diesel instead.

Towing isn’t something a lot of electric cars seem to be homologated for. I think the only current exception is the Tesla Model X.

Unfortunately the post-1997 EU licence restrictions (in the UK) mean that lots of people are restricted to a total gross weight of 3500kg for the car and trailer, so towing even a small caravan with a car that has batteries would need the driver to do another driving test.

Towing should be a strong point of electric vehicles, with all that torque, shouldn't it?

The main limitations for towing with cars and car-like platform is tongue weight (not a big deal if you don't mind going slow) overall power and cooling. Don't get me wrong, easy starting from a stop is worth something but 90% of the benefit in that regard is gotten by going from a manual to automatic. Going EV isn't nearly as big of a jump in ease of use and it doesn't really solve any of the pain points so don't expect electric cars to revolutionize towing.

As others have pointed out, the range also tanks when towing (it tanks with gas cars too but not as badly). This is a bigger deal in an EV because you can't just gas up in 5min but not that big a deal if you're taking a pre-planned trip IMO.

I would think so, but I wonder what effect that has on the range? You can certainly feel the difference a 1300kg trailer makes to pulling away and accelerating, it effectively halves my miles-per-gallon.

Wow - interested to hear it is that dramatic. My only experience is towing a folding camper - this fits nicely in the 'slipstream' of my car, and I assume weighs less than your caravan no doubt.

But since you are limited to 60mph towing, I often find that my MPG is the same if not better when towing, though pulling away and uphill is affected. Not sure my current car would cope with a caravan!

I think the air resistance is the main factor. Even with the roof bars/cycle carriers on I notice maybe 5-10 less average mpg. They’re the Thule aero ones which are designed to reduce drag!

Also my car has a 6th gear for more efficient cruising on the motorway, but you can’t tow in 6th, it just sounds like it’s struggling.

Towing kills the range

Additional batteries in trailers doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Or, you could just put a generator on the trailer, and get unlimited range! =)

There was an excellent old website (it when by the name Mr. Sharkey but is sadly no longer around except in some archives with missing photos) which detailed a guys experiments with an old VW Rabbit EV. He actually built a range extender trailer for it based on the front of another VW rabbit. One interesting thing is he wasn't powering a generator but actually pushed the car via the tow ball and the engine and transmission from the donor car.

Found it on archive.org: http://web.archive.org/web/20121105135914/http://www.mrshark...

>but actually pushed the car via the tow ball and the engine and transmission from the donor car.

I'm sure that handled spectacularly on on-ramps. It would be like flat towing another vehicle and coming into a corner too hot.

That project was inspired by a pusher trailer built by JB Straubel[1] (co-founder and former CTO of Tesla), and in Straubel's write-up he addresses this:

> Dynamics:

> Despite the facts that I shortened the trailer of the Gen-2 pusher by two feet and added more IC horsepower and much more pushing force with the ability of the AT to downshift...I have still found it basically impossible to get into a condition of oversteer. (This is where the car would want to turn into the direction of the turn if you take your hand off the wheel, normaly if you release the wheel a vehicle will straighten itself out of a turn) Even in relatively tight turns with the trailer at nearly full power, the car wants to straighten itself out. The shortened trailer also drafts behind the EV much better further improving the mpg.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20120319173545/http://www.jstrau...

That contradicts the experience of basically everyone that's ever towed anything. I'm gonna ignore a bunch of second order variables here but if you come into a turn too hot for the weight of the trailer compared to the tow vehicle the trailer can and will push the rear of the car straight (over-steer). This is exacerbated by long trailer axle spreads and short tongue length (hence why flat towing a car feels the way it does).

Maybe he just drives really conservatively everywhere (wouldn't surprise me since a light foot was key for extending range on early EVs and many people developed that habit) or maybe the trailer is just light enough and being single axle makes it easy to steer enough that the natural tendency of the car to straighten out is greater.

I wouldn't trust anyone crazy enough to build this contraption to evaluate how safe it is. I mean, it's probably fine for him, but you wouldn't want your [stereotypical poor driver of choice] to be driving it on a wet day.

I did say it was interesting! Safe, not so much.

To be fair, I think he basically fired it up when he got to the interstate, manually set the throttle to the speed he wanted to cruise at then turned it off again before coming off the interstate.

The early days of EVs reminds me of the early days of rock crawling. People tried all these wacky things because there was no instruction manual to follow, they were writing it.

Honestly that isn’t a bad idea. It would also allow you to go on road trips where there is no charging network. Better than buying a fully ICE car instead.

I wonder if a electric car with a generator in a trailer would still be tax exempt...

No electric car I'm aware of allows you to charge while driving, even with software mods and hacks.

You know, there might be more to that than meets the eye. If you are adding batteries to the trailer you might as well add a pair of electric motors and make it almost self propelled (like a multiple unit train). It would avoid needing to make the tow car overpowered.

I'm not sure what the rocket equation for EV battery capacity would be, but EV batteries are very heavy, pretty bulky, and they need fluid heating/cooling for optimal performance. It's not as simple as hooking up the lights for a trailer.

See also "we can't have bike lanes because I'm a scaffolding contractor and need to deliver 40 tonnes of steel poles on my truck"

Whist driving that hit anything or be hit by anything, would have a good chance of being dead, it looks like a DIY Sinclair C5.

Yes. It's somewhat chicken and egg. How do you get people into much lighter vehicles while everyone else is driving around in 3 tonne SUVs.

You can still hit road furniture , and things like moose's

That vehicle looks like it would just go cleanly under the moose.

I am now imagining an updated Jeux Sans Frontières with the competitors driving those round a course avoiding mooses.

For non Europeans it was a Europe wide televised game series which "featured teams from different European countries in outlandish costumes (often large latex suits) competing to complete bizarre tasks in funny games. "

...in America perhaps.

Sir Clive Sinclair thought so too and tried to make it happen about 35 years ago, but it didn't quite catch on, to say the least:


I was curious, so I went to YouTube and watched a bit of this clip: https://youtu.be/xS6q27VOTOk?t=38

Interesting machine, but it's really a bicycle with a single-speed electric motor. With lots of issues, that currently would be easy to fix with off-the-shelf parts from electric bicycles.

But maybe more important notion is, that it's not fully covered. It's not all-weather vehicle, not even half-weather it seems.

I seem to recall a Not-nine-o'clock-news episode where truckers were smashing C5's. This was after an episode where they smashed hedgehogs (naturally angering many).

The hedgehog thing is easily found on Youtube, but did I just imagine the C5 episode?

In any case, that was when I had pretty much given up hope with Sinclair QL (a home/business computer with 68008 CPU and 128K RAM).

With 2 lead-acid batteries and a fragile plastic gear as an essential part of the transmission, it's hardly a surprise really.

However it's not that bad actually, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JikUIdHXcc

That looks great!

Twizy with closeable windows would be a very nice thing, indeed.

Talking of the Twizy, JFYI, hopefully soon there will be a competitor:


A (at least visually) nice re-make of the Isetta:


It appears scissor doors with windows are an optional extra.

The windows are from some plastic sheet material and they're affixed with a zipper, so you can take them off.

There are some 3rd party makers of glass windows.

I was also thinking of the venerable Sinclair C5.

The downside to these is having all the (percieved and real) vulnerability of the cyclist as well. And they still need quite a bit of space for parking.

"26 years" is oddly precise, but the sinclair C5 was 1985, 34 years ago, so it's probably just how long he's served or something. https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_C5

BONUS "Micro Men" documentary/drama about Sir Clive Sinclair vs Acorn (from which grew Acorn RISC Machine -> ARM) https://youtube.com/watch?v=XXBxV6-zamM (1h 24m) "A man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for?"

Yeah, that's a good example of a reasonable city car. I was thinking even smaller, like the PodRide https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lKq1fGtXFM

This one is exactly at the lower acceptability limit for me, but it seems deadly to onramp/offramp with it.

> three or four wheels are perfect

Presumably, not like the three-wheeled Robin Reliant car that launched in the UK in the 1970s :-)


To be pedantic it's a Reliant Robin (Reliant being the brand).

They actually are pretty stable vehicles, contrary to their reputation. For that clip you linked to it's like everything in Top Gear - staged for TV[0].

[0] https://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/entertainment/news/...

They are if you (like the Morgan) put the two wheels at the front.

These days, I believe all auto manufacturers that make three wheel cars (peugeot, etc.) .. make them with two wheels in the front.

I believe the majority of three wheel motorcycles are also made this way now as well.

aka Mr Bean's car

Mr Bean's arch-enemy's car

Mr Bean drove a Mini - he famously drove it from an arm chair on top in one episode. Are you thinking of the Trotter brothers?

Also think they are the future.

Remember the Lit Motors C1? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdHo01xYTWQ

And the Monotracer? https://www.peravescz.com/

And the Lit Motors C1 Chinese copy? https://electrek.co/2016/06/14/chinese-copycat-lit-motors-se...

There's a good collection of them here too: http://www.bikeweb.com/image/tid/13

Also check out the amazing 1991 BMW C-1 fully enclosed successor concept that never made it to production: http://www.bikeweb.com/node/130

I drive a motorcycle daily and this seems like the drawbacks (low crash protection, lower stability, low load capacity) without the benefits (agility, effortless parking).

If this looks viable to you - consider getting a scooter or a small bike, they are great secondary vehicles when you need to get from a to b alone or with one more person and a lot of fun to drive/very versatile for parking.

There are some electrics but even if you get a ICE it will spend less fuel then a car (untill you get to 600cc sportbikes and derivatives :) )

For super short range commutes there is the new Vespa Electrica - but it costs more than the new 300HPE Vespas.

For even shorter commutes you have two feet

Well when I win the lottery I will buy a flat in London 5 mins walk from the office :-)

Sounds good to me, but I am already afraid crossing a street in Munich. People don’t let other people cross the street even during green light phase. It’s much safer to cross street somewhere in the middle between intersections without traffic light and without cars. Aggressive driving with old premium cars like A8, Cayenne, various AMGs is pretty normal. I don’t mind driving electric tricycle or extremely small electric 4-seater, but not in this ancient, made for cars infrastructure. I value my life and life of my family too much: https://m.dw.com/en/berlin-drag-racers-sentenced-to-life-in-...

> IMHO the future of personal transportation is vehicles like that. We don't have the space in cities to support 2-3 tons of steel per traveler, and plain bicycles are uncomfortable in bad weather, or when you are physically impaired. But small (electric?) velomobiles with three or four wheels are perfect for city commutes when cycling is not an option. They also don't need 15-20kWh/100km like an electric car would.

And it pretty much is already. For much of Asia, a 150cc scooter is a standard of personal transportation. Just wait until they change to electric.

Why don't we have more golf carts or similar vehicles on urban streets? I assume they're electric and easily rechargeable? Strikes me as a decent, existing platform upon which to build variants - could have a larger tray at the rear, netted storage at the front, etc.

RV parks and campground hosts and some retirees use them for getting about in a very local context. I know they're probably serve a lot of the needs I'd have in a second car.

There’s a town where people only drive golf carts: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pcVGqtmd2wM

It seems like it works for them.

So many problems would be solved with a lower population.

The most pressing problem, climate change, needs to be solved in twenty years. There is no ethical way of reducing population levels in that time frame.

The future of personal transportation is no personal transportation.

What do you mean? People still need to get from A to B. A and B are different for almost everybody, so there has to be a "personal" leg of the journey, even if it's just walking to the bus stop.

I meant that with the rising of sharing economy and automated driving technologies, the market for personally owned vehicles would significantly shrink or seize to exist. The main reason for owning a car - getting from point A to point B whenever you want with a certain level of comfort. There are cheaper and simpler solutions to that job-to-be-done than car ownership.

People with no opportunity for transportation are called “serfs”.

Only in totalitarian dystopias.

I have been in socialist countries with diesel buses traveling empty everywhere most of the time. Then at peak hours getting full.

The theory was that they are much more efficient, and they are when they are full and you are transported like cattle, not moving directly where you want, and having to wait for them.

Bicycles or motorcycles are much better for moving around the city.

how about this?: https://www.carver.earth/

electric 3 wheel car/scooter for 1-2 persons

From Twitter [1] It's Cedric Lynch's car. There is a YouTube video [2] of him showing it off and saying it goes 55mph and gets 150-200 miles on a charge of its Lithium batteries. And another picture of him with it (and also barefoot) [3]

1. https://twitter.com/mikel01/status/1163709573984899072?s=21

2. https://youtu.be/KnqoH0YaCsE

3. http://www.bikeweb.com/node/2601

This is truly amazing, thank you for the links!

Hmm, no mentioning of his dog Gromit. I hope he is doing well.

Driver of the vehicle also invented and built the motor which powers it - The Lynch Motor - an axial-flux permanent magnet electric motor. See


Video of Cedric talking about the 'thingymobile'


It's a velomobile. They're somewhat unusual but surely not so unusual that they're worthy of a newspaper article? There are quite a few manufacturers:


I think the news story is also that it was spotted on the M25 which is the orbital motorway round London that is quite busy and that it is, in fact, perfectly legal.

Edit: Also it is the BBC which has a track record of regarding unusual vehicles as entertaining:


From the 'review': "Against: The crash protection is a bit fleshy"

Also it's mildy amusing that the police stopped it because OBVIOUSLY that's not road legal, but it turns out that actually there was nothing they could cite it for - unlike a good number of cars on the road.

Egregious violations of traffic laws and revenue traps notwithstanding, basically all traffic enforcement is just cops stopping whatever makes thier spidey senses tingle. If you drive something that is super odd or highly out of place you will get stopped by every bored cop. This is not the first or the last time this guy will be stopped.

To be fair to the police in this situation: most velomobiles would be more like electric bikes and therefore not be legal on motor highways, wouldn't they?

It probably wouldn't be the first time someone eccentric created something cool in their garage and not go through the motions of getting it properly registered.

Yeah - it seems pretty sensible to me that the police stop and check that vehicle.

M25 not M24

I think a velomobile is human powered - a pedal bike. This was a motorcycle.

Also odd, the driver is barefoot while he is stood on the motorway hard shoulder.

I'd almost expect that to be honest

or Socks with Sandals

Quite in line with the eccentric vehicle :)

I swear I know that guy

is it legal in the uk to drive barefoot?

Is legal in most places and barefoot is not very dangerous. The only risk I know is the foot slipping on pedal which seems unlikely to me.

The real DANGEROUS is with flip-fop, slippers or sandals and I can confirm from my experience.

You can get the front tip of your flip-flop stuck under the break pedal and, besides not being able to break quickly, you panic very fast.

If you're on flip-flops put them aside and drive barefoot.

It's also legal in New Zealand to drive barefoot (or even ride a motorbike barefoot): https://i.stuff.co.nz/motoring/99992891/silly-question-24-ca...

Is it illegal anywhere? That's good to know as I often drive barefooted, like... Once every ten trips or so?

Yes, in Germany it is illegal. AFAIK, the law states something along the lines of having "proper shoework" in order to operate the vehicle.

EDIT: Whoops, no, it's actually legal [1][2] (in fact, it's perfectly legal to drive a car naked in Germany in public - though you shouldn't leave your car then, because being naked in public is not actually legal, the fine-print is that your car's interior is considered your private space), but you may get into trouble with insurance. While searching, I think I may have read that it actually is illegal in Switzerland, but don't take my word for it...

[1]: https://www.focus.de/auto/praxistipps/barfuss-autofahren-ist...

[2]: https://anwaltauskunft.de/magazin/mobilitaet/auto/ist-es-erl...

What a fantastic legal quagmire, thanks for looking that up

Tangentially, I once had German autobahn police laugh at my 'gummistiefel' when they pulled me over... The opposite thing of driving barefooted, but hardly proper shoework for driving a car

From what I recall driving barefoot in switzerland is legal as well, but insurance companies are just gonna say "nope" when you enter a claim.

If you get stopped while driving naked, and the officer asks you to get out of your vehicle, is that entrapment?

Barefoot is quite common, particularly amongst those that wear high heels when out of the vehicle.

So long as you can push the pedals safely all is fine. The Highway Code does have a few words about wearing appropriate footwear, the biggest thing is insurance though. If you are driving in high heels and it all goes wrong then your insurance isn't going to necessarily help.


It is perfectly legal to drive while barefoot in all 50 states in the United States, in Canada, and in the U.K.

Reminds me of the Czechoslovakian Velorex, which had three wheels, a motorcycle engine and a leather body[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velorex

Or soviet "invalidka": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMZ_cyclecar. (4 wheels though)

Far from the shonkiest vehicle I have ever seen on the M25.

As reported on Twitter, this is Cedric Lynch's vehicle:



He is something of an electric vehicle innovator, inventing the Lynch motor in the 1970s/80s:


Afaik most microcars are pretty much bikes or electric mobility scooters with bodies. Plenty of fun can be had by googling for ‘microcar.’

Even some beefier things like KTM X-Bow or Polaris Slingshot, which are racing cars for all practical purposes, are registered as bikes due to having no safety features.

One of the "selling points" of the Sinclair C5 was that its electric motor was built by Hoover and would be serviced at the existing network of vacuum cleaner service centres[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_C5

In the UK can traffic police stop motorists for no reason? No probable cause required?

Yup (or at least, some reason could always be found). But they don't shoot you as much. So it's swings and roundabouts really.

Yup. In the UK police can also stop and search you at their liberty.

Airstrip One.

They have to have probable cause, but like in most other countries they'll just make something up like they smell drugs or whatever

In the UK they don't have to have probable cause.

Pedal bikes aren't allowed on the motorways in the UK, so I assume this falls under some similar sort of rule.

Edit: never mind; I should read my sources.

I'd love to build my own custom vehicle, I wonder what it would involve in terms of making it road legal

it rear side resembles like a small boat

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