IMG_5138What looks like a small car, but isn’t a car?

Answer:  A TWIKE.

What exactly is a Twike?

This exciting development is a human-electric hybrid vehicle better known as HEHV.  It is designed to carry two passengers and cargo. It has three wheels and is steered by a joystick.

Oh joy!  Really?

Sounds like another boy toy, isn’t it?  Yes, but it is so much more that.

The Twike was revolutionary.  It can be said that the first model was ahead of its time.  It was developed in 1986 for the World Expo in Vancouver, Canada by a group of Swiss students.  At the Expo, it won the ‘Functionality Award’ for the best ergonomic design in the Innovative Vehicle Design Competition (IVDC) and a first prize in the International Human Powered Vehicle Speed Championship. That was back when Twike was completely powered by humans.

Fast forward to 1992, the newly founded TWIKE Ltd. decided to develop TWIKE II into a production vehicle and began looking for capital and customers. Finally, production begun in 1995 but they sold a mere 190 vehicles, mostly in Switzerland and Germany. Staggeringly underwhelming!

But the visionaries who believed in it refused to be beaten.  They continued to develop it until the TWIKE III came to be. This prototype was equipped it with an asynchronous AC motor and 336V NiCd batteries, the system still in use today. And, then simplified the pedal drive to a 5-speed hub gear.

These days, newer models come with better battery types and controllers that allow for longer range. This little hybrid can reach up to 200–275 km depending on the type of battery used, that’s quite a distance.As a hybrid vehicle, it can be driven in electric-only mode or electric + pedal power mode. This makes it an ideal alternative to diesel or electric-powered cars for shorter trips.  And an ideal alternative to joining a fitness club!

Pedaling warns the user, making electric heating in winter unnecessary.  Admittedly, it’s a little problem in summer, a redesign of the body would be necessary to improve airflow into the cabin.

Pedal power extends the range of the vehicle so you can just imagine the cost savings, not only on oil and diesel but also on car maintenance.

On the downside, two fairly sporty riders are needed to pedal the vehicle without the use of the electric motor on smooth surfaces. Meanwhile, solo or unhealthy riders can rely on its electric power for assistance until he or she has worked up to the required strength and stamina through regular use.  Hard work, but imagine the savings on health clubs.

Most of all, considering the reduction in gas emission, Earth and its next generation inhabitants would be so grateful.

These days, there are several types of HEHV vehicles in the market, but not nearly as exciting as the Twike.
The car industry, with its reliance on the ever-decreasing fossil fuel, has no choice but to look at this hybrid as an alternative solution.