Velomobile News from Holland

A couple of news items from Holland.

Sinner to Cease Recumbent Bike Production?

According to Sinner is to stop producing the Demon and Spirit recumbent bikes, instead concentrating their efforts on the Comfort delta trike and the Mango velomobile.  A quick review of the Sinner website turned up no information but Ligtfiets advise that existing stock of the Spirit and Demon will continue to be sold.

Mark 2 Sunrider is to be made available as a kit and branded the Alligt A9

Alligt have a photo of the new Sunrider body with the different elements highlighted in one of the three standard body colours.  There is a caveat that the actual shade of yellow will be slightly different from that shown, but it gives a nice idea of how the finished machine is assembled.  The most obvious changes are the the rear of the body with a squarer ending reminiscent of the Versatile/Orca but there are quite a number of other more subtle changes to the body which should improve water-tightness and sound.

Alligt A9 body in colourWhat is not visible here are the substantial sub-frame and numerous standard Alligt components that have been incorporated into the design.

The particularly interesting news is that the Sunrider will be available as a self build kit along side the A4, A6, A7 and A8.  Not too surprisingly the kit will be sold as the A9.

Prices in Euros are available via the Alligt website but to summarise, depending on options: the A9 kit will range from 4,195 to 7,395; and a completed Sunrider ranges from 6,595 to 8,895.  A “Moped” class Sunrider is also available suitable for type-approval in Germany for 10,595.Photo of mark 2 Sunrider prototype


Final Visit to Dronten

I am back in the UK and have been busy with work on the website back-end, including dealing with a security breach in which the site was hacked and “malicious” code and links were injected into most pages. It is believed the “damage” has been cleaned up but if you notice any suspicious behaviour on the site please let us know.

I have several articles to post and I will shortly be writing up both my test rides and manufacturer visits in more detail. Meanwhile here is a report of my last day in Flevoland.

Photo of a Sunrider on Harderdijk FlevolandThe last day was marred by an accident in the Sunrider. As I returned from Putten I performed an inadvertent Elk Test on a cycle-path-roundabout in Harderwijk, and overturned.

Google Maps view of Harderwijk JunctionThis was the third time I had passed through this particular cycle junction. The first day in the Alleweder, I had passed very slowly, giving more attention to reading the fietspad direction signs and following the map on my iPhone, to be able to properly observe the path. The evening before I had passed through at some speed, and felt comfortable with how the velomobile handled, albeit in the opposite direction. This was the second time in the Sunrider, and I had assumed that the flow of the junction would be the same in the opposite direction. As I entered the junction I experienced a sharp turn to the right followed by a sharp turn to the left, at just enough speed to loose control and then roll over. I became aware things were going wrong in the middle of the maneuver and had that feeling of helplessness as I tried to slow and correct the steering. Instead I felt myself slowly falling over and found myself on my side with a grazed hand and elbow and significant damage to the Sunrider upper body.

Being an engineer I have a strong urge to analyise the accident and learn the why. However I currently have no opportunity to investigate the site as I would like. The accident may have been compounded by a number of factors: a tendency of the particular model I was riding at the time to pull to the left when braking, thus adding to the over turning force; the contribution of adverse camber; or I may have touched the centre curb, etc, etc. However, despite the accident, I beat my time of the previous day by about 30 minutes!

Photo of a Sunrider above the Canal at BiddinghuizenLaying aside the accident, my impression of the Sunrider was positive. The drenching which was avoided on the previous day was definitely part of that impression. Despite being very heavy (c. 43 Kg) it was not difficult to ride, and I was pleasantly surprised by the performance increase over the previous day. However to be fair, the performance comparison should really only be made after at least a couple of journeys in each machine over the same route, to average out any differences due to muscle training and route knowledge.

The design does need some refinement and I am pleased to report that Leo Vischer is doing excellent work developing the Mk 2 Sunrider which should go a long way to answering those criticisms. The Mk 2 is expected to be on the market by the summer of 2013.

After returning the Sunrider to Alligt, and sorting out how to pay for the damage*, I again visited Flevobike, where I had an arrangement to test ride an Orca. The machine I tested was one with the electric assist option, the “stealth black” model in the photo. Andre Vrielink went over the controls with me as well as making a minor adjustment to fit the Orca to my size.

Photo of 2 Orca Velomobiles outside FlevobikeI was not able to take the Orca back to Putten, however I was able to give it a good run round Dronten over some varied terrain, enough to revise my initially negative impression to a much more positive one, but more of that later.

After the ride I was able to spend some time with Andre discussing the Orca, Flevobike and velomobiles in general. I was particularly interested to learn the differences between the original Versatile and the Orca, as visually it is hard to distinguish one from the other. These may well be summarised as, a number of refinements to the details and build method, that significantly improve the build quality, and give an incremental improvement on the performance.

*Before doing any significant test-riding in Europe I would strongly recommend ensuring you have suitable cycle cover that includes coverage for cycles you ride that are loaned to you.

To Dronten and back by Velomobile

Yesterday I cycled 45 km (28 miles) from Dronten to Putten in an Alleweder A4.

Photo of the Alleweder A4 in PuttenToday was unsettled and I waited till early afternoon before I returned.  On the return journey I managed to avoid getting lost in Harderwijk, as I had done yesterday, and also managed to follow a shorter route, less then 41 km ( miles).  As it happened, waiting for the weather to clear in Putten had minimum value as I had to contend with a lengthy shower from before Ermelo till I reached Harderwijk.  Once on Flevoland the weather was much improved and I had a mixture of sun shine and clouds all the way to Dronten.

Photo of Alleweder A4 on HarderdijkAgain I had opportunity to chat with Leo Vischer before retuning to Putten this time in a covered Sunrider.  I was able to follow the same route back with a couple of deviations which added approximately 1 km to the journey.  It was good to be able to compare the two different velomobiles over the same route, albeit in opposite directions, as there were both positive and negative differences, but more of that later.

Photo of a Sunrider outside AlligtThe mild soaking of the morning journey was nothing compared to the weather I had to contend with on the journey back to Putten.  The Sunrider cover proved it’s value!  My route took me along Harderdijk for about 5 km.  A straight two-way cycle path along the dyke separating Flevoland from the Zuider Zee.  For almost the whole length I was battered with a heavy squall.  The rain was so bad I had to cycle without my glasses.  While the Sunrider did leak in places, compared to the Alleweder I rode earlier, I was kept very dry!

Photo of Sunrider Velomobile looking along HarderdijkMy limited level of fitness prevents me from pushing these machines anywhere near there limits, and I am very slow, but I was pleased to observe I was able to cover almost twice the distance of my first day without the jelly-legs of the day before.  I am looking forward to the return journey tomorrow.

Dronten – Take-two

Today I took the Bus and visited Dronten for the second time.  On the previous occasion only Velomobiel were open, as the other velomobile manufacturers had decamped to the SPEZI in Germany, so this time I visited both Alligt and Flevobike.

Flevobike came first, where I had an appointment to meet with Johan Vrielink, one of the original founders of what is now Flevobike.  Here I also met with Jos Sluijsmans of  Both were part of the team that organised the recent Velomobile Seminar, which is currently planed to be repeated in 2014.

Johan Vrielink is now retired but for all that he is still full of energy with an active mind, and ideas to promote and further the velomobile concept and secure a greater knowledge and acceptance of the velomobile as a very practical mode of transport.  Jos is quieter but similarly full of ideas and it is encouraging that both their minds, as well as others, are engaged on this problem.  I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and flow of ideas.

Johan also gave us both a tour of the Flevobike facility where the Orca velomobile and the Green Machine recumbent are manufactured. A professional facility.  Here we also met Andre Kjaersgaard, from Velomobil Center in Denmark, who is working a placement to gain skills to service the Orca velomobile in his home country.

Next I went round to Alligt where I was able to talk with Leo Vischer for a while.  Again more ideas, and reality checks too, a good conversation.  One is impressed with both the possibilities and also the fact, that at present, there is not enough time as resources to pursue them all.  Much material to write about another time.

I was then able to borrow an Alleweder A4 for my return trip to Putten.  Perhaps I was mad, some think I am, but I had to prove for myself what I already believed, that a 45 km (28 mile) trip was quit realistic when tackled with a velomobile.  First of all I am currently very unfit and secondly this was the farthest I had ever traveled in a recumbent position. To cut things short, I was slow, slower than I originally expected, but I made it with nothing worse than jelly-legs.  I plan to write more on the Alleweder later.  Now I must get some sleep and make the return journey tomorrow.

Photo taken from an Alleweder A4 on the Fietspad leaving DrontenLeaving Dronten

Photo taken from an Alleweder A4 on a farm road approaching HarderwijkBetween Dronten & Harderwijk

The velomobile: neither bicycle nor car

Kris De Decker of Low-Tech Magazine kindly allowed me to republish an article from 2010 – The velomobile: high-tech bike or low-tech car?  It gives and an excellent, but slightly dated, overview of the velomobile with a somewhat American flavour.  As such the opinions expressed, especially those in the conclusion, are those of the original author.  It is none-the-less well worth reading.  Here it is largely unedited.


Picture: the Versatile.

Recumbent bikes with bodywork evoke a curious effect. They look as fast as a racing car or a jet fighter, but of course, they’re not.

Nevertheless, thanks to the recumbent position, the minimal weight and the outstanding aerodynamics, pedalling a “velomobile” requires three to four times less energy than pedalling a normal bicycle.

This higher energy efficiency can be converted felt in terms of comfort, but can also be utilised to attain higher speeds and longer distances – regular cyclists can easily maintain a cruising speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) or more. The velomobile thus becomes an excellent alternative to the automobile for medium distances, especially in bad weather.

Basically, a velomobile is a recumbent bike with the addition of a bodywork. Recumbent bikes are considered a bit weird, but they have some interesting advantages over normal bicycles. For example, a recumbent bike has no saddle but a comfortable seat with back support, so that you sit or lie more comfortably and can keep pedalling for longer. Because of their superior aerodynamic capabilities, pedalling on a recumbent takes less effort, allowing you to travel more quickly and further than on a normal bicycle. Recumbent bikes can have two, three or four wheels. Trikes (3 wheels) and quads (4 wheels) offer the additional benefit of stability.


Picture: the Scorpion.

A velomobile – almost always a trike – offers two extra advantages over normal recumbent tricycles. The bodywork protects the rider (and mechanical parts) from the weather, so that the vehicle can be used in any season or climate. Furthermore, the aerodynamic shape of the bodywork further improves the efficiency of the vehicle, with spectacular results.

Velomobile versus bicycle

From the table below (source.pdf) one can observe that the power output required to achieve a speed of 30 kilometres per hour (18.6 mph) in a state-of-the-art velomobile (the Quest) is only 79 watts, compared to 271 watts on a normal bicycle and 444 watts on a neglected bicycle. Pedalling at a speed of 30 km/h thus requires 3.5 times less energy with a velomobile than with a normal bicycle. Going flat out (a power output of 250 watts) gives you a speed of 29 km/h (18 mph) on a normal bicycle and 50 km/h (31 mph) on a velomobile.

Speed compàrison bikes

Source: “The velomobile as a vehicle for more sustainable transportation” (pdf).

NASA rates the average long-term power output for a male adult at 75 watts, while fit individuals might easily sustain more than 100 watts for several hours, from 200 to 300 watts for one hour, and between 300 and 400 watts for at least 10 minutes. Lance Armstrong is said to have averaged between 475 and 500 watts for 38 minutes during an uphill climb in the 2001 Tour de France. (Source: The human powered home).

If you normally commute by bicycle, you can do two things with a velomobile: Retain the same speed as you normally do, but use 3.5 times less energy, or arrive at your destination twice as quickly with the same effort. This high efficiency greatly enlarges the range of a pedal powered vehicle. The bicycle is generally being viewed as a transport means for short distances, mostly below 5 kilometres or 3 miles (= cycling 15 minutes at a speed of 20km/h or 12.4 mph). However, the average distance of a car trip in Europe and in the US amounts to between 13 and 15 kilometres (8 and 9.3 miles).

Sinner mango red

Picture: the Sinner Mango Red Edition.

A velomobile reaches a constant cruising speed of 35 km/h (21.7 mph) with the same energy output, so that the distance covered in 15 minutes becomes 9 kilometres (5.5 miles) instead of 5 kilometres (3 miles). At a speed of 45 km/h (not unusual for a regular cyclist) the distance covered in 15 minutes becomes more than 11 kilometres (6.8 miles). Thus, twenty minutes of pedalling on a velomobile sufficiently covers an average automobile trip. The velomobile could replace a substantial portion of car miles, especially because the vehicles also protect their occupants from wind, rain and cold.


Picture: the Quest.

By definition, velomobiles are built for speed. The bodywork offers a distinct advantage at higher speeds, starting at 20 to 25 km/h (12.4 to 15.5 mph). Above those speeds, almost all energy produced by a cyclist is channelled toward combating air resistance. Because of the upright position, the aerodynamics of a cyclist on a normal bicycle are disappointing. A velomobile, on the other hand, suffers less air resistance than even the most aerodynamic sports car.

At lower speeds, however, the relatively heavy (25 to 40 kilograms) velomobile becomes a disadvantage. It accelerates slower than a normal bicycle, and has considerably more difficulty climbing a hill. An electric assist motor can solve this problem in hilly regions. The motor can help the velomobile climb, while energy can be recovered from the brakes during the descent. Of course, an electric assist can also be considered on flat terrain, an option that is gaining a lot of popularity these days.


Picture: the Leiba x-stream.

By definition, the velomobile is essentially built for longer distances. For shorter city trips the traditional bicycle is unbeatable. It accelerates faster, it is more manoeuvrable, and it is very easy to hop on and off.

Velomobile versus electric car

Dries Callebaut and Brecht Vandeputte, the Belgian designers of the WAW-velomobile, calculated how the efficiency of a velomobile relates to the efficiency of an electric automobile (using their own data and this source). During an eco-marathon earlier this year they equipped their velomobile with an electric motor, a complete substitution for pedal power. This is not really what the vehicle is intended for, but the advantage of the experiment is that it allows for an unequivocal comparison.

The energy consumption of the WAW was measured at 0.7 kWh per 100 kms (62 miles). This makes the velomobile in excess of 20 times more efficient than electric cars currently on the market. For example, the Nissan Leaf requires 15 kWh per 100 kms. The enormous difference is of course due to the enormous difference in weight. Without the battery, the Nissan weighs just over a ton, while the WAW weighs less than 30 kgs.

Versatile zijkant

Picture: the Versatile.

For a human powered velomobile the comparison is a bit more complicated and open to interpretation, because a human does not run (primarily) on electricity, but on biomass. The efficiency of a human powered velomobile thus depends on what the cyclist eats (the efficiency of an electric car also depends on how the electricity is generated). Callebaut and Vandeputte set the primary energy use to 0.6 kWh/100 km for a vegetarian diet from your own garden, to 2.4 kWh per 100 km for the average diet of the western non-vegetarian.


Picture: the Versatile.

A human powered velomobile is thus 15 to 62 times more energy efficient than a Nissan Leaf. Not just 6 to 25 times, because we are comparing primary energy here. The 15 kWh that is consumed by the Nissan equates to around 37.5 kWh primary energy since electricity plants (in Europe) have an efficiency of 40 percent.

You can also argue that burning fat is a positive thing regardless of where food comes from, since obesity and a lack of exercise are endemic throughout the western world. The energy that is now being wasted in fitness centres, or the fat that is hanging in front of the television, could be put to good use as an oil substitute in transportation. In this view, the velomobile consumes (just as the cyclist and the pedestrian) 0,00 kWh per 100 kilometres.


The origins of the velomobile can be traced back to the beginnings of the twentieth century, but the modern, streamlined velomobile only appeared in the 1980s. The first commercially available velomobile was the Danish Leitra. In 1993, the Dutch Alleweder appeared on the market. About 500 of them were were sold in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany throughout the 1990s.

Alleweder 5

Picture: the Alleweder.

The Alleweder introduced an important technological innovation: the self-supporting, monocoque coach work, similar in construction to that of a car – though much lighter. This gave the velomobile a sturdier construction without weighing it down. The suspension system introduced by the Alleweder was also inspired by automobiles. The bodywork of the original Alleweder is made from aluminum plates riveted together, a technique inspired by airplane builders.

With or without a roof

All velomobiles produced since then are based on the construction principles of the Alleweder. The only difference is that the bodywork no longer consists of aluminum but is made up of composites (like Kevlar). These materials are more expensive, but offer more freedom in designing the fairing, allowing for better aerodynamics.

Go one 3

Picture: the Go One 3.

A modern velomobile weighs between 24 and 40 kilograms, is about 250 centimetres long, 80 centimetres wide and 95 centimetres high. The three wheels have suspension and the bodywork has integrated rear view mirrors, head lights, indicators and (sometimes) brake lights. A velomobile also has a luggage compartment comparable to that of a sports car.

The present-day velomobile comes in two varieties: vehicles in which the head of the driver sticks out (like the Quest, the WAW, the Versatile, the Mango, the Velayo, and the Alleweder) and vehicles in which the driver is fully enclosed (like the Go-One, the Leiba, the Leitra, the Pannonrider and the Cab-Bike). In the case of a fully enclosed vehicle, part of the bodywork can be opened to get in and out. In a half-open velomobile, the driver enters and leaves via the hole where the head sticks through.

Velomobiles can have open or closed wheel arches. Closed wheel arches give better aerodynamics but they make the turning cycle larger and hamper the changing of a tyre.


Picture: the Pannonrider (picture credit) has solar panels on the bodywork (wind power is another option!).

Fully enclosed velomobiles give the best protection against bad weather, of course, but they do carry a few disadvantages. The main problem has to do with ventilation. Even in cold weather, the driver may “overheat”. A body that delivers 200 watts, produces around 1000 watts of waste heat, which mostly escapes via the head. In a fully enclosed velomobile hearing and sight are also affected. The windshield can steam up or it can become opaque because of rain or snow (windscreen wipers are not an option on any velomobile, probably because of the extra weight that would be added by motor and battery).


Picture: the Velayo.

A fully enclosed velomobile thus needs an efficient natural ventilation system (which can happen via air intake in the nose of the vehicle). Some manufacturers have come up with a compromise. The WAW has a small optional roof with a ventilation system that can be manipulated from the inside of the vehicle. It can be quickly installed and it fits in the trunk when folded up. The Versatile also has a smart roof, bypassing the heat and ventilation problem while still protecting the rider from the rain.


Picture: the Hase Klimax.

The German manufacturer Hase recently presented a recumbent tricycle with a foldable fairing (and an electric assist motor). This is not a compromise between a fully or a semi-enclosed velomobile but between the latter and a normal recumbent trike – the most comfortable and aerodynamic option in warm weather.


Recently, some two-seater velomobiles have appeared, such as the Bakmobiel (a cargo bike) and the DuoQuest. The essential idea is that occupants sit next to each other. It’s good to see that cosiness still beats aerodynamics.


Another recent trend are velomobiles that have been especially designed to easily hop in and out of. The adapted design lowers weather protection and aerodynamics, but the result is still a more efficient bicycle at higher speeds, which comes in handy for shorter distances.

Are velomobiles too expensive?

The high purchase price is often mentioned as one of the largest obstacles for a breakthrough of the velomobile in the mainstream market. A fully equipped machine will cost you at least 5,000 euro (6,700 dollar) – considerably more than what you pay for a good quality bicycle. In the US prices have come down from a level twice as high, since now some of the popular Northern European brands are also produced in the States. Shipping a velomobile across the Atlantic is not cheap.


Picture: the Quest.

The high price stems partly from the surcharge of a recumbent, but mainly from bodywork. Each velomobile is hand-crafted, with the fairing requiring the most work. It would of course be cheaper to produce velomobiles on an assembly line, especially when this would happen in a low-wage country. But even then – including social exploitation and extra environmental costs – nobody expects to see a velomobile sold for less than half the current price. Lightweight materials, crucial to make the technology work, just happen to be expensive.


Picture: the Quest.

You can look at it differently, of course. A velomobile is more expensive than a bicycle, but it is cheaper than an automobile. Since the performance and the comfort are also in between that of a car and a bicycle, the price starts to look more reasonable. Moreover, a car requires fuel, and a velomobile doesn’t. Maintenance is limited to changing the tyres. Whoever changes his or her automobile for a velomobile is definitely making a economical decision. Governments could help overcome the purchase price by financially supporting velomobiles instead of electric cars and biofuels – at least their ecological gain is clear and they don’t need a completely new charging infrastructure.

Alternative to the automobile?

The most important obstacle for the velomobile is not the purchase price. It is the competition of the automobile. Although a velomobile can ride on a wide enough bicycle path, because of its larger dimension and higher speeds the vehicle is more suited for the road. The concept of the velomobile is sound as long as the vehicle does not have to share the road with automobiles. On current roads, piloting a velomobile would be relatively dangerous. Car drivers don’t always see you, and in spite of the many strengthenings in the bodywork you are very vulnerable against, say, a Jeep Cherokee.

Alleweder a6

Picture: the Alleweder.

A breakthrough in the velomobile thus requires either a completely new infrastructure for pedal power, or the substitution of velomobiles (and other human powered vehicles) for automobiles on the existing local and regional road system. The latter option, which I prefer, would not be conducive to car sales, but there is nothing or nobody that stops car manufacturers from producing velomobiles.

© Kris De Decker (edited by Shameez Joubert)

Alligt, Jouta and the Sunrider Velomobile

Since taking over Sunrider Alligt has been busy developing and refining the design and build method.  Despite an external similarity there has been much changed “under the hood”. has a brief article outlining the principal differences between the new and old versions and according to the comment by Jos Sluijsmans the new Sunrider 2.0 will be on display at the Velomobile Seminar later this week.

Jouta, whose own velomobile was covered in this year’s SPEZI report, now have their new website online.  In addition to their original front wheel drive delta trike and fairing they also report that they are very busy building sunrider velomobiles.  They say they are working hard developing a new type of sunrider.  It is unclear whether this is an independent effort or if it is being done in collaboration with Alligt.

Alligt to produce K-Drive elliptical crank system commercially

As reported on Wim Schermer’s blog the K_Drive elliptical crank system is to be made available by Alligt, the manufacturer of the Alleweder and Sunrider family of velomobiles. Alligt intends to present the new drive at the 7th international Velomobile Seminar in a few weeks time.

Alligt K-DriveLike many, if not all, modern innovations in cycle technology the K-Drive can be traced back to the period of intense creativity in the late 1800s. The modern form was developed by Miles Kingsbury and successfully used on the Kingcycle but the mechanism itself appears to have been first described in 1890.

The renewed interest, which has lead Alligt to start production, came from the University of Delft’s current attempt on the Human Powered Land Speed Record with their VeloX 2 HPV. To optimize aerodynamics the Human Power Team’s research and experience with VeloX 1, lead them to conclude that the way forward is to significantly reduce the frontal cross section of the nose. However the size of this section is determined largely by the swept volume required for the cranks, pedals and feet of the rider. It therefore became necessary to develop a transmission that could reduce the vertical dimension of this volume. Patrick Fenner of Deferred Procrastination calculates this reduction to be of the order of 45%. His post on the K-Drive gives a good overview and also includes a demonstration video of the Human Power Team’s drive in motion. Of course the proof of the pudding will be in the eating with 26 days to go till the test at Battle Mountain.

Battle MountainAlligt already produce a nice collection of specialist parts for recumbents and velomobiles and this should prove useful home builders and potentially commercial manufactures who are looking to emulate the approach of the Human Power Team and VeloX 2.