Could an ancient battle at Kadesh between the Egyptians and Hittites in 1274 B.C. reveal design solutions for personal mobility? Daniel deCordova from Madboy Electric Vehicles in Seattle thinks so. His startup company has developed a kit that will add an electric-motor drive system to bicycle pedicabs that carry passengers within urban centers.
By studying a historic battle near Damascus in present-day Syria that involved more than 5,000 horse-drawn chariots, deCordova found two types of propulsion systems that helped launch empires during Old Testament times.
“The Egyptians positioned the axle of the chariot toward the rear of the vehicle to give them quickness and maneuverability,” he said. This allowed an archer and driver on their horse-drawn platform to engage the field of battle in multiple directions.
“But the Hittites positioned the axle in the center of the chariot.” This slight shift in the center of gravity allowed an archer, driver and extra defender to ride in a more stable platform. The Hittite chariots were slower than the Egyptian vehicles, but the extra warrior onboard allowed for more defensive, as well as offensive strategies by squadrons of chariots when surrounded by enemy forces.
The Interbike 2013 conference at Mandalay Bay was the setting for this conversation, where deCordova attended a motorized bicycle training session taught by Don Gerhardt of the Light Electric Vehicle Association. LEVA is an industry-trade organization that includes manufacturers and distributors of motorized electric bicycles, electric scooters, power wheelchairs and motorized shopping carts.
Gerhardt, an engineer who formerly worked for General Motors and Ingersoll Rand, saw the need to develop more standardized training tools for this eclectic industry. Many bicycle mechanics have never studied electric motors or battery technologies during their years of repair experience, so bicycle distributors who want to sell these vehicles need educational resources for their technical staff.
Although motorized electric bikes are popular in China and are catching on in Europe, the U.S. market has grown more slowly. Companies such as Currie Technologies, Pedego, A2B, OHM, Bionix and Polaris occupied a small corner of a vast exhibit hall at Mandalay Bay during Interbike 2013.
However, mainstream automotive companies are keeping an eye on the technologies associated with this industry. Ford Motor Co. recently announced an agreement with Pedego to brand a light electric vehicle under its product lines. The first 2014 Ford Supercruiser electric bicycle was designed by Tony Ellsworth and is powered by a 600-watt hub motor with front and rear disc brakes, a six-speed gear shifter and a swappable lithium-ion battery pack.
Energie Cycles, a Las Vegas manufacturer, is looking to brand one of its e-bikes with another major automotive manufacturer. The company develops battery-powered mobility solutions, including a folding electric bicycle that weighs less than 50 pounds. Energie Cycles closed new sales during Interbike 2013 while adding jobs to the local economy.
“Back to the Future” was the theme of a DeLorean DMC-12 owners’ meet-up in Las Vegas last week. The gathering featured multiple appearances by “Doc Brown” impersonators and replicas of his famous movie time machine. Or maybe it was just one Doc Brown and his DeLorean traveling through time.
Local residents Bob and Gail Brandys hosted the event and showcased their 1982 DeLorean DMC-12, which had been converted to run on an electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries.
Electric cars are a throwback to the turn of the 20th century, when electric-motor technologies competed against other horseless propulsion systems fueled by steam, kerosene, ethyl alcohol and eventually gasoline.
During the turn of the 21st century, plug-in electric car technologies have been revived in modern cars such as the Tesla Motors Model S, Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf Ford Fusion Energi, Toyota Prius PHV and Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
National Plug-In Day 2013 celebrated this rebirth in 97 cities across the country during the last weekend of September. Plug-In Day Las Vegas was staged under a photovoltaic solar cell canopy at the NV Energy building at 6226 W. Sahara Ave. Owners of about 45 electric vehicles converged at the center of the NV Energy parking lot, plugged into a ChargePoint “juice bar” and gave free demonstration rides to interested visitors.
Retro-modern technologies will continue to drive transportation industries “back to the future.”
Stan Hanel has worked in the electronics industry for more than 30 years and is a longtime member of the Electric Auto Association and the Las Vegas Electric Vehicle Association. Hanel writes and edits for EAA’s “Current Events” and LVEVA’s “Watts Happening” newsletters.