30 July 2011


Here are two new developments in the realm of travel ~ each is the most recent iteration in a long line of predecessors. The first is a velomobile, a human-powered vehicle which is enclosed for improved aerodynamics and protection from weather and collisions. The newest version, called the Versatile (see image above), places the rider in a recumbent position, and is so light that it requires a fraction of the energy needed to propel a bicycle. Given its easy cruising speed of 25 mph and its increased range, it offers a viable alternative to the automobile for city commuting. Here is an entertaining slide show demonstrating an assortment of manufacturers and riders.

The second development is a roadable aircraft (or flying car, depending on how you view it), the Model 367 Bipod Hybrid (see image below, and click on the link for another slide show), designed by legendary aerospace engineer Burt Rutan. The pursuit of such a crossover vehicle has gone on for decades. Rutan's design takes the radical step of incorporating not one passenger compartment, but two, contained in twin fuselages forming a four-wheel chassis. For ground operations, the wings and tail can be stowed in the aerodynamic booms linking the two fuselages. Each fuselage has a 450cc engine which provides electrical power to the wheels or to the propellors.

Interestingly, ground operation is controlled from the left cockpit, while flight is controlled from the right cockpit. Thus the vehicle provides travel for one, but with little cargo or passenger capacity. To this extent, the Model 367 may not provide as much utility as the Terrafugia, described in earlier posts. But the presence of Burt Rutan in the field of designers adds a definite aura of credibility. Perhaps the sky really is no limit after all.

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