1 AUG 2016
Hello PodRide Supporter
This PodRide update contains a lot of information, so please take the time to read and digest it all. We’ll try to keep them shorter in the future.
Key items covered in this update:
- Design Optimization – child seat / more storage
- Manufacturing, Safety tests, Costings
- PodRide availability timing
- IMPORTANT News regarding US & Canadian eBike regulations
- 4 wheel >>> then 3 wheel design
- New Team Member – Garrett in Vancouver
Design Optimization – child seat / more storage:
As you may be aware, Mikael hand built the PodRide prototype. That original design has to be refined to optimize it for manufacture. The design digitization and optimization is ongoing at this time and will take several months.
Our recent supporter survey told us a lot about what is important to you. Many people asked for more storage room in PodRide, and many asked for the option to be able to carry a child in PodRide.
We can report a great piece of news: during the redesign we have been able to modify the storage area of PodRide so that it has enough room to seat a child! If you will not be carrying a child then you have more storage room. This design modification extends the wheelbase by 7 cm and only adds 10 cm (4.3 inches) to the overall length of PodRide. But it opens up a new opportunity for parents that want to take a child with them in PodRide, or those that want to run errands, do shopping etc. with PodRide.
Note: While an adult can actually fit in the child passenger space, this is not endorsed or supported by PodRide as the additional weight will go beyond that which PodRide is engineered to provide for, and could cause a failure with components such as the wheels in cornering or on rough ground. (The exact height and weight limits for the child passenger are yet to be determined, and will be advised at a later date.)
Many people also wanted the option of a convertible (removable roof). This is not possible in version 1 of PodRide because items such as the headlights and front indicators are fixed in the upper shell of PodRide. However we plan to provide the next best thing— we hope to make the front windscreen removable, and the side windows can be rolled up allowing maximum airflow, along with the shade protection of the roof.
Another popular request was to have a solar panel to trickle charge the battery. This is not something that we will be providing in version 1 of PodRide. In a future version of PodRide we may very well provide this as an option, and if so, there is the possibility that this might be able to work with version 1 of PodRide – but no promises at this stage.
Manufacturing, Safety Tests, Costings:
Building any bicycle is no simple task. Building PodRide is significantly more difficult. The normal bicycle supply chain is optimized for 2 wheel bikes. The engineering on 4 wheel bikes is more complex: particularly with matters such as steering, power distribution to the wheels, lateral forces on wheels, braking, manufacturing of a non-standard frame, etc. And the upper frame and canopy are completely out of the experience of pretty much every bicycle manufacturer. Regarding complexity, it may surprise you to learn that there are around 250 components and sub-assemblies in PodRide.
Since we last updated you, we have met with many bicycle manufacturers and suppliers. We have found 3 assemblers that appear to have the capability and skills required to work with us to produce PodRide. Each manufacturer has different strengths, and we will take some time to determine which we will choose to partner with.
Photos from some of the bicycle manufacturers that we visited in early July.
One of the most important components of PodRide is the frame. Many frame manufacturers cannot handle the PodRide frame due to its size and the fact that it is nothing like a regular bike frame. But we have found some frame manufacturers with the ability (and desire) to work with us to optimize and manufacture the PodRide frame.
At this stage, the frame needs to be refined to simplify it for manufacturing. As all frames are hand welded, more welds means more time and cost. The frame design will also need to be optimized for the material selected for production, such as chrome moly or aluminum 6061 or 7005.
The frame will also need to pass extensive safety and durability tests to comply with applicable regulations. As part of the safety standards the frame has to pass extensive testing for strength and fatigue undergoing 100,000 testing cycles. Other key components such as wheels, brakes, steering, etc. also need to be tested or certified compliant.
We are very much aware everyone (including ourselves) wants to know ASAP how much PodRide will cost. Unfortunately we have no costings available at this stage, as it will be some time before our primary manufacturers can provide quotes to us for the custom components such as frame, upper frame and canopy, tooling & jigs, assembly, packaging, shipping, etc.
We are currently sourcing and costing various other components such as brakes, gears, wheels, hubs, etc. We could simply ask our primary PodRide manufacturer to source all components for us, but this would add considerable cost to the end price of PodRide as they will add their margins to all components.
Kit assembly will be much easier:
After talking with various bicycle manufacturers we have come to the view that it will be best, if we pre-assemble and test as much of PodRide as we can prior to shipping. This is for a number of reasons:
- Key components such as the motor and associated electrical components can be tested at the factory to minimize the possibility of such arriving to you DOA (Dead on Arrival).
- Damage prevention: certain components if installed incorrectly may be damaged.
- The most complex assemblies are pre-done which makes life easier for you.
- You get to ride your PodRide earlier.
There will still be assembly required by you, but much of the “heavy lifting” should have been done by us.
Availability Timing and other related issues:
The timing of PodRide’s availability is still difficult to nail down at this stage due to so many variables. But as a ballpark, 12 months is a likely timeframe if everything goes well, 18 months if we encounter unforeseen problems along the way.
The frame is a critical component of PodRide and it will take several months to finalize the design, hand build prototypes, test the prototypes, and incorporate any changes from the testing phase. Once the frame is deemed ready for manufacture the factory needs to build the tooling and jigs required to manufacture the frames, and schedule a manufacturing run.
After we have hand built one or two prototypes based on the new frame design, along with the selected components such as brakes, gears, wheels, etc., we will subject these prototypes to extensive testing in the lab and on the road. This will take time to perform. If the product is going to fail and require changes/improvements made to it, this is the best time to find such problems.
Once we have all our ducks in a row, the supply of components for the assembly line typically takes 2-4 months, but in the case of some components can take longer.
We will also need to pre-sell a minimum number of PodRides to kick the production run off. That number is not yet defined, but likely to be a minimum of 100 units.
We expect that the introduction of PodRide will be similar to the way Tesla has introduced its cars. The first version/s of PodRide will be a more expensive. Subsequent versions will get cheaper over time as we test other component options and refine the design to drive down cost.
Be assured that we feel a pressure to deliver PodRide as soon as we possibly can, but the worst thing we could do is deliver a product with problems. So please bear with us we move forward. We will keep you updated as appropriate – no news does not equal no activity. If unexpected problems arise that will have a major effect on timings we will communicate those to you.
US and Canadian eBike regulations. (4 wheel, then a 3 wheel design):
We would like to publicly say thank you for the great work of Regina, a very helpful and resourceful lady in the US, who volunteered her time and provided us with the most detailed information concerning eBike regulation in the US and Canada. However, this information has led to the uncovering of some disappointing news: a 4 wheel bicycle with pedal assist (or in fact any form of non-human power) is not legal as a bicycle in the US and Canada.
The state of affairs for electric bicycles in the US is messy and complex. Even 2 wheeled electric bikes are illegal in some areas. If you want to read all about this matter you can download the most detailed information we have found regarding US and Canadian Regulations here.
We can get a sense of how messy and confusing the state of U.S. law is by looking at one state: California. California is usually a progressive state when it comes to laws with new technology. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case with 4 wheeled ebikes. The California Vehicle Code defines a bicycle as any device upon which a person may ride, which is propelled by human power through a system of belts, chains, or gears, and having either two or three wheels (one of which is at least 20 inches in diameter) or having a frame size of at least 14 inches, or having four or more wheels. In other words, a bicycle in California can have 4 wheels — no problem.
Unfortunately, California’s definition of ebike is not consistent with the definition of bicycle: an ebike under California law is a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts, but it can only have 2 or 3 wheels. In other words, when a motor is attached, the definition of “bicycle” goes from 4 wheels or more to a maximum of 2 or 3 wheels.
Here’s where it gets even more confusing: we think the reason California limits an ebike to 2 or 3 wheels is to avoid a conflict with federal law. Under federal Public Law 107-319, which amended the federal Consumer Product Safety Act by updating one part of Title 15 of the United States Code, a low-speed electric bicycle is defined as a two or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts. Vehicles that have power and are not bicycles are regulated as “motor vehicles” elsewhere in federal law — they are heavily regulated in particular by a federal agency called the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. A “motor vehicle” is basically a car for our purposes. Therefore, in order to qualify as an electric bicycle under federal law, and not a car, the bicycle must not be a “motor vehicle.” This in turn means that the ebike cannot have more than 3 wheels under federal law. It seems most likely that when California defined ebikes as bikes with not more than 3 wheels, California was trying to avoid having those ebikes be subject to federal regulation as “motor vehicle” (or car), and therefore avoid the strict requirements that apply to automakers.
What does this all of this mean for PodRide in the USA and Canada?
Based on our understanding, it appears that PodRide (with 4 wheels) can only be sold or used legally in the United States and Canada as a bicycle, without the use of a motor.
For those in Canada and the US that want PodRide with a motor, and we believe that is most of you, we plan to design and produce a 3 wheel version of PodRide for the US/Canadian market, with an electric motor. The good news is so long as the ebike has only 2 or 3 wheels, it can be a powerful motor: in California for example, up to a 750 watt motor may be allowed, depending on configuration. This means if you live in a hilly area, PodRide will handle the hills more easily.
The other piece of good news is that after we have completed development of the 4 wheel PodRide, producing the 3 wheel version is expected to progress much more quickly, because we will already have all the component suppliers and manufacturers in place. We may even be able to start the design prior to the completion of the 4 wheel PodRide, and there are a lot of areas of overlap.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the number and complexity of regulations, which often vary by country, state and even city, it is every purchaser’s responsibility to ensure that they are purchasing and using PodRide legally and in compliance with all local rules and regulations.
Garrett from Vancouver joins the team:
Some other good news: we are very happy to announce a new member in the team. Garrett is based in Vancouver and recently graduated as a Mechanical Engineer.
Garrett is a keen cyclocross and mountain bike racer, has worked for many years as a mechanic in bike shops, and has a passion for bicycle component design.
Garrett is set to commence a master’s degree in September, but will be assisting and working with Mikael in the design and engineering of PodRide as time permits.
Cycling, design and engineering are passions for Garrett, along with designing products to assist those with disabilities.
David, Mikael and the PodRide team.