twike2

Twike Pedal Car

March 2, 2012
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March, 2012

Q: What kind of car goes 45 miles on an electric charge and a bowl of cereal?

A: Walter Breitinger’s electric-and human-powered TWIKE. The Valparaiso commodities broker uses his to commute back and forth to his Merrillville office every day. Don’t expect to go down to the local showroom and pick one up just yet, though. The closest dealership is in Seattle.

In fact, there are only four of the Swiss-made vehicles in the United States and only about 320 in the world. However, electric vehicles are gaining popularity and may offer a glimpse into the future of transportation.

Riding down the street in the strange white, three-wheeled capsule, he seems a bit like a visitor from another planet. Pedestrians stop and point. Cars and trucks honk their horn.

“I get it all the time,” Breitinger said. “Usually, it’s thumbs up.”

The police often stop him because the vehicle, which he prefers to call a “Verde”, is not licensed as a car. Breitinger carries a copy of an Indiana law with him, which defines a “motorized bicycle” as a “two- or three-wheeled vehicle that is propelled by a battery powered motor.”

It sometimes doesn’t help, though. He recalled that one time a Valparaiso police officer pulled him over and told him he wasn’t going fast enough.

No serious challenges have been made yet to his right to drive on roads.

“I try not to ever impede traffic,” Breitinger said. He pulls over to the shoulder if cars are stuck behind him on busy roads. He makes the 15 mile commute to his A.G. Edwards & Sons office very day in about 35 minutes. Sometimes, he brings a change of clothing in case he sweats too much.

The TWIKE has pedals and an electric engine that’s smaller than a washing machine motor.

The motor or the pedals or both can be used to power the vehicle. It’s steered with a joystick in the right hand. It also has a computer that would be the envy of any techie.

The computer displays the total amount of current put out by each of the three batteries, the total amount of current being used, the batteries’ temperature, the motor speed, the total distance traveled, and the remaining distance without a charge.

It even says “bye bye” when you shut the machine off. One unique feature of the TWIKE is its brakes. There are four different braking systems. A regenerative braking system actually puts energy back into the battery while the vehicle slows down. It also has hydraulic disk and drum brakes and a parking brake.

Finally, it has good old-fashioned coaster brakes that kick in when you pedal backwards – just like the ones on your bike when you were a kid. The manufacturer said that it can go over 50 mph on a flat surface. Breitinger likes to keep his at 25 mph or less to improve the range. The TWIKE also has the standard car accessories such as windshield wipers, window defogger, a horn, turn signals, lights, and even cruise control.

In a recent TWIKE demonstration in Europe, a group of riders started out from Switzerland and traveled to Europe’s northernmost point in Norway and returned. Breitinger isn’t sure how the TWIKE will perform in the winter, however. He’s worried about traction and cold batteries and said that he may have to resort to other means of getting to work.

Breitinger has been interested in conservation for the last 30 years. His garage is littered with human-powered gadgets. He has pushed grass cutters, arm and leg-powered recumbent bicycles, a recumbent tricycle and numerous regular bicycles. He rode a recumbent bicycle with a shell to work for five years before he bought the TWIKE.

“I want to encourage people to look at alternatives to fossil (fuel) cars,” he said.

He believes that automobiles have harmed people’s health by allowing them to be more sedentary and have harmed the environment with pollutants.

“A lot of aspects of our life have been damaged as a result of the automobile,” he said. “It’s gone way too far.”

He first saw the TWIKE while attending a conference on solar power in Germany. He learned the name of a man in California who bought a TWIKE and went to see him. He was shocked at the $18,000 cost.

All three of the big U.S. automakers have introduced production model electric vehicles (Evs). Ford has an EV Ranger truck, Chrysler ahs an EV minivan. Some automakers, such as Toyota, are working on hybrid vehicles that use both electricity and gasoline to cut emissions.

Even former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iococca is getting into the act. He started a company called EV Global Motors, which is developing Evs. Breitinger believes that has them all beat.

“Their efficiency is nowhere near mine,” he said.

At about 500 pounds, the TWIKE is much lighter than most production vehicles. It also has pedals and an extreme aerodynamic shape.

“My goal is to be without any automobile,” Breitinger said.

“The purpose of this is to demonstrate that these things can be done.”

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.

  • Marcus McReynolds

    This car or ‘Twike’ is brilliant! Can’t sau=y it’s the greatest looking vehicle but certainly beats the EV’s and hybrids out currently out there if you ask me.

  • Bike sporter

    This car has interested me. I’ve been interested of pollutions made by the cars and I also know that the cars are worse to the environment than the fabrics. Of course, there are some environmental friendly cars and the same thing is also with some fabrics, some of them are also environmental friendly. Those powered by electricity are friendly. This is the most environmental friendly car that saves most of the electric energy, it uses up only 8 kWh/100 km. Compared to a gasoline powered car that burns off 5 litres per 100 kilometres 8 kWh is just quite something here. Every litre gasoline is as much energy as 8,72 kWh and 5 litres per 100 kilometres is 43,6 kWh/100 km! The TWIKE is also expensive to buy but cheap to use.

    • ElectricBIke

      Yeah the Twike is an interesting car/bike indeed..thanks for commenting.

      • Bike sporter

        My dad has also been interested of this car. Because of those bicycle pedals he could call it bike. I told him I’d better buy this car instead of any other because I prefer a sportive life style and this is the only car that offers it for its driver and optionally the passenger. He still says he wouldn’t like to have a car like this because of its low-effective motors. Even when I told him about all advantages of this car, he told me it’s for people prefering eco-driving. He would like to be more environmental friendly than he is, he would like to get an electric car but not like this. He even told me I’d better not buy this car. But I don’t listen to it, I follow my own tracks of thinking. In the future I’ll be able to say I got the most environmental friendly car in the world. The top speed is 90 kilometres per hour, that’s also what my dad was critical to but I am more critical against the car producers (except TWIKE producers) that they still make cars you can drive at least 150 kilometres per hour when the all European countries still limit their maximal speeds even on the motorway except Albania and Germany where they got no speed limits, this is bad. In Poland it’s allowed to drive up to 130 or 140 kilometres per hour on motorways, but some Polish drivers ignore those speed limits and drive faster. For us living in Sweden the Polish trains and buses are cheap and I was talking with my parents about leaving the car in Sweden and take the ferry to Poland. We don’t feel safe on the Polish ways and the train is the best thing in Poland. Swedish drivers are more friendly on the ways. They got more respect for cyclists and Sweden is a country where cyclists may feel safe on the ways. Normally on the roads it’s forbidden in Sweden to drive faster than 70, 80 or 90 kilometres per hour depending on how much traffic there is on the ways and how wide the ways are. I also told my dad to compare 150000 crowns with a new gasoline car or a luxury car, this is cheap compared to 250000, 500000 or more crowns. Even if my dad wouldn’t give 150000 crowns for a TWIKE I told him he could buy a cheaper car if the car is used or just older. People shouldn’t think about the cars’ possibilities too much, it’s not safe to drive faster than 90 kilometres per hour. Of course, if I would walk from Överlida to Svenljunga (31 kilometres) it could take 10 hours or more. A usual bike takes 4 hours, so much time it took for my dad to come from Överlida to Svenljunga. For me it took only 2 hours or sometimes even less than that with an electric bike. I don’t mean that travelling through 30 kilometres should take 2 hours, winning more time than a cyclist wins is good but people should think more about how risky it is to drive a car and drive more carefully. If everyone had a TWIKE then the transport would be environmental friendly.

    • ElectricBIke

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment as always. I actually might be picking up a Twike this summer from my buddy Walt who use to own this Domain. It needs a new battery pack and I am going to build a lithium ion one. I am excited.