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Human Powered Vehicle



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The future of personal transportation

World Human Powered Speed Competition

Answers to your most common questions


  1. Why build a human powered vehicle?

  2. Why make a trike instead of a bike?

  3. Why use composites?

Why build a human powered vehicle?


The car is the cornerstone of the American way of life.  Our cars are as much a part of our identity as fast food. Why would we want to replace them? Firstly, the idea behind the competition is to build something that could take the place of the average commuter vehicle. Global warming and the rising price of crude oil are what most people consider when discussing alternative energy cars. Cities of the future, such as ones being designed in china will be completely encapsulated, self-contained biospheres. However, people will still need to get from point a to point b. In the future however, the distance from B to A will be shorter than it is now. There were over 6 million deaths from auto accidents in 1999 (1), and the numbers have only increased. Everyone has experienced the morning traffic jam on their way to work, taking over an hour to drive 20 miles.


If we look at those facts, completely ignoring the effects of cars on our environment, we can still see the use for a human powered vehicle. We could double the capacity of our existing roads by narrowing the lanes and cut down on fatalities by limiting the top speed to a person's pedaling capacity. Our most talented riders have achieved max speeds is excess of 40 mph, with the average person doing about 30 mph. With shorter commuting distances and more flow rate through intersections, the commute should be faster than normal work commuting.


Keeping those facts in mind, we can then talk about the costs of driving a car. More moving parts = more maintenance costs. If the cost of crude oil continues to rise, the resulting consumer-end price increase will start to affect other oil-based products (the biggest example is plastics). Add the increasing obesity epidemic and the global warming crisis, and the only reasonable, cost-effective solution is to mass produce human-powered vehicles.


Why build a trike instead of a bike?


The world record for a human powered vehicle (81 mph) was achieved at the world human powered speed challenge in 2002. Yes, the bike is two-wheeled, however the course is a circular race track. The biggest reason for the three-wheeled design can be seen in the picture of a two-wheeled human powered vehicle rider tipping over on a corner. Tight corners are a natural part of the way roads are created. Multiple people are required to hold the bike after the rider enters because there is no way for him to do it himself. A trike solves all of those problems by being stable and single-rider friendly. A trike also creates space with which to store groceries or a briefcase, as many people carry on  daily basis.



Why use carbon fiber?


Composites have the largest strength to weight ratio of any material currently known to man. For this reason, composites are being incorporated into everyday life. Even modern automobiles are now largely composite materials. It would only make sense that we would use these safe, innovative materials to make our vehicles.








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Updated 3-14-08