Mar 022010
 

HumanCar

Can also be used store energy

At first glance it might look a bit like an elongated pedal car for kids, but its designers are convinced the HumanCar Imagine PS NEV is a serious player in the search for cleaner, greener ways to get around. The vehicle converts the rowing motion of the driver and any passengers into rotational thrust to charge a battery and power the vehicle in conjunction with an electric motor. So not only is it healthy for the planet – it is healthy for the occupants too. And as an added bonus the vehicle can also be used store energy and act as a backup power generator to provide electricity to the home.

History

The HumanCar is the brainchild of Chief Scientist/Engineer Charles Samuel Greenwood P.E., who first hit upon the idea for a human powered car some 40 years ago. Sitting in a traffic jam in Silicon Valley in 1968 Greenwood noticed the many overweight commuters sitting in their cars breathing in noxious exhaust fumes. He was inspired to create a modest modification to vehicles that would reduce the need for conventional fuel, while at the same time providing exercise.

Searching for a full-body workout Greenwood eschewed a bicycle-type mechanism in favor of the rowing-like mechanism and developed the forerunner to the Impulse PS, the FM-4 (Fully Manual – 4 people). This was a research “skeleton” car that was built to test the concept of a human powered vehicle and the lessons it provided eventually led to the development of the Impulse PS (Power Station) NEV.

The innovative vehicle is dubbed an NEV because it falls into the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) classification for low speed vehicles. So although the HumanCar is capable of reaching speeds of around 62 mph (100 km/h) it is limited to 25 mph (around 40 km/h) to comply with the classification.

The car includes seating for four, with rowing handlebars for each passenger. It can be powered by one, two, three or four people, the battery-powered electric motor, or any combination of human and electric power. The battery can also be charged via a standard electrical outlet if you feel you’ve had your quota of exercise for the day.

To make the most out of the power generated the vehicle also incorporates a regenerative braking system and an advanced power system to enhance overall efficiency. Because steering using the rowing handles would be too difficult to control the vehicle is steered by “Body Steering” (read leaning into turns). According to Chuck Greenwood, HumanCar Inc. CEO and son of Charles Greenwood, this is apparently much more intuitive (not to mention more fun) than using a conventional steering wheel.

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