Curbside Classic: The Human Powered RV, Version 2.0

Almost ten years ago, I shot the original Human Powered RV and posted it at the old site. I’d seen it being pedaled around in traffic, albeit very slowly, and one fine evening it was parked and I approached it to take some shots. Its owner/builder was not very friendly, and the encounter was short-lived.

I saw that at some point it was being replaced by a larger three-wheel version, but hadn’t seen it out on the street in some time. But the other night I caught it on a rare outing, and this time the owner was much more accommodating; well, up to a point. Not too surprisingly, having a conversation with him is a challenge, as he’s constantly diverging into subjects that to me seemed quite unrelated to me, but clearly not to him. So although I have more pictures this time, I still didn’t get a detailed description of certain key mechanical aspects.

Some things are best left a bit mysterious, and this is one of them.

Here’s V.1.0, although my numbering sequence is not really very accurate as it was a perpetual work in progress. Clearly, the living space in it was much smaller. And it’s a genuine two-wheeled bicycle, unlike the new one which is a trike. Given how slow these are under way, that makes quite a lot of sense. The gearing is ultra low, with several reduction gears employed. This version did have a solar panel on the canopy, but I’m not sure its power was used for propulsion, as every time I saw it it was being pedaled and moving at a pace that seemed to roughly correspond to the human effort being expended.

The current version does not have a visible solar panel, although perhaps there is one on the sloping section of the roof. But I did not see any obvious evidence of a battery or electric motor. And as I said, the owner-builder was not able communicate in a linear fashion so as to be able to engage in an exchange of information.

That’s too bad, as he clearly has a very high degree of mechanical and structural aptitude, to build these out nothing but aluminum stock, foil-faced rigid insulation, and bicycle parts. I’m not sure what the steering wheel was built out of, but It’s not just some recycled car wheel, which almost anyone else would have done.  A couple of derailleur shifters are visible on the “console”.

Here’s a look at the steering mechanism.

And the living area. It appears he’s not currently living in it, and he did say something about the rig being stored behind the burger cart where he said he works.

The upper deck above the enclosed living area, and the upstairs enclosed room. Looking at the underside of the loping roof, it’s quite evident that there is no solar panel there.

But there is this recycled headlight.

Now that I look at these pictures more closely, there are three small portable solar cells lined up against the far railing.

I would have really liked to get a detailed view of the gearing system. From what I could see, there’s several sets of bicycle derailleur gears to provide the massive gear reduction.

And there’s a flywheel, that large round disk.

Here’s a close-up shot of the other side of the flywheel, which has weights on it, and some of the gears. When I asked about the flywheel, the owner launched into something about Seegrave V12 fire pumper engines, but I was not able to follow his line of thinking or make an apparent connections despite my inherent interest in Seegrave V12s.

Here’s another shot of the mechanical area, but not enough detail to sort it all out. But it works, and once again, I have to acknowledge his creativity and skill.

I came away this time with more details and a much more friendly encounter with its creator than last time, but that still leaves a few questions unanswered. I suspect that’s not likely to change.