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Earth Day Special: The Human Car HC Imagine_PS

The Human Car is sort of rowing machine on wheels, with people using the combination handlebars and sliding seats to power the vehicle and run the electrical generator/motor. The Imagine_PS contains a 1kW compact power generator, weighs only 350kg, and has an AC inverter and outlet at 110v. The vehicle is grid-compatible, ready to plug into a battery bank or home power system.

images courtesy of Human Car

by Aaron Turpen

Specs:

  • Type: Human-Powered Hybrid
  • Class: 2+ Person Sedan
  • Manufacturer: HumanCar
  • Propulsion system: Human (mechanical)-Electric
  • Top Speed: 35mph
  • Vehicle range: Unlimited
  • Fuel(s): Human exercise (work), electricity
  • Battery system: Li-ion
  • Price: $15,500
  • Availability: 2011

The manufacturer says

"This vehicle is 100% sustainable and non-conventional; it reformats our perception of what a vehicle can do for us, and it makes us very healthy at the same time. Thus, a new feature is born: one of social responsibility."

Overview

Usually, when we hear the word "hybrid," we think of the Toyota Prius or Ford Fusion, but the when the word is applied to vehicles, it actually means that the vehicle has more than one power source. A hybrid car like the Prius has a combustion and an electric motor. The HumanCar? Well, it has human power and electricity. But not in a Soylent Green kind of way.

Located in Deep Forest, Oregon, HumanCar has been working on conceptual prototypes and models of its very outside-the-box HumanCar concept since 1968. What began as a glorified bicycle soon morphed into a 189mph race car test bed and then merged the two to become the current Imagine_PS NEV.

The Imagine is a neighborhood electric (NEV) capable of up to 35mph, but there is a lot more to it than that.

The PS in the name stands for Power Station, as the Imagine_PS is built to be used as both a transportation device and a mobile, plug-in-ready power station. When CNN looked at the concept, they showed a team of four running the car as a stationary generator and in a few minutes, they'd produced enough power to run a laptop computer for hours.

HumanCar is focusing on the 4-seat model as it best fits the average transportation need and power generation abilities of their initial market. The vehicle is scalable, however, with 2-seat or bus-sized vehicles possible.

It works as a sort of rowing machine on wheels, with people using the combination handlebars and sliding seats to power the vehicle and run the electrical generator/motor. The Imagine_PS contains a 1kW compact power generator, weighs only 350kg, and has an AC inverter and outlet at 110v. The vehicle is grid-compatible, ready to plug into a battery bank or home power system.

The aluminum frame also acts as a steering mechanism, with the driver(s) turning the car using their whole body rather than just by turning a wheel. It also utilizes regenerative braking and has dual electric motors for power boosting in situations such as hills or when there are not enough riders to power it alone.

The HumanCar Imagine has been shown to produce 850+ watts in output as a power station.

Admittedly, the hardest thing to convince people of will be the perception change required to look beyond the HumanCar as just a glorified bicycle and see it as something more.

"Perception is gradual," says Chief Scientist and Engineer Charles Greenwood. "When the first prototype in this series hit the road, gas cost 32.9 centers per gallon. You can imagine that large corporations are scared to death of radical change, even though it involves enormous opportunity. Ironically, it is the shift in world reality that now makes thirty plus years of development timely."

What we like

Paradigm-changing concepts like this are just what is often needed to jolt the industry (especially well-established, stodgy industries like automotive) out of a rut and into new ways of thinking.

Scalable and portable are two things that allow something the auto industry hasn't seen in decades: the ability to build small scale, even portable manufacturing and assembly plants to allow for localized building and distribution. This can potentially be a huge cost saver and environmental impact mitigator.

What we don't

Costly as compared to more easily used and driven motor vehicles. While this is part of its concept, it is also a great hindrance to its market viability.

Still not to market though HumanCar is taking fully-refundable deposits to get in line for the first units produced, the Imagine_PS is not yet available for purchase. This is the lament for most future vehicles today.

Conclusions

Once in a while, something that is truly innovative and world-changing comes along, with the potential to make huge waves socially and economically. The HumanCar concept could be one of those things, if it strikes the right cord at the right time. It flies in the face of conventional automotive concepts.

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