Love biking but hate riding in subzero temperatures? Swedish mechanical engineer Mikael Kjellman built a bicycle-like custom four-wheel electric vehicle he calls the PodRide to keep him pedaling through the harsh Scandinavian winter, which can get down to -30 degrees Celsius. Now he’s crowdfunding to make a step-by-step guide so anyone can build their own winter-friendly quadcycle.
The PodRide’s weather-resistant fabric shell looks like an adorable shrunken car, but underneath is a functional commuter vehicle that keeps you dry through snow and rain. There’s a small 250-watt motor typical of electric bikes (and thus, street-legal) that gives the PodRide a max range of 60km (37 miles) and a top speed of 25km/hr (15 mph). Kjellman swapped out normal tires for 20-inch studded ones to grip ice and get traction on hills. The four-wheel arrangement is impressively stable, says Kjellman: in tests, he was only able to tip it by zipping around doing increasingly smaller donuts. It even has a little storage space behind the seat and a bike trailer hitch in back.
Kjellman’s design calls for comforts and efficiency: The extensively padded seat, for example, is also a necessary shock absorber for the reclined rider when the PodRide roams over bumpy terrain. Since it is is fully encased in a shell to ward off weather, the PodRide borrowed several elements from cars, such as a hand-powered windshield wiper, battery-powered headlights, and a portable electric heater to defrost windows. But Kjellman discovered PodRide’s other needs through trial and error as he refined its design: When he sealed himself in the shell for the first time, he approached a turn and stuck his arm out to signal–only to hit the window. He installed battery-powered turn signals soon after.
Kjellman is an outdoorsman and long-time bicyclist, so building PodRide was a way for him to keep commuting in harsh weather. But he’s also committed to providing to spreading the PodRide design for its positive environmental impact: The PodRide emits only 7g/km of CO2 compared to 140g/km emitted by a gas-powered car, according to the campaign’s page.
To be clear, Kjellman’s Indiegogo campaign isn’t selling fully assembled PodRides off the bat: Its basic reward is just plans and a parts list for DIY-minded folks to build their own. But the campaign has raised over $50,000 and met its third stretch goal, which means Kjellman will develop a full parts kit for purchase.
How long it will take for him to source the PodRide’s custom parts and refine the parts kit is uncertain, but in a project update, Kjellman noted that he hopes to have kits ready for sale in the fall for between $2,000 and $4,000. For now, the only PodRide is the prototype Kjellman built and has been using himself to ride to work for a year. Whether he refines it further is uncertain, but he certainly sees its potential as a platform, writing on the PodRide’s development page that the same base frame could support different frames and shells to make the PodRide look cute, sporty, elegant, or otherwise.