We are all too aware of the population health challenges of the Hunter region, with spiralling obesity rates and transport modes that do little to encourage human movement and active transport. The need to rethink how we move has never been more urgent, in the face of spiralling rates of chronic disease, mortality and morbidity rates associated with lifestyle risk factors. In the face of this, cycling is well proven as a form of lifestyle medicine that can positively impact health at a whole of population scale when it's convenient, affordable and safe. A large scale epidemiology research case (http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/04april/pages/hard-times-in-cuba-linked-to-better-national-health.aspx) confirmed the impact cycling had in needy times on the Cuban population, with obesity, heart disease and diabetes rates plummeting as the country took up cycling in the 90's economic crisis.
The recognition of our innovation themed offering comes on the back of our Land Forces 2014 (APAC Region Defence Industry Conference) Agile Logistics entry, recognised as an SME Innovation Finalist, where we combine a high capability, Australian designed off-road electric bike with smart portable solar generators from our alliance with Laughing Mind as a Goal Zero dealer.
We've built on that work, with recent partnering alliances with other local innovators like New York TropFest Winner Jason Van Genderen's Pocket Film Academy, using a CargoCycles trike as a "Pocket Film Academy on Wheels", which we plan to have roaming through the upcoming Vivid4shore festival in Tuggerah Lake and Newcastle.
To find out more about the detail of what we're looking to bring to the Hunter, you'll need to come along to their Smart Ideas breakfast briefing on 14July 2015 to hear our 90second pitch ;-)
New possibilities for Electric Action riding
With the 2014 Hunter Electric Vehicle Festival now done and dusted, capped off with a 1500 Class win and Energy innovation award, Quiet Rush have started to reach out to new regional destinations to see if we can bring a taste of electric riding action a little further south. The proposed new facility at CASAR Park represents a great option for motor sports enthusiasts of the Central Coast, with the potential to become something more than just a motor-sports venue and broader appeal for boosting already healthy regional tourism numbers.
What we've seen and proven in the Hunter EV Festival is that motor-sports are evolving and innovating in new directions, with exhibitors showcasing cutting edge vehicles in Electric Superbikes, Electric Motorcycles, Solar Racers, Electric Bikes (for On and Offroad action) and Electric Cars. The great example being set by Newcastle based ELMOFO as they redefine racing with their own vehicle, drivetrain and power source systems is a shining example of what's possible, leading to results that see them thumping its petrol powered competitors. Within our own modest racing class, we've experienced the thrill of seeing what its like to ride a bike that blends the best of human and electric performance to create a unique racing format, done at human-scale speed where you can still chat away with competitors whilst racing elbow to elbow in a clean, emissions free racing format.
Within adventure seeking always comes a compromise between adrenaline (proportional to perceived and actual risk) and survivability in the event of adverse outcomes - it's why GP riders often start out racing 125's, before progressing through 250s to higher power machines, honing their race craft, riding and racing skills. With a rehabilitation and human factors background highlighting for us the downside risk potential when things go wrong, we think there's ample space in the adventure sports space to innovate and create a new racing class for introducing new riders, using new zero-emissions machines such as our Stealth Fighter, racing at what we call human-scale speed. We use this to describe a speed that is fast enough to create the perception of risk, induces adrenaline and requires focus, but still occurs within an acceptable risk envelope where the risk to the rider is mitigated by modest power, with lower top speeds, lighter machines and nimble handling. You can read about what it's like to race a Stealth Fighter on a GoKart track to get a bit more background on why it's such enjoyable format, or take a look at others impressions.
With an initial orientation ride offered to Brad Wilson from CASAR Park to get a feel of what its like to ride one of our Australian made Electric Off-Road bikes from Stealth Electric Bikes, we're entering into more detailed discussions to see how we might be able to jointly create an entirely new riding experience, where novice riders can take part in a socially inclusive venue, getting a chance to try powered riding in a low risk riding and racing format. With plenty of sunshine, the CASAR facility is ideal for running an electric race format, powered by solar options, with people able to get a taste of how energised riding can boost their own riding skills and confidence. It can also be a place to participate in non-racing formats, where people of all ages might wish to experience an electric bike, ranging from mild to wild, build their skills and confidence with graded challenge areas (see this example of the The Playground Bike Park at Mt Stromlo to get an idea of what's possible). By combining the option of motorsports and family based activities achievable for all ages, with a road safety and competence building focus, places like CASAR park can help ensure cyclists and motorists leave after days fun at the facility with mutual respect and enhanced road safety behaviours.
Since writing our last post on eBike charging off grid using renewable sources we thought it was time to give a bit of an update of our current approach. Our partner company, Laughing Mind, is now a dealer for Goal Zero portable power products which gives us ready access to an awesome range of portable power products from Goal Zero. People might have caught a glimpse in some earlier posts from Stealth, appearing on Pinkbike.
Our two favourites from the GoalZero Product range from Laughing Mind so far include the Guide 10 kit and Yeti 1250 Solar Generator.
Goal Zero Guide 10 Kit
We use a Goal Zero Guide10 Kit for slinging across our backpack, providing power on the go for charging up smartphones and our camera batteries, or giving us power on the days when we're exhibiting. We'll be using this setup at the 2014 NSW EV Festival later this year, along with a range of other upcoming shows - we think its perfect for athletes and adventurers on the move who need power in the field. It powers iPads, smartphones, cameras and keeps some market stall based friends of ours juiced up through the day, supporting them in mobile retail and image creation.
A Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Generator (shown under the front wheel of the blue Fighter) provides power for the heavy lifting, keeping a fridge running, recharging our Fighter and occasionally customer Bombers as well as providing solar sourced power for mobile office duties when the Guide 10 Kit is occupied- laptops, iPads, smartphones, cameras and our lights.
We're able to keep the Yeti1250 charged up as a backup power source, using either grid sourced power from the wall or using the Goal Zero Boulder 30 Solar Panels in a portable array. No more need for carrying fuel or dealing with buzzing petrol powered generators. Just silent, clean charging.
With more products coming up for release in Australia later in 2014, we're going to enjoy acting as a test lab to help refine the ideal product mix for Laughing Mind's Energy Autonomy initiative, as well as bike owners looking for clean, portable, rugged power products. If you want to take a closer look at them, just get in touch, or be sure to schedule the NSW Electric Vehicle Festival into your calendar for 16-17August, 2014 where we'll have them on show.
Now that the Hunter EV Festival is all done and dusted for 2012 and we're back into the swing of daily business and the demands of the IT Consulting day job, I've had some time to reflect on the festival and lots of conversations held whilst we were there demonstrating. Before I get into the details of it though, I've been checking out some of the stuff coming out of Interbike 2012 (where Stealth Electric Bikes will be attending and demonstrating - see their nice white Bomber at left), including this moped redux from GasBikes in the USA (below left).
I'd made the point during a brief interview with 1233 ABC Newcastle that this is exactly the kind of stuff being built in sheds all around the country, by backyard tinkerers and kids looking for some easy speed, with some real frankenbikes getting churned out that I don't think I'd throw a leg over anytime soon. I'd also mentioned during that interview that people could make a brief visit to Campbells Store in Morpeth to check out the museum section there and have a glance at an old Malvern Star petrol powered Auto-Byke (pictured below right, circa 1950).
Note the similarities between the two, with the superior standover height, low CoG and comfy saddle on the old skool rig. Just don't ask me to take either of them off-road. Got me smiling when I thought of the advantages of going electric - no more 2 stroke to mix, riding in blissful silence free of fumes, able to enjoy the places I find myself in without creating a disturbance.
Seeing these got me thinking about what's happening with the SmartGrid-SmartCity initiative for Newcastle, which we discussed as part of an industry workshop during the Hunter EV Festival. They'll be using a fleet of 20 Electric Cars across Sydney, Central Coast and Newcastle to do some modelling of electricity demand on electricity grid to see if they can make some predictions about how that load and user behaviour might extrapolate at scale. Current market prices put a Mitsubishi iMiev at around $48,000 excluding OnRoadCosts, giving us a vehicle that has an effective range of 155km maximum.
Gee. Wow. Gosh. Oh My. It reminds me of one of the posts from a US-based Stealth electric bike owner that had participated in a group ride with 15 other standard bikes for up to 145 miles (230km). And had a blast, being able to chat along the way with the group whilst averaging about 25-32km/h. Not that you can do that in Australia, with our 25km/h power assist cut-out limit.
I wonder what sort of modelling went into thinking about the net impact of the iMievs on longer term health of its occupants, who'll remain sedentary. Who'll still be just as stuck in traffic congestion as their non-EV'd car based cousins. Who won't feel the pleasure of wind across their face as they cruise past lines of stuck traffic in their morning commute. Who'll be stuck behind glass, disconnected from their context, coccooned and sated.
I bet they won't be having as much fun as the guys in the video below, who are getting waaaayy more bang for their buck, on a bike that represents a very modest investment compared to an EV'd car. Remember people, an EV car is still a box on wheels that does little to fix congestion issues. They get stuck in traffic too. They also need to be parked, just like any other car. And there's no way you can use one for a quick ride on a local bush trail with all the grin factor and fun that's involved.
I also wonder why someone hasn't yet set up an EBike or Active Transport CRC in a city where obesity is a looming health issue, with some decent cycling infrastructure. Maybe it's because there's plenty of the former, too little of the latter. I'm sure they could do a lot with the $980,000(49k x 20) that's just been spent on Mitsubishi EV's. When I asked the question of attending Infrastructure Australia representatives, health and social benefits don't factor directly in their decision making for community infrastructure projects. Go figure.
It's time for change. If there is anyone wanting to partner on Active Transport research involving Ebike trials as part of that mix, I'm all ears and ready to help. Or perhaps the role they have to play in replacing dirtbikes as an environmentally friendly alternative. Either way, there's more modelling to be done than just presuming we're all buying into a transport future that's centered on car usage. Because that's a one way trip..