Photo by Sarah Squires.
The 'hybrid car, motorcycle, kayak bike' designed by Lyon Smith, above, and his partner, Rich Kronfeld, has yet to be named.
Planted in the design building at We-no-nah Canoe is a new kind of vehicle taking shape, one that combines pedal power with a plug-in electric motor, a personal hybrid vehicle that holds the promise of a new way to get around --minus expensive gasoline
“It’s a hybrid car, motorcycle, kayak bike,” explained local artist and designer Lyon Smith, who designed and constructed the vehicle. “It could be a revolutionary vehicle. I think we created something really interesting here.”
Smith, along with partner Rich Kronfeld, haven’t yet finalized a name for the hybrid, three-wheeled vehicle. But the creation is almost complete, set for an unveiling ceremony at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum on Saturday, March 3, from 5 to 7 p.m., when folks can come and check it out.
Kronfeld, a Twin Cities bicycle enthusiast, was searching for a partner who could design a new kind of vehicle that would combine personal pedal power like that of a bicycle with an electric engine. Smith sent him some conceptual drawings, the two were assisted with a Minnesota Department Commerce grant, and the project took off. With the help of We-no-nah Canoe, Cytec Engineering, Winona Boiler and Steel and Winona State University’s Composite Engineering department, Smith has been working on the vehicle since June.
After the unveiling, the vehicle will be sent to Minneapolis for special hybrid batteries, then to California where a tablet computer will be mounted inside to tell riders information on mileage and speed, about what power they’re creating using the pedals and the range the vehicle will have between charges. Smith said that the hope is that the vehicle will travel up to 100 mph, that it will likely go between 50 and 75 miles between charges and farther if a person pedals a lot. It also uses what’s called a regenerative brake system, which channels electricity back into the batteries when the brakes are applied, and has a solar panel mounted to the roof.
The vehicle weighs about 700 or 800 pounds, about the weight of a motorcycle, and with three wheels it’s both street legal and considered a motorcycle, too. It was made much like a kayak, with a big block of foam creating the mold for the carbon fiber exterior, then reinforced with structural foam kind of like an airplane. A chassis was constructed with the help of Winona Boiler and Steel; Smith said he’s had enormous help from We-no-nah Canoe, and Cytec Engineering donated the carbon fiber.
Smith took several initial designs and worked with Winona State University to create 3D models, which helped determine the final design. “Three-D prototyping is an interesting way to design,” he said.
Smith, who is well-known as a sculptor and has a gallery on Third Street, said that the project was a natural fit for him. He’s also got a background in architecture and a degree in design. And, he’s always had an interest in vehicles, one that may have stemmed from a Pinewood Derby win when he was a kid.
“I’m a designer, I’m a sculptor, and I think they kind of fit,” he said. “Basically, I just fused all those talents together.”
Part of the excitement for the project is the future it holds. Smith said that he would like to partner with a manufacturing company that could craft the vehicles for large-scale distribution, and the fact that there are so many composite engineering and manufacturing companies in Winona may well assist in that end. “It’s a very local project. We’d like to make a product that we could sell on an international market someday,” he said. “Eventually we’d like to do a two person concept, and a three person concept.”
Smith said that it’s been incredible partnering with all these entities on the project, and he is eager to share his work with the Winona community. “Being able to create your own energy by pedaling is a unique concept,” he said.