Arcturus CamperCycle Project

 Dozens of design notes over the years

Finally after five years of planning and three trial attempts at a frame, The Arcturus CamperCycle is ready to be built. The new version will be a three wheeled vehicle with two wheels up front and one in the back so that it can take on a teardrop shape with maximum aerodynamics. Being a trike also makes it legal as an electric assisted bicycle so there will be no problem driving it on the street. Make no mistake, this is a full sized motor home, not a coffin on wheels, so it will sleep two or more people comfortably and have the same size interior and amenities that any small motor home would have. Before I dig into the technical details, have a look at this huge pile of notebooks from the past few years that have included many of the design incantations of Arcturus.

Original concepts had a side-by-side tandem tadpole trike pulling a large trailer unit, and I went as far as building the actual trike before realizing that the weight of the trailer would require a more robust and electric assisted trike to pull it. The truck and trailer idea was scrapped is it just did not seem as cool as an all in one motor home style unit that you could just pedal onto a campground and park. Another version was tried by extending the frame of our KyotoCruiser sociable delta trike by 10 feet in order to build a camper area in the back.

Camper Cycle Concept

Although the base vehicle did work very well, it became clear that suspension was needed on all wheels and something more robust than bicycle wheels would be needed in order to carry the entire weight plus deliver the powerful electric assist to the road. Another version of the delta frame was built using 2 inch square tubing and was designed to use 16 inch trailer wheels and brakes. Again, the design become complex because of steering and transmission issues between the human input and electric power, so a completely new design was needed. Bored one night, I dug through five years of notes to realize that a very early concept was probably the best all around – one that used a Jeep front differential of all things.

You might think a Jeep differential would be overkill for a human/electric hybrid vehicle, but the design is actually perfect. A “Dana-30” differential only weighs about 150 pounds and includes a front wheel drive system with included Ackerman and center point steering, disc brakes on both sides, and a perfect gear reduction system to connect directly to the PMG-132 electric motor I plan to use. By adapting the battery pack directly to the differential, it also carries 75% of the vehicle weight on wheels that were designed for the task, so in reality, the rest of the camper can be made of lightweight high tech composites. The Jeep differential, motor, controller, and all batteries will be a single “power unit” ready to drive, brake, and steer the entire vehicle. As for human input, I plan to have each rider pedal a single home built axial flux generator so that power will be fed directly into the drive bank with very little loss. When parked, the human powered generator can be used to “top up” the battery banks for all night LED lighting when power is scarce. Roof mounted solar cells will also aid in charging the banks when the camper is parked.

With the PMG-132 motor running from one of two onboard 48 volt packs, the range of the vehicle will be about 100 kilometers at speeds legal for an electric assist bicycle. Having two battery banks makes more sense as the efficiency of the motor is almost 95% at 48 volts, and a large shunt switch can swap banks to keep them from running too low. Since all of the transmission and drive system is all self contained at the front with the differential, a simple motorcycle swing arm and suspension will be used at the rear of the vehicle.

That’s all for now. As soon as the snow melts and I can source a Jeep Dana-30 differential, I will begin working on Arcturus and documenting every single step. I think a full sized human/electric motor home with a range of 100 kilometers is just what the world needs as gas prices skyrocket out of control and waist lines bulge! I also look forward to hearing from the many talented garage hackers out there as this project progresses, so please drop in and say hello!

Work on the Arcturus Camper Cycle begins this summer

Work on the Arcturus Camper Cycle begins this summer


Anti-theft device for bikes; Active Minds, Low Stress vs. Alzheimer’s

Some interesting bike related news lately that caught my eye:

Deterring Bike Thefts
Dominic Hargreaves, 23, a design student at the Royal College of Art has had three bikes stolen since he moved to the capital.

And Dominic’s not alone: on average 52 bikes are stolen in London every day. Looking at this modern urban problem as a design challenge, the young student realised that the only way to overcome the problem was to lock the bike somewhere out of the reach of thieves.

His solution? A bike lock located 8 feet above the ground.

How does it work? The bike cradle can be fitted to any wall and is attached to an electronic hoist which lowers to the ground when triggered by the owner’s remote control. The mechanism can also be programmed to read an oyster card if located at a tube station, or indeed any public location. Once the bike is placed into the cradle and locked in position, the user then activates the hoist to pull the bike up onto the wall. The bike is then safely out of the reach of thieves and their bolt cutters.

Dominic believes the idea would work on domestic dwellings such as houses or blocks of flats as well as public spaces like railway or tube stations.

The design is one of three winners in the £15,000 iQ Design Challenge set by Toyota to Royal College of Art students and alumni to create products that respond to modern urban life.


Active Minds, Low Stress Factors in Reduce Alzheimer’s Rates

People who are socially engaged and can easily brush off stress may be at a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s, a new study reports. The study adds to a growing body of research linking lifestyle and personality traits to a lower chance of developing dementia in old age.

The research, from doctors at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, found that older men and women who were easygoing and had active social lives were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who were shy and anxious. Earlier studies have linked long-term stress to poor memory, possibly because stress hormones can negatively affect the brain.

“In the past, studies have shown that chronic stress can affect parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, possibly leading to dementia,” said study author Hui-Xin Wang, Ph.D.

“But our findings suggest that having a calm and outgoing personality in combination with a socially active lifestyle may decrease the risk of developing dementia even further.”

The findings appeared in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study involved 506 seniors whose average age was 83. None had Alzheimer’s when first examined. After six years, 144 of the study participants had developed Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

Those who were socially active but who tended to remain calm and relaxed under pressure were 50 percent less likely to develop dementia than individuals who were isolated and easily stressed. Protection against Alzheimer’s was particularly strong among those who were socially outgoing and able to handle stress well. Extroverts who were calm and self-satisfied tended to have an optimistic outlook on life, the study found, and also had a 50 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than outgoing people who were nervous and prone to worry.

“The good news is, lifestyle factors can be modified, as opposed to genetic factors, which cannot be controlled,” Dr. Wang said. “But these are early results, so how exactly mental attitude influences risk for dementia is not clear.”

Earlier studies have shown that people who remain active and socially engaged into old age have a lower Alzheimer’s risk. Regular physical activity and keeping mentally alert through word games and other mental challenges can likewise help keep the mind sharp, research suggests.


Now, get those brains working and build something!

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