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Can 'pedelec' vehicles replace cars on Cambridge streets?


By Ben Comber


Peter Dawe with the Rotavelo supplied by Cambridge Electric Transport Company. Picture: Keith Heppell
Peter Dawe with the Rotavelo supplied by Cambridge Electric Transport Company. Picture: Keith Heppell

Entrepreneur Peter Dawe is looking to revolutionise the Cambridge commute with the Cambridge city pod.

Peter Dawe with the Rotavelo supplied by Cambridge Electric Transport Company. Picture: Keith Heppell
Peter Dawe with the Rotavelo supplied by Cambridge Electric Transport Company. Picture: Keith Heppell

It’s a pedelec vehicle – powered both by pedals and electricity – and Mr Dawe’s vision is that they could replace cars in future.

“I call them slight cars.” he said. “I’ve believed these are the solution for urban transport for years.”

The vehicle pictured is a Trisled Rotavelo. It’s essentially an electric assisted tricycle that will go 25km on the battery alone, and it costs about 15p for 100km worth of charge. Riders have to be 14 years old, but there are no licence or insurance obligations. Furthermore, it’s weatherproof.

“Bad weather is why bicycles don’t hack it for commuting,” Peter said, “Whereas this is covered. It’s dry.”

And with plans for a network of cycle and pedestrian paths linking satellite villages to Cambridge, Peter says the city pod’s time has come.

:: Greenways will help South Cambridgeshire residents get on their bikes

Peter Dawe with Sean Moroney CEO and the Rotavelo supplied by Cambridge Electric Transport Company. Picture: Keith Heppell
Peter Dawe with Sean Moroney CEO and the Rotavelo supplied by Cambridge Electric Transport Company. Picture: Keith Heppell

“At the moment they are purely enthusiast machines, no one has tackled them as an innovative urban transport machine.

“The good news is that people are talking about the greenways. This is the car for the greenways. Basically they’re going to deliver millions of pounds of infrastructure specifically for these cars.”

Peter, who made his fortune with internet company Pipex, calls this model 0. It’s fundamentally designed for speed and to be ridden on a track. The ultimate aim is to design and offer to the market an urban equivalent.

“There are 20 or 30 different designs of these around the world,” Peter continued. “The critical thing is that all of these have been designed for speed. Our ambition is to design one specifically targeted at the urban environ-ment for the commuter. We’ve got this purely to demonstrate to sceptics the proof of concept. Once you get in and pedal it up and down you get what we mean.

“What I believe is that there’s going to be a whole range of models, bottom-end models that will retail at £2,000 and top-end at £10,000 or higher. You pay your money and take your choice. What we’re doing at Cambridge Electric Transport is targeting the bottom end of the market to make it inclusive and deployed on a mass basis.

“What we’re hoping is that if we can get 50 pre-orders we can retail them at £2,990.

:: Locals’ knowledge sought for cycle path routes to Cambridge

“If we get 50 into Cambridge I believe it will spawn us getting 500 and then we could tool up to produce them to a specific design and get the price down. If we can get the price significantly below £3,000 and competitive to a good bike, I think that’s when it goes mainstream.”

Peter, who stood for mayor of the new Combined Authority last year, but was beaten by James Palmer, added: “Because it’s only 800mm wide the other thing is that if we can get most people using these, all of a sudden every road in Cambridge becomes four or six lanes. The capacity of roads in Cambridge massively increases. With so much of Cambridge already at 20mph speed limit the difference in speed isn’t that significant. What you would end up with is that you’ll get there faster in one of these than in a car. Especially if you count looking for a parking space and walking from a parking space to where you’re going.”



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