One year with the Armadillo Two-seater
The Armadillo frame is designed to be able to be the platform for both goods and passenger versions. The cargo versions are now in production, and are our main focus for 2017 and 2018. With a future mobility module (for now called “Two-seater”), the Armadillo will provide a combination of passenger and cargo capability.
Six prototype Two-seaters have been produced. I have personally tested one for a year, and this is my report. The other five of them are still being tested by the City of Gothenburg.
The Two-seater combines functionality from the cargo bike and the velomobile. The idea is that with a lot of comfort and cargo capacity, it can replace virtually all short car trips in the city. 70-80 % of all car trips in urban areas are shorter than 3-4 kilometers, so there is a huge potential to replace car trips with bike trips. We believe that the Two-seater can, for most people, be the more attractive alternative compared to the car, for short trips in the city. The negative aspects (parking difficulties and congestion) of using the car in the city will become too big.
How I used it
Summing up my year with the Two-seater, I can see that I have used it for a number of different purposes on the 3800 km I have ridden.
Along the Rhine
The year started off in April 2016 with going on a 500 km road trip from Nijmegen in Holland to Germersheim in Germany. It went according to plan and without a single technical issue -but compared to my earlier bike adventures I did not really enjoy to sit enclosed. You are not in contact with the elements and with other people, as you are when you ride open. A bike adventure is, in my opinion, about to slowly take in everything you pass. Sounds, animals, people, temperature and humidity shifts -the cabin took a lot of this away.
Commuting and getting to meetings
I used the Two-seater to get to work almost daily. I also go to meetings, which are often in the Gothenburg city center. The Armadillo has been perfect for this -the absolutely fastest and most flexible way to get from A to B in the city, in any weather. Faster than public transport, cars and also other bikes. The Two-seater has lower wind resistance than riding a regular bike, so the average speed is high, even if it is heavy and only has a 250 watt electric assist.
Riding with the family
My family consists of Åsa and my two kids (14 and 2 years old). They have often joined me in the Armadillo. Not all of them at once, but quite often both Åsa and the two-year-old or the 14-year-old and the two-year-old joined me. When riding with the fourteen-year-old only, listening to music in a portable bluetooth speaker was an important component of the trip!
Riding with Dennis and other passengers
Dennis, one of the co-founders of Velove, was often a passenger as I picked him up on the way to meetings. Several other people have joined as passengers, when I have offered them a ride back to their office or to the train station.
Åsa using it on her own
Sometimes Åsa used the Armadillo on her own, when the weather was not too nice.
The 14-year old using it on his own
The 14-year-old used it a couple of times (then 13 years old) to ride to school to the joy if his classmates, but in the end preferred public transport because of poor cycling infrastructure.
The cargo capacity has been used many times. Now, when I ride a regular bike again, I immediately miss it. Hauling cargo is an important aspect of everyday life!
Taru and Hans used the Two-seater as their wedding vehicle a year ago -such frontrunners!
How I didn’t use it
Before I got the Two-seater, I had ideas that I would use it for visiting my brother in the other end of the city (15 km) and friends in Kungsbacka (30 km). But this didn’t happen.
With the purpose of getting from A-B, distances that took longer than 30-40 minutes did not feel attractive to me. I live very close to a tram stop, so the Two-seater always had tough competition from public transport. 30-40 minutes at 20 km/h average speed corresponds to 10-13 kilometers.
So my conclusion is that as a rule of thumb, the maximum attractive riding distance when the purpose is to get from A to B is 10 km/30 minutes with the Armadillo Two-seater. If the distance is longer, public transport becomes the more attractive option.
Cargo bike parking at home -something for cities to solve
Living in an apartment, I was very lucky to get the perfect parking for the Two-seater, an abandoned office just next to the entrance door. Without this, I really don’t now how I should have been able to use the Two-seater. If I would have had to park it far away, it would not have been used anywhere near the same degree as it was used now. This is very important for cities to solve! How do you safely and conveniently park your electric cargo bike if you live in an apartment?
On this pre-series chassis and prototype body, I rode 3800 km and had one single technical problem that needed professional attention -the battery cable (Rosenberger) corroded and contact was lost. This cable has now been replaced with a more robust type for all Armadillos.
Even if my year with the Two-seater was to a large extent satisfactory, there is a lot that can be further developed to make it even more attractive.
If you have lots of cargo onboard, for example adult passengers, riding uphill is slooooow, like 5 km/h slow. It does not feel like a smart vehicle on these occasions. More power would make it more attractive in hilly cities.
Less wind in the cabin
Yes, the Two-seater has a weather protected cabin, you are protected from the rain. But the prototype cabin is far from totally enclosed, so a lot of wind does still get in the cabin. This is not very pleasant, and we need to make it more airtight for the next version.
Good sound system
Who would buy/use a car without a sound system? It is an important aspect of riding the Two-seater too -a nice sound system makes the ride a lot more enjoyable!
More cargo capacity
Even if the Two-seater already has great cargo capacity, the feedback is that we should have even more, as it will replace a car.
Reduced wind sensitivity
In really windy conditions, the Two-seater proved to be wind sensitive in crosswind. You need to hold on tight to the steer on these occasions, or you can end up somewhere you don’t want to. The way the body is designed on the prototypes explains a lot, it catches a lot more wind from the side than it would with another design.
Reduced drivetrain noise
When you add a body, transmission noise that is otherwise almost not audible suddenly becomes quite disturbing. So getting the drivetrain noise down really low is important.
Maybe the most important aspect of all for the success of the Two-seater, to get the price down. This is a reason for why we are not selling it yet, we want to get the volumes of the Armadillo platform up first, which will push the price down.
More attractive styling, both exterior and interior
We were able to develop a body that worked thanks to some funding we got from the Swedish state. But it was still a really low budget compared to what is needed to develop a body. So we had to cut some corners, for example going for a fabric body instead of investing in molds for a hard body. We also needed to take some other decisions along the way which meant that the styling didn’t come out as we wanted. Even if it looks pretty OK from some angles and some people really like it, the styling is not creating that “shut up and take my money” response we want to hear from enough people. This needs to change for a vehicle in this price category.
Possible to open up the cabin
The cabin is great in bad weather, but in the summer you want the wind in the face, hear the surroundings and connect with other cyclists. So it needs in some way to be able to open up when the weather is nice.
Lockable storage space
Sometimes you want to park and leave your stuff in the Two-seater -so you need some kind of lockable space, or to lock the entire cabin. This is an important practical feature of the car.
Better child seats
I used a regular bike seat for the two-year-old. But you want to be able to seat at least two small children, and then the regular bike seats are too big. Something new needs to be designed. Reclining backrests are also an important feature for the child seats, so they can sleep safely and comfortably when riding or parked.
Better rewards for the muscle input
Being lazy, I always ride on full electric assist. If it is not hilly, to be honest, my muscle input is not that big. Something I think would motivate myself to use my muscles more, either to ride faster or to set the assist mode lower, would be to get feedback on how much energy my muscles has put in. I am actually surprised that this is still not something the electric assist manufacturers offer. The very accurate force sensor is already there in many cases (Bosch, Yamaha, Bafang etc.) -should be easy to extract the data. I think this would be a valuable feature in a production Two-seater.
When can I get one?
Right now we are focussing on producing and selling the cargo versions of the Armadillo. As soon as we have resources available, we will pick up development of the Two-seater. If you want to make sure you stay up to date on developments, please ask to join our newsletter! Request to firstname.lastname@example.org.