A Hybrid Between Bike and Car, Could VeloMetro’s Velocar Be the Future of Urban Transport?

Is it a bike? Is it a car?

No, it’s a velocar, soon to be seen on the streets of Vancouver—for a trial period anyway.

The future of urban transport, how to be sustainable (and beat traffic) in increasingly congested cities is a hot topic for citizens, politicians and environmentalists alike.

A BC startup, VeloMetro, thinks it has the answer, and has designed a prototype velocar, a three-wheeled enclosed bicycle that functions like a car. It’s a 21st-century incarnation of a vehicle first designed in the 1930s.

CEO of VeloMetro, John Stonier, said the aim is to get 50 of the vehicles on the road for a trial period in downtown Vancouver early next year. The velocar merges the best features from bicycles and cars offering undeniable advantages for urban mobility, Stonier contends.

“People don’t want a car anymore—it’s expensive with registration and insurance—and are increasingly looking to car sharing. But you don’t need a big vehicle to transport people around downtown,” he said.

A velocar is legally classified as a bicycle, so users don’t need a driver’s licence. It is human-powered (using pedals), but has electric assist and a feature for managing hills and longer distances. Velocars protect their drivers from the weather and have basic cargo capacity, giving the comfort and functionality of an automobile.

Stonier emphaised the safety aspect to the vehicle too.

“They are low speed vehicles that can travel up to 30km an hour,” he said. They are designed for downtown streets and can go in bike lanes and shared lanes.

“They are enclosed and will have safety features; you have a protective skin, and there is high visibility thanks to a reflective trim,” Stonier said.

The VeloMetro team came together over a common passion for electric vehicles and sustainable transportation.

“All of us were into electric cars before Nissan and Tesla… we had already built them. We began to realize the car-sharing growth area,” he says.

Stonier says the finer details haven’t been worked out yet, but the business model would work similar to a bike share scheme.

“It’s all about getting getting people out of cars…it’s not about replacing bikes, its about replacing cars,” he explains. “Cities love this idea because it dovetails with their plans for sustainability, it provides more transit options to people.”

The venture already has funding from private investors and government.

VeloMetro is currently part of Simon Fraser’s incubator support, VentureLabs, where it gets advice from business leaders and access to facilities.

It’s also won a coveted place to pitch the idea to a room full of Silicon Valley investors at the end of the month. VERGE is a green business event series focusing on how technology accelerates sustainability solutions across industries and sectors.

“We were selected with 12 or 14 companies to pitch in front of industry people, it’s very good for broader exposure,” Stonier added.