Velomobiles get assist from EcoSpeed
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon
Velomobiles at the start of the Portland to Washington, D.C., ride.
Some 40 velomobiles — aerodynamic, enclosed pedal-powered vehicles — are rolling out of Portland Thursday on a cross-country ride, a good chunk of them powered by home-grown technology.
EcoSpeed Inc.'s motors, designed to give ordinary bicycles an electric assist, adapted its technology for select velomobiles, partnering with builders in the Netherlands, as well as in Washington and in Oregon.
The cross-country ride, known as ROAM, which is short for "Roll Over America," includes riders from both the U.S. and Europe and will cover the distance between Portland and Washington, D.C. in 30 days.
Portland-based EcoSpeed makes an electric-assist kit for bikes and velomobiles that powers the chain of the bicycle, still allowing the rider to shift. Weighing in at nine pounds, the motor is best suited for heavier cargo bikes and the velomobiles.
Velomobiles are aerodynamic fully enclosed three-wheeled vehicles — usually two wheels in front and one in back.
EcoSpeed works with Oregon companies Columbia Cycleworks in Northeast Portland and Velocity Velos of Cottage Grove providing electric-assist technology that allows velomobile riders to maintain 20-mile-per-hour speeds with little effort.
EcoSpeed, part of Portland's considerable cluster of bike expertise, was founded in 2002 and has grown its revenue between 15 percent and 20 percent each year since then, according to Tad Beckwith, vice president of sales at the company. EcoSpeed has 6 employees.
"It feels our team is bigger than that," Beckwith said. "Our product is really made up of approximately 50 vendors and a lot of them are around here. We use our bikes to go pick up supplies."
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