Both the velomobile and the electric bicycle increase the limited range of the cyclist -- the former optimises aerodynamics and ergonomics, while the latter assists muscle power with an electric motor fuelled by a battery.
The electric velomobile combines both approaches, and so maximises the range of the cyclist -- so much so that it is able to replace most, if not all, automobile trips.
While electric velomobiles have a speed and range that is comparable to that of electric cars, they are up to 80 times more efficient. About a quarter of the existent wind turbines would suffice to power as many electric velomobiles as there are people.
Those with strong cycling legs have ever more jobs up for grabs in Europe these days. A growing number of businesses are using cargo cycles, a move towards sustainable and free-flowing city traffic that is now strongly backed by public authorities.
Research indicates that at least one quarter of all cargo traffic in European cities could be handled by cycles. And, by using special distribution hubs, larger vehicles and electric assist, this proportion could be even larger.
A cargo cycle is at least as fast as a delivery van in the city - and much cheaper to use, giving a strong economic incentive to make the switch. Cargo cycles also bring important economic advantages to tradesmen, artisans and service providers.
For being such a seemingly ordinary vehicle, the wheelbarrow has a surprisingly exciting history. This is especially true in the East, where it became a universal means of transportation for both passengers and goods, even over long distances.
The Chinese wheelbarrow - which was driven by human labour, beasts of burden and wind power - was of a different design than its European counterpart. By placing a large wheel in the middle of the vehicle instead of a smaller wheel in front, one could easily carry three to six times as much weight than if using a European wheelbarrow.
The one-wheeled vehicle appeared around the time the extensive Ancient Chinese road infrastructure began to disintegrate. Instead of holding on to carts, wagons and wide paved roads, the Chinese turned their focus to a much more easily maintainable network of narrow paths designed for wheelbarrows. The Europeans, faced with similar problems at the time, did not adapt and subsequently lost the option of smooth land transportation for almost one thousand years.
If we boost the research on pedal powered technology - trying to make up for seven decades of lost opportunities - and steer it in the right direction, pedals and cranks could make an important contribution to running a post-carbon society that maintains many of the comforts of a modern life. The possibilities of pedal power largely exceed the use of the bicycle.
Pedalling a modern stationary bicycle to produce electricity might be a great work-out, but in many cases, it is not sustainable.
While humans are rather inefficient engines converting food into work, this is not the problem we want to address here; people have to move in order to stay healthy, so we might as well use that energy to operate machinery.
The trouble is that the present approach to pedal power results in highly inefficient machines.
Ever since the arrival of fossil fuels and electricity, human powered tools and machines have been viewed as an obsolete technology. This makes it easy to forget that there has been a great deal of progress in their design, largely improving their productivity.
The most efficient mechanism to harvest human energy appeared in the late 19th century: pedalling. Stationary pedal powered machines went through a boom at the turn of the 20th century, but the arrival of cheap electricity and fossil fuels abruptly stopped all further development.
Hand-powered devices have been used for millennia. However, during the last quarter of the 19th century a radically improved generation of tools appeared.
These tools took advantage of modern mass production machinery and processes (like interchangeable parts) and an increased availability in superior material (metal instead of wood).
One of the outcomes included an array of new drilling machines. These human-powered tools were not only a vast improvement over those that came before them, they also had many advantages in comparison to the power drills that we use today.
Our fascination with sophisticated technology lies at the core of many of our present-day problems. Yet, it need not be. By definition, technical virtuosity doesn't need to result in yet another electronic gadget or an even faster accelerating sports car. It can also lead to stunning yet completely harmless artefacts called "automata".
These are mostly hand-cranked machines that can be extremely complex, often with the only purpose of astonishing the spectator. Automata have been built for more than 2,000 years, but contemporary artists have elevated the craft to a higher level. Aside from their emotional value, automata offer a glimpse of a future, post-oil technology.
Recumbent bikes with bodywork evoke a curious effect. They look as fast as a racing car or a jet fighter, but of course, they're not. Nevertheless, thanks to the recumbent position, the minimal weight and the outstanding aerodynamics, pedalling a "velomobile" requires three to four times less energy than pedalling a normal bicycle.
This higher energy efficiency can be converted felt in terms of comfort, but can also be utilised to attain higher speeds and longer distances - regular cyclists can easily maintain a cruising speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) or more. The velomobile thus becomes an excellent alternative to the automobile for medium distances, especially in bad weather.
How to downsize a transport network: the Chinese wheelbarrow For being such a seemingly ordinary vehicle, the wheelbarrow has a surprisingly exciting history. This is especially true in the East, where it became a universal means of transportation for both passengers and goods, even over long distances.
Firewood in the Fuel Tank: Wood Gas Vehicles Wood gas cars are a not-so-elegant but surprisingly efficient and ecological alternative to their petrol (gasoline) cousins, whilst their range is comparable to that of electric cars.
How to make everything ourselves: open modular hardware Consumer products based on an open modular system can foster rapid innovation, without the drawback of wasting energy and materials. The parts of an obsolete generation of products can be used to design the next generation, or something completely different.
Power from the Tap
Power from the Tap: Water Motors Just before the arrival of electricity at the end of the 19th century, miniature water turbines were connected to the tap and could power any machine that is now driven by electricity.