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A new way to get around: the electric hybrid prototype

Two PhD candidates at U of T have come up with a smarter way for city-dwellers to commute
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The hybrid electric car-bike created by Lam and Lung offers an alternative to cars, bikes and the TTC. COURTESY OF JONATHAN LUNG.
The hybrid electric car-bike created by Lam and Lung offers an alternative to cars, bikes and the TTC. COURTESY OF JONATHAN LUNG.

Transport woes have plagued city dwellers for many years. Whether it’s driving or biking, the traffic never ceases to stop and there are always complications. Luckily, two University of Toronto PhD candidates have a new design that may change the way we commute forever.

Phil Lam of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and Jonathan Lung of the Department of Computer Science have created something brilliant: a plug-free electric hybrid prototype.

Lung said, “The ergonomics, being similar to a car in many respects, means not having to become a cyclist: there’s no need to learn how to ride a bicycle, no need for ankle straps to keep pants out of chains, or the need to put on layers of clothes to stay protected from the wind.”

The vehicle employs regenerative braking and has solar panels to be as energy efficient as possible. Lung said, “The vehicle is fully electric and has an mpg-e (miles per gallon equivalent) tens of times better than an automobile and can get its energy from the electrical grid, human-power, or even solar power.”

The team is aiming to make the vehicle run for 30–40 kilometers on a single charge, without any outside power. However, with added human or solar power, can run for a lot longer.

The electronically-regulated pedals and motor allow riders to control the pedal-to-engine power ratio allowing them to have a custom experience. Depending on whether you are looking for a workout or prefer not to arrive sweaty, you can either pedal with the full weight of the bike or let the engine do a part of, or most of the work.

Soon after completing his undergraduate degree, Lam started to design a folding electric bike with a fellow U of T engineering graduate, Paul Haist . The duo originally started the project to fulfill their own needs.

Lam and Lung later co-founded Sojourn Labs, which is supported by f U of T’s Impact Centre, a cross-disciplinary institute that promotes social entrepreneurship. The two hope to receive a six-figure investment to allow a commercial bike to be available to the public in the next two years.

Lam said, “In 2012, changing commuting patterns resulted in an idea approximating the prototype we have now.” He added, “By 2013, when Sojourn Labs was generously offered space by the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre, our small team (which had by then grown to include myself… and several others) began to flesh out some of the details.”

“We began building our prototype using space provided by the Impact Centre,” said Lung. He added, “Right now, the vast majority of time put into the project is from Phil and myself; both of us are in PhD programmes [sic] which makes finding hours in the day our biggest challenge to date. “

Lung described, “The prototype that you see is actually our first attempt! It was built as a proof-of-concept to test a few things.” The team plans on adding a few more features to the current prototype.

“What you see is only a shadow of what we plan to build in the future.”, Lung added.

If you’re interested in taking a look at the electric car-bike, drop by the Techno Showcase on November 5 from 3:00 pm–8:00 pm at the MaRS Atrium.