On yer bike

Every so often, a story comes along which seems so off the wall that it appears to be, in the oft-quoted words of Donald Trump, completely “fake news”.

The story below certainly seems to fit that bill, yet on 6th October 2018, it was reported by no less than The Daily Telegraph, quoting facts and figures which demonstrates the stories authenticity, however far-fetched it may seem at first glance.

This is the story:-

A school has installed pedals under desks so that children can keep fit while they learn.

Pedal Power comes to the pupils of Red Oak Primary School, Lowestoft. Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail

Pedal Power comes to the pupils of Red Oak Primary School, Lowestoft.                      Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail

Children from years one to six at Red Oak Primary School in Lowestoft, Suffolk, will use the floor-mounted devices during English, maths, French and ICT classes. The pedals have a digital display which shows exercise time duration, calorie consumption and revolutions per minute, and the school is planning to extend the programme to 11 other classes.

Heather Madsen, the head teacher, said: “We have a very standardised National Curriculum that involves a lot of sitting down – but children need to be active. When we brought in the pedals at the start of term, it was a bit of a novelty and the children spent a couple of days doing more pedalling than anything else. Now it just goes on in the background. Nobody is forced to do it, but all the children do. On average, they are each burning about 600 calories a day.”

And what’s that got to do with motoring?

Well, in an impressive coincidence of timing, on 24th September the world was introduced in the Netherlands to FitCar PPV (pedal powered vehicle).

Fitcar is the brainchild of Saudi-based inventor, Nasser Al Shawaf, who, together with Dutch engineering partner, BPO, has developed the world’s first calorie-burning car.

Saudi-based entrepreneur and inventor, Nasser Al Shawaf has been active in the international business world since 2000, when he started out as a pioneer in the online and digital economy, capitalising on the internet boom of the early noughties. His businesses have been listed on stock exchanges around the world and among his current projects are two of the largest property developments in central London, at Regent’s Crescent and Vauxhall Cross. FitCar is borne out of his commitment to physical and psychological health and fitness, and as a result of his frustrations with commuting in congested cities around the world.

Delft-based BPO was established 30 years ago by industrial designer Oscar Brocades Zaalberg. A car enthusiast and racing driver, Oscar has worked on special engineering projects for DAF, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Recaro, Renault and others. His company specialises in product development and optimisation with the aid of computer tools like FEM-simulations and operates in the fields of packaging, logistics and consumer products where cost, price, lightweighting and technical challenges exist. The company has delivered major projects for customers including Danone, Heineken, Samsonite, Unilever and many more.

Audi A4 prototype

FitCar PPV ‘prototype no.2’ is based on a standard Audi A4 Avant 2.0L petrol TFSI automatic, with the throttle replaced by a bicycle pedal mechanism and mated to a flywheel, which generates an electronic pulse to engage the accelerator. The car is powered as normal, delivering manufacturer-specification performance and economy, governed by an active pedalling motion instead of the conventional depressing of the accelerator.

FitCar prototype 2 uses an otherwise standard Audi A4

FitCar prototype 2 uses an otherwise standard Audi A4

An exercise bike or a car?

An exercise bike or a car?

To make space for the bicycle and flywheel mechanism, the brake-pedal has been replaced with a simple off-the-shelf ‘push hand control’ conversion as used in Motability vehicles.

Pick your own fitness level

There are three simple settings to the FitCar PPV system: ‘Drive Slow’ – when in slow moving traffic, ‘Drive Fast’ for highway speeds and ‘No Drive’ for when stuck in stationary traffic but with the ability to continue exercising by using the pedals.

There is also a simple rotary dial on the pedals to adjust the resistance, depending on what sort of a pedal work-out is required – from easy to difficult.

Oscar added: “We are very pleased with our proof of concept, which has been trialled by many people in the Netherlands. There are several options to further develop and evolve the project. We could feasibly introduce regenerative braking, or different packaging so we can fold the pedals away and return to standard drive mode. We could also develop a smartphone App to go with the PPV to maximise calorie-burn, efficiency and to introduce different routes and challenges among a community of followers. All perfectly possible.”

FitCar believe that their PPV is compatible with most vehicles, from petrol or diesel cars to full battery electric vehicles. The concept is patented internationally and is awaiting RDW approval in the Netherlands for road use across Europe.

Interested: find out more here: www.fit-car.net

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