Beginning some 3 years ago, many websites, blogs and a handful of TV shows were raving about a new kind of gas powered, motorized bicycle wheel called RevoPower. The idea even piqued the interests of publications like Machine Design, Popular Science and even CNN :
When I first heard about it back then, I thought it was a pretty neat concept. Non-cyclists tend to stay away from pedal power due to the very requirement and consequences of pedaling! Sad, but true. So if this new idea was part of an answer to help target the vast blue ocean of non-cyclists, it was welcomed by all means. Hey, gas was cheap!
As the rider of this bicycle, you would substitute the 15 pound Revopower wheel for your normal spoked front wheel, slip a tank of standard gasoline into your water bottle cage, clip the throttle to your handlebars using the given attachment, and start pedaling like you would normally ride a bike. When you are ready for some supplemental power, you operate the thumb powered throttle to get the engine to kick into action. The clutch would then automatically engage and you are on your way to wherever you need to be between 15-20 mph claimed speeds.
While the concept and prototypes looked fine, the product just didn't come out. In fact, Denver based RevoPower first said it would be out by late 2006. Then it was shifted to early 2007. Then to late 2007, and finally into 2008 according to the latest update on their website. We're almost nearing the end of this year and there is still no sign of the product.
The time to market has been nothing short of horrible. We all know that every fortnight, something new comes out in the commercial bicycle scene. I may be exaggerating but my point being that in a time sensitive market, it'll be against your opportunity by not getting the product out quickly.
So the question then begs to be answered. Where are they? Whats happening behind the scenes? What is the bottleneck exactly? Did the credit crunch get them? Was the record gas prices early this year turning it into a non-viable product?
According to some sources : "RevoPower is in the hands of the secured creditors. There is no product imminent. The product could not be produced after 4 years and millions of dollars of investment due to thermal issues and performance constraints. The IP is in dispute with the original investors, and no one may offer this product without the consent of the creditors, which has not been granted. Please contact David Kendall, KKO Attorneys at Law, 999 18th St, Denver CO with any information which may lead to civil action."
While I'm choosing to trust whoever filled us with that information, I also want to talk a little about some other drawbacks of this design.
1. In this day and age, when cyclists are complaining about the very chain and sprocket transmission system (greasy and oily), here is RevoPower proposing to contribute 15 more pounds in weight of oil & gas powered componentry to the front portion of the bicycle.
2. In an impact, its the front wheel that often takes the first blow. While 400 dollars may not be overly expensive, placing all this setup at the most vulnerable site just opens it to the possibility of damage.
3. Clean, electric, battery powered pedal assists are being very compeitive in the market these days [see this video of a hub powered motor]. Whats the chance of a gas powered system standing up to them? 100mpg of claimed system efficiency might cut it for a while, but battery technology is leapfrogging and will catch up in no time.
4. The idea of placing a can of gas into one of your water bottle holders takes away the real estate for your drinking water. Besides, who would like the idea of carrying a flammable liquid between their crotch on a hot day?
5. A gas powered engine might trigger regulations in some states, requiring the rider to hold a two wheeler driver's licence.
6. The components might not be easy to understand for the new, unassuming cyclist. The installation of the setup is also crude and has to be taken to a bike shop or a RevoPower certified professional.
7. Every bike company is in for the money to be gained from claimed weight savings on their design. Being light and svelte is one of the chief selling points we commonly see in today's bikes. A lighter proposition for a pedal assist will most likely be preferable over something heavy.
8. Perhaps the most critical point that we may have not talked about so far is the fact the gas engine itself has its own explosive fuel mixture and has its own source of ignition. As such, it has to be tested and certified that it is safe to use by normal consumers. Imagine being able to snap on an explosive component to a bike and say its ready to ride. That may work in other countries but in the U.S, there are specific agencies that ensure that these products meet all the regulatory standards before being sold.
In conclusion, I'm not positive where this company is headed. RevoPower's fate perhaps highlights the classic pithole that an idea or invention need not always make it successfully to market. You need more than an inventive genius to finance and manage your operations and see it to the end of the tunnel.
It'll be very interesting to see if RevoPower pushes their date a fifth time into 2009. If you've further information about the company, or if you're Steve Katsoras, the inventor...please feel free to put some information in the comments here. There might be a good number of people painfully waiting to get a hold of this product. Wait, painfully huh?
Additional Resources : One of my readers posted a nice link to a 56 page PDF report on Revopower presented by New York Private Equity. Thanks! Read it here.