Sinclair X-1 vs London Cab (&C5) 2010

A fascinating comparison of the 2010 X-1 pedelec with the 1985 C5 pedelec trike and the classic London taxi. Some obvious drawbacks of the X-1 are the underpowered 190watt motor (should have been 250w); the acrylic screen that you can't avoid looking through, but which has no wiper; and the tiny 16inch wheels – too small to cope comfortably with London's potholes, especially on a recumbent. It's surprising that the X-1 weighs as much as 45kg, a full 15kg more than the C5, especially since the C5 had lead acid batteries whereas the X-1 had lithium (unless those figures were without battery). Notwithstanding the above 'issues' I still think that an updated, X-1-ish FF could have a lot of potential in 2021; indeed, it would be well worth investigating the production of both moped (28mph) and A1 (11kW) versions. PNB

Many thanks to Ben Wilson for the image.

Sinclair X-1 vs London Cab (&C5) 2010

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I'm not sure what the USP of the X.1 is. As a pedelec it's basically too slow to run with traffic and too big to skip lightly off like an E-scooter. It's already facing compettion from a host of reasonably capable e-mopeds/scooters (see EMN) and the unwiped screen isn't really on - as anyone who's had a Quasar screen mist up can confirm.

Some of the problem is the pathetic excuse for a government England is saddled with. The step betweeen frankly inadequate E-bicycles (12mph and 250 watts) and E-mopeds is far too big in regulatory terms, while everyone else seems to allow 20mph for e-bicycles. In cities with 20 mph speed limits, 20 mph has to be the speed limit for non-regulated two wheelers. This is happening anyway - I've followed privately owned E-scooters doing a steady 25 mph and 40 mph 'e-bicycles' are commonplace. But you can't expect a manufacturer to behave like that. Perhaps the Dept. for Transport will catch up later this millenium.

Actually I've seen the X.1 on the local 'Railway Path' (AKA the 'cycle path') in Bristol. The lack of suspension makes it exteremely noisy due to bodywork resonance and it must be a painful experience on Bristols collapsing roads. (Note to PTW-equipped visitors - match out for serious holes in even the major roads)

I personally think that something like an e-Adiva would stand a better chance in the market, but in any case, just looking at the traffic, it's obvious that what's needed is an E-delivery scooter. something Like a CE-02 with a luggage tail section, but at a more believable price than anything from BMW.

FOr the record I also want to note that the C5 is one of those things that get in the way of people understanding FF's. Both Rolls Royce (advetising for projects) and various individuals, introduced to a 120 mph, two-seater Voyager, have asked "Isn't a bit like a C5?" This may have influenced my opinion of this e-assisted pedel trike...

Existing pedelec regs: 15.5 mph, not 12mph.

I agree about raising the pedelec speed to 20mph, but it ain't 12mph now, it's 15.5mph (25kph). This holds throughout the EU, and back in the days when we (the UK) were a member, in January 2016 to be precise, we finally brought our pedelec regs in line with the EU's and for the time being, they remain that way. That's why motorcycle-style twistgrips are no longer permitted to be fitted to e-bikes when sold new, whereas prior to 2016 they were (I have a pre-2016 folding electric bicycle that is fitted with one). Having recently researched and written an 18 page feature on electric bicycles (for Trail magazine), I am pretty sure of the facts of the matter! You will not be surprised to hear that in my article I noted the irony of finally getting our UK regs in line with the EU's precisely 6 months before we voted to leave the EU...PNB


OK, I share your amusement at the Brits getting their EU act together just in time to leave the EU. All part of the accelerating shambles of British 'governance'. Forgive me for my negative interest in the Bicycle, the principle cause of the failure of PTW's to become modern vehicles. I also have a couple of old-style E-bicycles with twist grips that I propose to avoid using if at all possible.

But in any case I doubt if it's worth producing a semi-enclosed (Mini-Quasar?) for the pedelec market where the range and performance are too low to make weather protection and aerodynamoics relevent - and there is a host of competing options including E-scooters that can be rented spontaneously for almost nothing. Surely the major market for the FF advantages is the suburban commuter, capable of running with motorway traffic but mainly providing comfort, handling, safety and traffic penetration in sub-twenty mile trips? Basically a bit less of everything than the Cmax. The competition is the small car.

Free for all

It's a little radical, but I'm quite in favour of a 20mph free for all in cities. Unlicensed, unregulated vehicles of all shapes and sizes with minimal rules. Let's say

  • < 500W
  • power cut off at 20mph
  • At least one brake
  • lights at night

E-Scooters; E-Bicycles; minimotos; electric mopeds; electric monkey bikes; Velomobiles; cargo trikes; G-Wizz / Citroen Ami light cars; quads; leaning off road invalid carriages; bring it on. But have a weight limit so 10 wheel tipper trucks for development work are not allowed on 20mph streets and unlicensed vehicles like the above are not allowed on urban 50mph roads.

As for the Sinclair X-1, only one prototype was ever made. It may or may not be in Bristol. I think there is potential for a properly streamlined, recumbent E-Bicycle. It may or may not have a roof. But I don't think this is it. I wouldn't want wheels any smaller than a Brompton and probably a 700c on the back. And long wheelbase for convenience so the crank is low and behind the front wheel.

Freedom! Freedom?

Technically, this is an attractive notion that might unlock substantial innovation in urban transport. In theory. In practice it's likely that the most profitable option would be promoted by 'big transport' to the exclusion of all else (see 'The Car').

But that aside there are some functional obstacles.

First may be just be the incapacity of local regulation. Bristol, for instance, is incapable of setting local speed limits according to local conditions, imposing 'blanket' 20mph limits regardless of road type or traffic densities. It's road maintenance is basically absent making road condition the primary concern for all two wheeler users. And it relies on random police camera action and parking warden visits for enforement, which is largely absent. So the 'free for all' suggested is already emerging. More importantly, the possiblity of intelligently segregating roads into 'urban 50' and 'free for all 20' is completely beyond it's capacity.

Next there is the usually overlooked nature of urban traffic. Contrary to the imagination of most office-based workers, notably including traffic planners, there is a large cohort of non-rush hour traffic conisting of very mixed vehicle types enagaged in the trafficking of goods and services in the internal city economy. This economy is the reason the cities are there. This vehicle use cannot be prevented from using all the road system without reducing it's vialbility. This trafficking implies mixed use of most roads ands includes trucks for everything from construction supply to waste collection. At the other end of the spectrum E-cargo scooters are equally esesential.

Then the question of safety arises. Does safety matter? If it does, in a mixed-use situation some regulation of vehicle performance and user competence is neccessary. At present there is little logic or consistency in regulation but this should not excuse consideration of these matters in any 'free-for all' approach. Perhaps the forty year safety development on FF prototypes was a wasted effort? Although it clearly saved my life...

While I agree that the present regulatory situation in England is largely inadequate, like most of the system of governance, I think progress can best be made by identifying the desired outcomes. Obviously the minimum carbon footprint is essential, addressing energy consumption in use, manufacture and lifetime. This is a requirement for any manufactuered product. This implies in turn the best efficiency. The most efficient vehicles, used in the most efficient way. For me, this objective was the incentive to develop FFs. Following on from this it is essential that an efficient vehicle also provides for the needs of the user, so they will use it. I may have covered this ground already.

Having said all this I agree that the idea of a limited 'free for all' has merit. Rather than adopting the failed 'specification-led' regulatory system that seeks to define particular types of vehicle (The "bicycle", the "Pedelec", the "Moped" etc. etc.) I believe a 'performance-led' approach would be better in terms both of allowing innovation and providing consistent standards particularly of safety. Thus any wheeled vehicle should meet specified braking performance. Lights, including brake lights and indicators, to definite levels should be required. Basic safety performance can be mandated. None of this is technically difficult. Clearly, speed limitations can modify some of these requirments and a universal urban speed limit, applying to all wheeled vehicles would be sensible.

Of course the chances of any of this happening roughly equate to the danger of being taken out by a drunken flying pig, losing control in a downdraft on leaving the pub. But it's good to dream and more fun than de-geasing this bloody Commando gearbox!