ANN ARBOR—There were many new concept cars at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this year, but none quite like the Future Cycles vehicles built by Cameron Van Dyke, a graduate student at the University of Michigan's Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.
The MFA candidate's design project was completed as part of his master's thesis and introduces a new transportation option to American roads. The vehicles combine the weather protection and carrying capacity of a car with the low energy usage of a bicycle to create a "hybrid" vehicle—half car, half bicycle.
"These are concept cars in the true sense," Van Dyke said. "They propose an alternative set of values in relation to transportation. My hope is to get people to imagine new possibilities for the way we travel."
Van Dyke displayed two exquisitely made, human-powered vehicles at the Detroit auto show, each with a different focus.
The larger of the two, the "Cyclone," is pedaled by two riders with the capacity for cargo and an additional two passengers. Constructed using boat-building techniques in combination with bicycle technology, it features brushed aluminum details and an interior of fine leather and mahogany. The design references the Model T in a mash-up with, what Van Dyke calls, "iPod styling." The result is a retro-futuristic luxury vehicle.
"The Cyclone offers an idea for a future vehicle, but it also poses questions about the history of automobile culture itself, including its values and its priorities," Van Dyke said.
The second smaller, lighter and more aerodynamic car, the "Zeppelin," is a human electric hybrid vehicle. It is powered by two riders in combination with a 750-watt electric rear motor, and achieves a cruising speed of 25 mph on flat ground. Constructed of aluminum and polycarbonate, it weighs just 270 pounds, has a 20-mile electric range and achieves 700 mpg equivalent.
The Zeppelin meets the legal definition of a bicycle at the federal level and in many states, making it street legal with no additional license, registration or insurance required.
"The goal with the Zeppelin was to find an ideal point for which a bicycle and car could coexist within the same object to create a truly hybrid design," Van Dyke said.
The Future Cycles project began in September 2012 when Dyke enrolled in the Stamps School of Art & Design to pursue a master of fine arts degree after operating his own furniture design studio for more than 16 years. Van Dyke wanted to shift his design practice to something that was more focused on exploring alternative value systems related to housing and transportation.
- Future Cycles: thefuturepeople.us