VM45 velomobile: Electric-assist cruising at near 30 mph

Katanga Pedal-Electric VM45 Velomobile
The vehicle, presently dubbed VM45, is expected to hit the market with a more memorable and snappier name. Images © Katanga

When we talk about urban commuting alternatives, electric cargo bikes often come to mind as potential replacements for cars. But the reality is that they can’t always match the speed and convenience of a car in an urban environment. Enter the VM45, a pedal-electric velomobile with a promise to revolutionize urban commuting.

First, let’s clarify what a velomobile is. A velomobile is essentially a recumbent tricycle or quadcycle that’s enveloped in a sleek, aerodynamic shell. This streamlined design not only makes the vehicle faster than a standard upright bicycle on flat terrains but also offers ample cargo space and protection against the elements.

The VM45 velomobile, the brainchild of Czech mobility firm Katanga, is a prime example of modern velomobile engineering. Katanga, also known for their WAW velomobile and parts production for the Velove Armadillo four-wheeler, began the VM45 project in January 2021.

The body of the VM45 is crafted from a robust composite mix of aramid and carbon fibers set within an epoxy matrix. This offers strength and resilience while maintaining a lightweight profile. To enter the cockpit, riders use a side-opening lockable hatch, while a smaller hatch on the rear provides access to a spacious 350-liter (or 92-gallon) cargo compartment.

Katanga Pedal-Electric VM45 Velomobile Top Hatch
The cockpit is accessed via a hinged top hatch.

The drivetrain of the VM45 velomobile boasts a 7-speed, auto-shifting, 750-watt Valeo motor/gearbox that enhances the rider’s pedaling effort to reach speeds of up to 45 km/h (28 mph). Interestingly, the VM45 also features a reverse gear. This is all powered by a 48V/1,240-Wh lithium-ion battery, promising a remarkable range of up to 255 km (158 miles) when in Eco assist mode.

Comfort and safety aren’t compromised. The VM45 comes equipped with front and rear DNM coil-spring shocks, which offer 45 and 60 mm of travel, respectively. It relies on 90-mm Sturmey-Archer drum brakes in the front and 160-mm disc brakes in the back for assured braking. These rear disc brakes also function as parking brakes.

Katanga Pedal-Electric VM45 Velomobile Lighting System
The VM45 is equipped with a comprehensive lighting system: headlights, taillights, turn indicators, brake light, and a license plate light.

Further enhancing safety and convenience, the VM45 velomobile is fitted with a comprehensive front and rear lighting system, turn indicators, an electric motorcycle horn, and dual side mirrors. All these features are packed into a vehicle weighing a mere 79 kg (174 lbs), including the battery. It rides on four 20-inch, 47-mm-wide spoked bicycle wheels and can handle a total weight (rider plus cargo) of up to 121 kg (267 lbs).

However, the VM45’s capabilities mean it’s classified as a “light on-road quad” rather than an e-bike in Europe. Katanga’s president, Stephane Boving, mentioned that this could mean a lengthy homologation process. Hence, potential customers might have to wait a bit longer, as no preorders are accepted currently.

Katanga Pedal-Electric VM45 Velomobile Cargo Space
The VM45 features a 92-gallon cargo space at the back.

But Boving also hinted at introducing a version with a more modest 250-watt motor, capping the speed at 25 km/h (16 mph), which could make it to the market earlier. For those who prefer customization, there might be an option to purchase a non-motorized model, allowing buyers to choose and install their own motor. As for the price, the non-motorized variant is estimated to be around €11,000 ($12,090), whereas the motorized version might retail for €13,000 ($14,290).

Katanga Pedal-Electric VM45 Velomobile Stephane Boving
President of Katanga, Stephane Boving, alongside the VM45.

In a world increasingly focused on sustainable and efficient urban transportation, the VM45 velomobile represents an intriguing new chapter. Only time will tell how this velomobile reshapes our urban landscapes.

Katanga Pedal-Electric VM45 Velomobile Opened Up
The VM45, all opened up.

Source: Katanga