Cameron Van Dyke (MFA ‘15): ORBIT at Cooper Hewitt Design Museum
The vehicle is part of an exhibition of socially responsible design titled By the People - Designing a Better America, Sept 30 - Feb 26, 2017. It is the fourth vehicle of their ongoing Future Cycles project, which brought human powered vehicles to the Detroit Auto Show in 2015. With ORBIT, they have moved to a fully electric drivetrain in order to simplify the fabrication, lower the cost, and give it a higher top speed. The end result is a fully enclosed vehicle which weighs just 250 lbs., goes 30 mph, has a 25-mile range, and fully recharges in 6 hours. It uses less than a penny per mile in energy cost and might be the perfect commuter vehicle. However, if you want one, you may have to build it yourself.
“The goal of this project is not production, but rather to create personal agency in response to the grip of the auto industrial complex,” said Cameron Van Dyke.
“What if we could build and maintain our own energy efficient transportation?”
In order to explore that question, Cameron and Rachel needed an established legal framework with which to operate. The answer was to use the legal definition of a moped as a design tool. In the state of Michigan, a moped is a vehicle that has two or three wheels, a motor with less than 4 horsepower, and a top speed of 30 mph. It cannot have a shiftable transmission. Van Dyke explained, “using just those simple requirements left a lot of room for reinterpretation, we had to overlook any preconceived idea of what a moped was supposed to look like.”
Fabricated from 1/16" laser cut aluminum, a simple welded steel frame, off the shelf bicycle parts, and a 3000w e-bike kit, the ORBIT is assembled largely by using pre-located holes and pop rivets to make assembly as easy as possible. “There are other companies that are developing enclosed three wheeled vehicles,” says Van Dyke, “but they are designed for production and are dependent on the market for success. The Future Cycles concept is instead to develop a simple, safe, low-tech design that can be shared with anyone who has the ambition and fabrication skills to build and maintain it themselves.”