Things have been quiet here at Project Streetliner for a while. Progress is paused on my small-scale prototype while I wrench on a pair of old motorcycles. Meanwhile I’ve had a lot of ideas rolling around in my head. Thing is though, these haven’t been ideas of progress, but rather ideas on how this project might drastically change.
Right now, the vehicle is designed as a tilting, petrol-powered, highway capable commuter vehicle. Thing is though, my commute now is mostly city streets. Do I really need to do 70 mph? If I’m just zipping around surface streets, is the leaning really needed? Is there actually an opportunity to do a full EV or an EV + generator hybrid vehicle? That has me wondering if I shouldn’t re-spec this project for something closer to my actual use scenarios. Should I shift to more of a velomobile-style bike path runner?
For example, one idea I keep thinking about is basically taking apart a golf cart f0r its motor and controller, welding up a custom solo frame, then maybe adding Honda’s smallest generator for onboard charging. If it’d just be a bike path / lane vehicle, then there’s no real need for a full cage. I’d still be wrapping the whole thing in some sort of aerodynamic body. That’d be pretty sweet.
The other idea I keep tossing around is a non-tilting version of the Streetliner — something perhaps a tad lower and a bit wider up front. This concept would still be scooter or motorcycle based and highway capable, but having a flat trike setup means a slightly simpler chassis and suspension setup. I’m really ambivalent about this one, simply because it isn’t that much of a complexity save. It would mean a control change that could be nice — that is, I could use conventional car controls rather than a handlebar and motorcycle controls.
Speaking of motorcycle drivetrain, that’s been on my mind as well. I understand those mechanicals a LOT better than I used to. An older, air-cooled japanese motorcycle engine is simple, reliable, powerful, and even reasonably efficient. Parts are still abundant, and whole, running motorcycles are available for less than $1000. Changing sprocket sizes for different gear ratios is really easy if I go the motorcycle route. That coupled with the aerodynamic gains from the body shape should make my 60 mpg goals pretty easy to reach. The disadvantage there could be weight. But if my efficiency goals can be met, then does an extra 100 lbs really matter?
The last conceptual quandary I’m trying to figure out is broader purpose. That has a couple of connotations. Do I optimize the vehicle as an in-town commuter with highway capability for getting around town on the bypasses? Do I optimize for surface streets only — so a top speed of 55 mph or less? Or do I optimize the Streetliner as a long-distance touring vehicle? A coast-to-coast road trip at 60+ mpg would be pretty cheap to do. But it’s not just me these days. For a long-distance tourer, I’d want to be able to have my wife with me and we’d need at least a little luggage space, even if we’re traveling light. That’s a pretty big change to design criteria. I’m open to it, but like any of these questions, it’s a significant shift from the current concept. Decisions, decisions.