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It may look like a car, but it's way better for you and the planet

Velomobiles come in many shapes and sizes, but most of them look like a space ship’s escape pod. The average velomobile is a recumbent tricycle with a hard, usually aerodynamic shell around it. They can get up to good speeds and they make it easier for bikers to tool around in winter. The PodRide velomobile, however, which is now up for funding on Indiegogo, looks more like a car than a tricycle.

Mikael Kjellman, the creator of PodRide, loves to bike, but winters at his home in Sweden are not always “bicycle-friendly.”  And since he works as a design engineer, designing an enclosed bike was a logical step. He created a four-wheel aluminum frame with a heavy-duty fabric casing and small heater to keep the rider (or driver) warm and dry.

“Four wheels make it stable, equivalent to nearly double the width of a tricycle,” Kjellman told Digital Trends. “And to be narrow and small is good on the bike paths.” He further explained that the design process was quite long, but you can read about it on his website.

While PodRide does look like a car, it’s only 30 inches wide — narrow enough for a bike path. Kjellman said, “I often get a big smile, and as soon as I try to park somewhere there are people who ask what it is and where I bought it.”

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The fabric shell encompasses a removable windshield with a hand-cranked windshield wiper. The front of the shell hinges open so the driver can climb into the seat, which is about as high as a compact car’s. There’s a small trunk in the rear to make shopping trips and other errands easier, and a tow bar for bike trailers. All the windows crack open for those hot summer months, and the front vent opens for even more airflow.

For the final touch of car-like comfort, the PodRide has a standard e-bike motor. A 250-watt battery pushes this 154-pound velomobile up hills with a 14-gear internal hub on 20-inch wheels, and rear shocks keep the ride comfortable. Add another four gears if the rider pedals. Levers on the side allow for braking, steering, and drifting, a rare feat for a velomobile. The lithium-ion battery will last about 37 miles.

Kjellman’s Indiegogo campaign has already passed its $30,000 goal, but at $50,000 Kjellman plans to put together self-assembly kits so backers can build their own PodRide at home. He expects to sell the final model for about $3,400, in the range of really nice traditional bikes.