CYCLING lecturer Dr Ivan Popov was so fed up at being stopped by police on his electric bike that he got his students to build him a new one.
Dr Popov, thought the eco-friendly two-wheeler was the ideal way to get to work at the University of Portsmouth.
But instead it saddled him with a lot of unwanted police attention because it looked more like a motor scooter than a pedal bike.
He was stopped for not wearing a helmet, riding in cycle lanes and not having licence plates – all illegal for motorcyclists but perfectly within the law for cyclists.
Now he has a new way of getting from his Southsea home to work two-and-a-half miles away – because final year mechanical and design engineering students have redesigned the bike.
It is lighter, faster, safer, has better suspension and electronics – and crucially looks more like a pushbike.
Dr Popov said: ‘I bought the bike a year ago but I have experienced many problems. It has limited range, battery life and acceleration and the police kept stopping me when I rode it to work even though electric bicycles do not require you to comply with the same rules as a motorcyclist. Twice I ran out of power and ended up pushing the bike home. Pedalling was very difficult without gears and the pedals are in an awkward position.
‘I decided to give the bike to my mechanical engineering students to see if they could overcome some of the problems while ensuring the bike was fully road legal and didn’t require helmets or insurance. What they have come up with is really fantastic.’
Flatmates Justin Nicholls, Kevin Eades and Chris Sargent spent months developing the prototype in their kitchen before moving it to the university’s engineering laboratories for the final build and testing. It was so successful that Dr Popov will give final year students the same challenge next year.
Chris said: ‘One of our key aims was to try and build something that would encourage people to use an electrically-assisted bicycle instead of a car for short journeys.’
The bike’s steel frame has been replaced with aluminium alloy. It has cruise control and brakes have been replaced. Other improvements include changing the 13kg lead acid battery to a 5.6kg lithium battery, to help extend the bike’s range. It now costs 60 per cent less a mile to run.
Electronic and computer engineering students built improvements including indicators, automatic lights and a dashboard displaying speed and battery life.
It is the first time students from the departments have worked together after getting a £2,000 university grant. Chris Kirby, Institution of Mechanical Engineers head of education, said: ‘This just shows that great British ingenuity is still alive and well in our universities.’