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RETAILING IN CITY CENTRES - The development of electric vehicles for pedestrian areas

Impact on retail trade.

With steadily growing levels of air pollution from road traffic in cities throughout the world, it is inevitable that the present trends towards traffic exclusion and pedestrianisation will continue. For example, in the UK the present campaign to make Oxford Street a 'clean air island' by the Millennium is gathering momentum.

Such trends are likely to affect supermarkets in particular as groceries can be heavy and bulky and customers will not wish to carry away too great a load by hand if they cannot reach the store by car.

Transport in Pedestrian Areas

This raises the question as to what forms of transport can best service shops in pedestrian areas.

The Pedicab uses bicycle technology to transport people and goods in an environmentally-friendly manner.1 Its drawback is that the average human being can provide only about 0.1 Horsepower on a continuous basis.2 As the attached table shows,3 this power is sufficient to take a 250 Kg vehicle on the flat at between 5 mph and 10 mph but on any appreciable gradient it becomes almost impossible to propel. In fact pedal rickshaws were phased out in Asia some 20 years ago because of the short life expectancy of the drivers, caused by continuous over-exertion and resultant exhaustion.

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Road Safety

Even cycling in traffic-free zones can be dangerous to pedestrians - as seen in the present controversy in which cyclists are claiming the right to ride on urban footpaths.

Therefore any attempt to assist the movement of people and goods in pedestrian areas must take a view on

(a) segregation or demarcation of pedestrians and vehicles - cycle law, bus lanes etc.
(b) types of vehicles to be permitted - presumably human-powered plus some specified degree of assistance; land-trains or buses; rickshaws etc.
(c) permitted fuels - presumably electricity only;also LPG or CNG hybrids?
(d) maximum permitted speed
(e) warning to pedestrians - audible of flashing beacon?

Maximum speed

As regards maximum speed there exists in the UK a 15 mph pedal-assisted class free of licensing restrictions as exploited by the ill-fated Sinclair C5. However this speed is probably excessive for pedestrian areas and 10 mph max may be more appropriate.

One advantage of electric traction - particularly with permanent magnet motors - is that the maximum speed can be very exactly regulated. It could therefore be fixed at, say, 10 mph for pedestrian areas, while similar vehicles could be operated at up to 15 mph eg for elderly people without a driving license to use for shopping in country districts.

Additional aspects to be considered include goods delivery and removal, and rubbish removal.

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Available Technology

All the technology needed for such vehicles is already in existence and many partial evaluation trials have already been made. What is now needed is an integrated pilot scheme to assess the performance of such vehicles in practical use.

These vehicles, which might be called 'cycle-cars' - to borrow a term from the 1920s - are at the low-speed end of a range of electric vehicles which extend through 'triporteurs' such as the Bajaj autorickshaw 4 (max speed: 30 mph) to the conventional light van - eg Ford Fiesta 5 or Vauxhall Corsa 6 (45 -50 mph) weighing up to 1 Tonne. Above this weight - eg for London Taxi or Transit van - a hybrid system 7 is necessary given the state of present battery technology. For this purpose, an electric generator running at constant speed on propane is recommended, as undesirable emissions from a gas engine are very low compared with a Diesel generator. Hybrid gas-electric, rather than pure gas, has the advantage that the internal combustion engine can be much smaller and, also, the vehicle can run on batteries only if required.

Political Problem

Provided the technology proves to be practicable then the problem basically becomes one of political decision-making and
regulation to arrive at the broadest consensus between the interests of retailers, local authorities and the public.


Assuming vehicle weight of 250 Kg; including driver, 2 passengers and shopping.

Power required for hill climbing = Mass x g (accel. due to gravity) x gradient (%) x speed.
ie. P (Watts) = Mgsv

M = Mass (Kg)
g = 9.81 m/sec/sec
s = slope or gradient (%)
v = speed (metres/sec)

The following table shows the power in watts required by a 250 Kg vehicle when climbing a gradient, together with power
required to run on the flat at the same speeds, overcoming rolling resistance and air resistance.

Speed Power On Gradient (Watts) Power On Flat (Watts)
mph m/sec Gradient Rolling Resistance Air Resistance Total
    1 : 100 1 : 50 1 : 20 1 : 10      
    0.01 0.02 0.05 0.10      
1 0.45 11 22 55 110 5.60 0.07 5.70
2 0.90 22 44 110 220 11.20 0.60 11.80
3 1.35 33 66 165 330 16.80 2.70 18.80
4 1.80 44 88 220 440 22.40 4.80 27.00
5 2.25 55 110 275 550 28.00 9.00 37.00
10 4.50 110 220 550 1100 56.00 120.00 176.00
15 6.75 165 330 825 1650 84.00 251.00 335.00

The following table gives the above results expressed in horsepower, summarised as power required on flat (gradient is zero) +
that required on gradient at same speed.

Speed Power on Gradient (HP)
mph Zero Gradient 1 : 100 1 : 50 1 : 20 1 : 10 1 : 5
1 0.008 0.015 0.030 0.070 0.150 0.300
2 0.016 0.030 0.060 0.140 0.300 0.600
3 0.025 0.045 0.090 0.210 0.450 0.900
4 0.036 0.060 0.120 0.280 0.600 1.200
5 0.049 0.075 0.150 0.350 0.750 1.500
10 0.240 0.150 0.300 0.700 1.500 3.000
15 0.450 0.225 0.450 1.125 2.250 4.550

The total power at any speed and gradient is arrived at by adding the figure at zero gradient to that at the same speed on a
specified gradient.

The shaded area shows the performance that a normal human being is able to achieve - ie. he or she will climb a 1:10
gradient at less than 1 mph, provided they have a low enough gear ratio. Outside the zone marked, powered assistance is

Electric Motors For Vehicles
1986: Where it all began! Cedric Lynch winning Electrathon '86

1 Sainsbury's Pedicab, C1611. Appendix 1
2 F. R. Whitt & D. G. Wilson, 'Bicycling Science', MIT Press, 1979
3 Power Requirements for Pedicabs', London Innovation, 1998. C1606W.
4 Bajaj-Lynch Electric Autorickshaw', Lynch Data Sheet, 1998, C1236W.
5 Lynch Electric Ford Fiesta', Lynch Data Sheet, 1998, C1545W.
6 Corsa Van - Lynch Electric Conversion'. Lynch Data Sheet, 1998. C1479W.
7 Zero- and Low-emission Vehicles for Cities', London Innovation, 1995. C1209.
8 Electric Vehicles in the UK, Problems & Solutions.' London Innovation, 1998. C1564W

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