Monday, May 02, 2005

4-Peds, Are They For You?

Are you looking for an idea whose time is now?

With gasoline going for $2.20 or so a gallon here in North Carolina and higher in most states, a lot of us are looking at ways to save a few dollars at the pumps. Mass-transit is the answer for some but in states like North Carolina where mass-transit is rare, often hard to use, and rarely goes where you need to go, that may not be such a good option. Besides, have you ever lugged 5 bags of groceries onto a city bus? Maybe it’s a hybrid car you need, but with year long waiting lists and car payments that many of us simply can’t afford, a new car may be out of the picture. If so, then 4-Peds may just be the idea you’re looking for. Okay, I know you’re asking, “What the bleep is a 4-Ped?”

If you’re thinking a Moped with four wheels you’re getting close-- very close-- but let’s think outside the box, shall we? (I know, it’s cliche but the analogy works, okay?) A Moped is a hybrid-cross between a bicycle and a motorcycle-- a device that is powered by an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) but also peddled when necessary to crank the engine or boost the power of the tiny 2-Stroke engine when pulling a hill or accelerating. Most hybrid cars and most Mopeds get about 60 miles per gallon but my younger brother’s 1964 Opal Cadet station wagon got 60 MPG and it had a heater-- there’s got to be a better way. Besides, little brother totaled his Opal when it crashed into a ditch in Slidel, Louisiana about 30 years ago.

I say forget that dirty little buzz bomber 2-stroke bee engine altogether. Moped engines are noisy, they stink, and most are worn out in just a year or so. Instead of powering the 4-Ped with gasoline and 2-stroke oil, why not power it with an electric engine and a battery with pedal power used to help in charging the battery? That’s right, the peddles would be connected to an alternator or generator that charges an on-board battery pack. Add a solar cell to the roof and a drop cord so that you can plug-it-in when you get home each night and you should be able to travel 30-45 miles per day at 30 miles per hour. That just happens to be my daily cross-town commute.

Did you know that many electric companies including North Carolina’s own Duke Power Company sell electricity for charging electric cars at a reduced rate?

Yeah, there are electric powered scooters and motorcycles out there but my 75 year old mother never learned how to ride a bicycle even though she rides her exercycle (stationary bicycle) for over an hour every day. This way she could stay in shape and save some of her Social Security check as well. Besides, have you ever lugged 5 bags of groceries on a two-wheeler?

I like this idea so much that I’m already doing research and drawing up plans in hopes of building my own 4-Ped but there’s no reason any good mechanic or handy man couldn’t build one for yourself. If you beat me to it then I’ll be able to learn from your mistakes. Or maybe I’ll buy one of yours. Sure, you might still need a real car for those weekend getaways, late night trips to the emergency room with the kids, and vacations, but think how much money the average American two car family could save if you were only buying gasoline for one car. Even if you had to buy a “factory built” 4-Ped you can bet your monthly gas savings would be more than enough to pay it off in a year or less, and unlike gasoline powered Mopeds whose engines are worn out in a year or two, electric powered 4-Peds could last a lifetime or more. As a matter of fact: I’ve seen 50 year old electric motors in industrial applications that run every day with almost no maintenance. Sure, the rest of the 4-Ped would need occasional repairs but nothing your average mechanic, bicycle mechanic, fork lift mechanic, or above average handy-man or woman couldn’t do for his or herself. And have you compared the cost of a bicycle tire to say, the 265-60 LR-16 Radial tire on your SUV? Bicycle tire $10 bucks, SUV tire $200 bucks-- cost of helping end the world’s energy crisis-- priceless.

This could be the next automotive revolution and it could be powered by a thousand small manufacturers just like you and I. You know, just like the first automotive revolution was powered by thousands of little folks just like you, me, and Henry Ford.

Hey Readers: Got an idea for a product, service, or invention you’d like to see someone do? Or perhaps you’re already doing something new, different, unique, or sorely needed, and would like to be featured here at If so, then send it to idlehandsmag (at) and let us know about it. Who knows, in no time at all, you might be exposed to thousands of readers.

PS. If you or someone you know about is already doing something we feature here on, then please let us know via either the comment box or an e-mail to any of the Idea Consultants as we love to tell the world about innovations.