It's a pedal car, Jim, but not as we know it.
A Saudi inventor has created the world’s first calorie-burning car, which is said to "turn sedentary, unhealthy, tedious commutes into active, healthy time."
Nasser Al Shawaf teamed up with Dutch firm BPO to create the FitCar PPV Prototype 2, which swaps a throttle pedal for bicycle pedals.
From the outside, it looks like any other Audi A4 Avant. It even has an unremarkable 2-liter turbocharged engine, which is mated to an equally standard automatic gearbox, but the cabin is somewhat different.
In the driver’s footwell, the car has bicycle-style pedals in place of a throttle pedal, allowing the car’s onboard computer to turn the effort of the driver into a throttle input. If the driver pedals faster and harder, the car accelerates.
The system essentially has three basic settings. In traffic, it has a "Drive Slow" option, while highway use necessitates the "Drive Fast" setting. When the car is stopped, but the driver still wants to exercise, there’s a "No Drive" option, which disengages the pedals from the throttle.
There’s also a dial on the pedals to adjust the resistance, allowing the driver to choose their workout.
Because the bicycle pedal system takes up so much room, the brake has been replaced with a simple hand control version as seen in Motability vehicles.
The system is patented internationally, and it is awaiting approval for road use in the Netherlands and across Europe.
Commenting on the project, Nasser Al Shawaf said: "I work in many cities around the world where a 60-minute-plus car commute, each way, each day is not uncommon. This is an unhealthy way to waste more than two hours every day. So, I came up with the idea of the FitCar – which does exactly the same as any conventional car – getting us safely and comfortably from A to B. However, in the FitCar you can exercise while you drive.
"Our studies suggest a calorie burn-rate of more than 300 per 30 minutes. We are increasingly time-poor, and unfit, but the FitCar PPV provides at least part of the solution to these two problems for those of us wishing to exercise more but without the time to do it. I’m really proud of the results."
Oscar Brocades Zaalberg, founder and managing director of BPO, said: "This is two years in the making. We started with a simple 'buck' to demonstrate how this could work, then tried it out for real on a SmartCar. This is Prototype 2, an Audi A4 Avant, chosen for its cockpit ergonomics, allowing for a comfortable cycling position, with enough room for the physical action of pedaling.
"Our ambition is for the technology to be either adopted by a car manufacturer for a new generation of 'healthier' city cars, or for us simply to offer it as a conversion kit in to the aftermarket – for those wishing to add PPV as an optional active extra to their car. Once you get in the car and drive it, it is intuitive, easy to control and safe – I would encourage anybody to give it a try."
"We are very pleased with our proof of concept, which has been trialed by many people in the Netherlands. There are several options to further develop and evolve the project. We could feasibly introduce regenerative braking, or different packaging so we can fold the pedals away and return to standard drive mode. We could also develop an App to go with the PPV to maximize calorie-burn, efficiency and to introduce different routes and challenges among a community of followers. All perfectly possible."