Alternative Transportation When the SHTF: Bicycle With a Pushcart
by J. G. Martinez
In one of my previous articles, I mentioned the importance of not being dependent on fuel, as it is now a commodity being controlled by the mafia, which has begun hijacking the entire country. In another article, I wrote about ways to avoid being dependent on fuel. The option described below is one of the most viable, as I already have almost all the needed materials. In many workshops around the world this could surely be built with a minimum of effort. However, there are some limitations on the design performance, in order to keep the availability. But with just a little bit of knowledge and a few interesting readings the upgrades will be quite easy. This idea is not new, it has been around for many years. But in my particular situation, it is going to be a necessity.
What would happen if during a disaster you can’t refill your tank?
After witnessing the fuel shortages in Venezuela, one of the countries with the cheapest gasoline in the world, I realize I can not trust in outside sources for fuel. If I must have fuel for going long distances, I will make sure to carry enough for the entire trip. The era of gasoline engines is over for me. Bio-diesel is the way to go. Diesel can be found these days and requires very little refining and does not need tons of additives to be produced.
However, what I am going to manufacture is not diesel. It is much simpler.
A bicycle with an electric pushcart.
In order to proceed with a suitable design, I had to dedicate some time to assess my needs. I mentally traced the way to my cottage, from downtown. Most of the terrain there is flat enough, but I included a few additional kilometres, just in case. Then, things start to get tough. A few hills make the road mostly uphill and sometimes downhill. These are not your average hills. These are long, endless hills that slope quite aggressively. The cottage is hidden within some good sized mountains. This device will have to make it over one km uphill and a 30 km long road.
I am not that lazy. I plan on pedaling as much as I can, otherwise I could be left stranded in the middle of an uphill climb. I would have to stop, disengage the motor and go back onto the road. The reason I decided on an electric pushcart is, because the bike will not need any modification. The gears and sprockets are going to remain on the bike and can be used easily to haul the pushcart, if needed. The push cart will only be used in uphill situations. According to my calculations, it´s going to be approximately 3 – 4.5 km, uphill.
How will you power the pushcart?
I will be using a rebuilt 700 amp, lead-acid battery and some of the sturdy alternators I have as well. If one battery is not enough, I could find another, install it next to the others one, making the system 24V. I will place the motor in a bracket and position it over a small motorcycle rear tire, screwed to a crown. The frame is likely to be made of aluminum and plywood, with a sturdy steel goose neck fixed to a round bracket to insert the seat tube through. A small universal joint with two yokes, from a junked car, will be welded to this neck close to the bracket of the bike seat support tube, to allow some freedom degrees. However this is to be evaluated at first. The pushing force and bike handling will have to remain unaffected by the joint.
I have yet to decide if I will use one or two wheels. I believe one wheel is the best choice: less materials and weight, less drag if batteries are depleted and I have to pedal. With two wheels a fixed axle is needed, this has to be balanced in a rotary mill, with the crow exactly in the middle with two brackets at the ends for the wheels…it can be done, but it´s more work, money and time. A spring-loaded support will be needed, with whatever design I choose.
Just to be clear, if you are going to build something like this, using parts that are not designed for other purposes can generate unexpected outcomes. The problem with car batteries is, they have been built to provide high power for a while, in more or less short bursts. They have been made to crank an engine for a few seconds, and that´s it. The alternator provides the rest of the energy for the electric systems of the car. However, this short bursts, if managed with intelligence can be just what I need.
Research to find the right parts at the right cost.
The drag generated by the thin tires of a bicycle are adequate for electric engines and their limited power. They won´t make your tire spin, and under the heavy rain conditions we may find, that is an advantage. Brush-less engines have more power delivery, but they need accessories to build the system like controllers, a different battery chemistry, and will drain resources that I simply don´t have. The internet is abundant in exhibiting this type of vehicles, though. Lots of permaculture loving guys and gals have made their designs, and it works quite good for them. I have seen some incredible motors the size of a fist, and hi-tech lithium batteries that fit in your bottle holder and pushing the driver 20 km. However, with our limited means, and knowing how much a parcel post from Europe to Venezuela (if it makes it through the customs) costs, the decision is easy.
A pushcart with a wheel in the middle seems to be a great choice for balancing. However, in order for this wheel to work, it should be in one of two positions.
- As close to the bike as possible. This makes me think in a design where the motor is on a bracket on top of the wheel, with the battery in tandem, slightly off-set with the arrangement motor-wheel, to balance the load.
- The other design that will take lower the center of gravity (the point that makes your car to roll if it´s too high) is the engine in tandem, behind the trailer wheel, to the far end of the trailer, far off the bike. Next to the motor and as close as possible to make wiring very short, in the opposite side for balance purposes of course, will be located the battery. This will allow to install a flat wooden lid on top of all this, both for protection as for tying up some luggage.
According to my research, the cart and battery should be as light and strong as possible, and that is a design limitation already by itself. I would like it to be short, with a speed control in the handlebar. Wheel engagement control with a solenoid and a relay mounted to the motor bracket, and a switch in the handle bar, is another interesting addition. However, I am a fan of making the vehicles as simple as possible, to fix them by myself if (or when) they broke, so let´s see if such level of comfort is something easy to install and reliable.
An important notice here, is this: regular bicycle items are going to have much more wear than used with human power. Tires, bearings, brakes and chains (a motorcycle rear tire is much heavier, because it is designed to handle the power of a gasoline engine so I probably won´t be using that). The bike will go to a higher speed, for more time, and will run a much higher distance than if propelled by me, that´s a fact. That means over 60 km round trip. If for some reason we have to go twice a week, that´s pretty high for any bicycle.
Make sure to test run your bicycle!
If you decide you to build your own bicycle with pushcart, make sure to perform inspections frequently to avoid surprises. My intentions are to build a prototype, which will be upgraded afterwards with a small 80cc engine fueled by bio-gas. (Hopefully, I will be making bio-gas.) The bio-gas engine can be used if/when the batteries start to run low, or it will be used to provide electricity is yet to be decided. The first option, being used as a mechanical auxiliary motor, is probably the better one in terms of weight and consequently fuel saving, but will require some degree of precision working with the final end chain (maybe just a simple design with a lever, a good chain tensor and displacement grooves to slide it back and forth to engage it, and disengage the electric one with the same system) . Negative point is, to use it as an hybrid system, it will have to make an alternator spin, adding more weight to the final arrangement…unless a small genset can be found to provide the 12V needed. However you decide to build your hybrid, it will require a few calculations before being built.
Be safe, people. See you in the next time!
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151
About the Author
About Jose Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151