Visitors to Vietnam will invariably end up riding in a cyclo, a pedicab contraption that resembles a bicycle making love to a wheelchair. During a street stop in Hanoi, we tried helping our driver "scooch" the vehicle sideways and discovered the damn thing was apparently made out of cast iron. Our driver, needless to say, was all muscle, from years of 12-hour shifts.
Ex-cycloist Tran Van Tam has come up with a better vehicle of his own design: a battery-powered pedicab that costs less than US $0.20 for 60 kilometers of travel. Though Frankensteined out of a Honda motorcycle and bicycle spare parts, Tran's vehicle is aesthetically pleasing and made the top three in Ho Chi Minh City's Technical Creativity Competition.
"Although I am only a driver without diplomas or certifications, I am lucky to have experience on the roads for more than 20 years, which has given me some knowledge about mechanics," said Tam, who filled info gaps by doing internet research to complete the vehicle. His goal, he said, was to make it "green and clean."
What Tam needs now is backers: The bike can be manufactured for US $1,840 to $2,450, which sounds inexpensive but is still out of reach for most cyclo operators. "The price will decrease considerably if it's mass produced," Tam points out.