The 35-year old graduate engineer and MBA Marcus von der Wehl developed the Velayo and brought it on the market. Now he looked for a new job in Bremen, Germany and wants to improve his product in his free time and increase its market share.
BentBlog interviewed the exceptional developer of an exceptional velomobile (please note that some technical aspects of Marcus answers were hard to translate for a non engineer[me]).
BentBlog: Marcus, you started selling the Velayo, you developed yourself, in 2009. What was the reason for bringing an additional velomobile on the market?
Marcus: I wanted to build a velomobile with bigger seat height which should be as light as possible.
BentBlog: The Velayo is considerably higher than most other VMs, the front wheels are located outside of the body, it has forward wheel drive and back wheel steering. You seem to make everything differently than all others. Why?
Marcus: It was not my aim to make everything different, it just happened. Due to the high center of gravity, the distance between the front wheels had to be wider to remain a good tilt resistance. I chose a forward wheel drive to prevent the vehicle of becoming too heavy. The chain remains short, no matter how big the wheel base is, and you don’t need exhausting chain guide. Further I wanted to ensure that the front wheels always run parallel to avoid friction losses here. This is achieved best by a fixed front axis. So it came to the back wheel steering. That was the most complicated part: normal back wheel steerings do either have a bad directional stability or do not come back straight after curves by themselves. The back steering of the Velayo can both: it has a good directional stability and builds up resetting forces in curves. If you want, the back steering is the key innovation of the Velayo. Without this, the vehicle would be heavier and it would have a higher roll resistance and frictional losses in the drive train.
BentBlog: Only one of the front wheels is powered. Isn’t this a disadvantage now in winter? Is the Velayo rather a nice-weather-vehicle?
Marcus: About 30% of the vehicle-mass weigh on the front wheel. Other trikes/velomobiles do not have a much higher weight on the back wheel, because the centre of gravity has to stay near the front axis – tilt stability becomes smaller at the back.
However, in the Velayo you can give more weight on the left (powered) wheel, by leaning to the left with your body – this trick does not work in a back wheel driven vehicle. Hence the Velayo is neither more nor less a nice-weather-vehicle.
Marcus: I think that there are a lot of people who do not feel comfortable in traffic with other velomobiles due to the low seat height. Apart from that I think that there are a lot of folks who wish to have a uncomplicated, easy to maintain velomobile as the dealer network is rather small. I am aiming for this kind of people with the Velayo. By the way, I think that on the long run this is not the niche but rather the main market.
BentBlog: The Velayo reminds in its look of racing cars from the beginning of the last century. Was it your aim to optically present something different or did form follow function here?
Marcus: Of course I wanted the Velayo to be liked optically; however, it is rather a functional outcome that it reminds so many people of 1920s racing cars: I think the association arises from the slim, free-standing wheels with rather big diameter. These are a result from my aim to implement well rolling wheels and a small front surface.
BentBlog: Prior to and during the start of the Velayo on the market, you posted on the velomobilforum every here and then. You have become a seldom guest there in the last couple of months. Did you prepare new developments in the background, of which you’d like to tell us?
Marcus: Mainly, I was busy building Velayos. As I felt that Velayo-experiences reported by customers are more believable I concentrated on building. Of course, there are some developments: a wind-shield and a pad in the mesh seat were added and double-sided front wheel drive and a head cover are in progress.
BentBlog: What will be the future of the Velayo? Will it rather be an interesting small batch series or will it show a similar presence as the Go-One or the Milan?
Marcus: The latter: in the last six months, seven Velayos were sold, upward trend. Accoring to my estimate and that of Andreas Seilinger from Traumvelo, you can see that the first customers give confidence to others that the Velayo is a really well working product.
BentBlog: I like it a lot as well! Thank you for the interview and good luck for your velomobile future!