- - Kickstarter: Canadian Firm to Attempt Human Powered Vehicle Record

Kickstarter: Canadian Firm to Attempt Human Powered Vehicle Record

Highway speeds on pedal power: AeroVelo is building the world’s most efficient bike to reach 133.8 km/h and set a new world record !

Our goal is to build the world’s fastest human-powered vehicle, capable of surpassing the current level-ground speed record of 133.8 km/hr (83.1 mph)! This represents a mind-blowing leap in aerodynamic efficiency and vehicle technology. If your car looked like this, you could drive across Canada on a quarter tank of gas!

Our mission at AeroVelo is to inspire the public and youth, tackle the impossible, and challenge conventional design by doing more with less. We’ve assembled a creative, dedicated student team to take on this awe-inspiring engineering project.

Our human engine will produce only 1 horsepower, 100 times less than the average car, but innovative engineering will take Eta to highway speeds. This is only possible with extreme efficiency, which is why we’ve named the bike EtaEta is the Greek letter used in engineering as the symbol for efficiency, and for us this means examining every aspect of the design to reduce or eliminate the forces resisting our forward motion.

(The Human-Powered Vehicle Team with past bike Vortex at the Indianapolis Speedway)

Our team is deep into detailed design and prototyping, and will have Eta ready for the World Human-Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC) in Battle Mountain, Nevada this September. We’re confident in the new design and our passionate team. We’re set not only to break the World record, but we calculate that our improvements in aerodynamics, drivetrain efficiency, and rolling resistance will make it possible to achieve speeds in excess of 140 km/h (87 mph)!

Our Team: What Makes Us Think We Can Do This

This year AeroVelo’s team includes two PhDs, one Master’s, and 7 top-notch undergraduate students in aerospace, materials, and mechanical engineering. Members of the team have been working together for 8 years on innovative projects involving ground-breaking design and construction techniques. Our research approaches and creative engineering have already fulfilled several historic aviation challenges.

(The Snowbird human-powered ornithopter, with a span of 105 feet and a total weight of 95 lbs).

The Snowbird Human-Powered Ornithopter: On August 2nd, 2010, the Snowbirdbecame the first successful human-powered flapping-wing aircraft in the world. The dream of being able to fly like a bird may be the oldest aeronautical quest, dating back to early mythology and occupying the minds of great inventors like Leonardo DaVinci. This project gave our team a foundation in lightweight aircraft design, advanced aerodynamic modelling, and the most powerful computational optimization methods that have ever been applied to the challenge of human-powered flight.

(The Atlas human-powered helicopter, the World’s most efficient helicopter)

The Atlas Human-Powered Helicopter: On June 13th, 2013, the Kickstarter-fundedAtlas won the 33-year old American Helicopter Society’s Igor Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter Competition. The unconstrained mindset of an incredibly passionate team, along with Kickstarter’s support, were crucial in achieving this goal. The AHS Sikorsky Competition was a challenge that had eluded helicopter experts and world-class researchers for decades, and was still considered physically impossible just weeks before the winning flight. The quad-rotor Atlas measured 150 feet across but weighed only 122 lbs, making use of cutting-edge composite materials, computational design techniques further developed from Snowbird, and lots of creative thinking and prototyping.

(Bluenose at Battle Mountain, Nevada, at a speed of 78MPH (125 Km/h) (Photo by Tom Amick)

The Human-Powered Vehicle Design Team: Since 2008, team members at AeroVelo and the University of Toronto have been working on very similar types of speedbikes, expanding our knowledge and consistently increasing our performance. The team’s bikes have been designed primarily for the American Society for Mechanical Engineers’ Human-Powered Vehicle Challenge, a university competition in the US that aims to develop practical road-worthy vehicles. Even with these utility-focused designs, we’ve achieved successive speeds of 102 km/h (63.4 mph) in ACE, 116.9 km/h (72.6 mph) in Vortex, and 125.0 km/h (77.7 mph) in Bluenose.

Our Design: In Pursuit of Ultimate Efficiency

Our strategy for Eta is to eliminate compromises in pursuit of ultimate efficiency. We have begun with a clean-sheet design, and working from the ground up we’ve evaluated the best design options for every component and subsystem. We will rely on the team’s broad experience to reduce risk, weighing the challenge of implementing each novel solution against our confidence in obtaining the potential speed gains. We know that with consistent incremental improvements in each subsystem, we can greatly improve on our past performance, breaking down preconceived limits of what is possible.

A rendering of Eta showing the internal configuration, structure, and preliminary mechanical design)

Aerodynamics: We use Computational Fluid Dynamics and optimal aerodynamic shaping techniques, proven-out with on-road testing, to design an exterior shape with drag more than 100 times less than that of the most streamlined cars.

Drivetrain: We have focused on minimal-loss chain drive options, lower-drag bearings, and a range of other strategies to ensure every bit of power produced by the pilot makes it to the road.

Rolling Resistance & Wheels: We have found the world’s best handmade tires, incorporated the largest possible wheels for lower rolling resistance and better handling, and optimized the aerodynamic design of the spokes to squeeze out every bit of performance.

Human Power & Ergonomics: A custom lab-quality test rig will determine the best pilot position for efficient power production and positioning of mechanical components, and will aid in pilot training to obtain maximum output in the enclosed shell.


Each year our student team has only 4 months to engineer and build a groundbreaking human-powered vehicle, so we will be working smart and fast! Prior to the summer, team members completed the preliminary aerodynamic design and sourced many of the materials, helping jump-start subsystem design and the most time-intensive steps in prototyping Eta. As of May, the team has started research, design and construction full-time, with the goal of being on the road by mid-July, and having a robust and refined vehicle for the World Human-Powered Speed Challenge at Battle Mountain in September.

We’ll be working hard to get rewards sent out to our supporters shortly after WHPSC! We have suppliers in place and will be applying lessons-learned from sending rewards for our last project Atlas.

What Your Donation Means

Your support means a lot to us! Your contribution will help purchase the materials and components necessary to build Eta. Our total fundraising goal is $120,000, and your support through Kickstarter will be critical in making the impossible possible. Our other fundraising sources include in-kind donations, services provided by generous local companies, and corporate sponsorship.

In recognition of your contribution we’ll send you memorable keepsakes like a team patch, project t-shirt, signed engineering drawings, and even a scale model of the new bike’s shell. Shown are our rewards, including patches, T-shirts, an example of our engineering drawings, and a rendering of the scale model.

(T-Shirt with Eta Speedbike Logo)
Eta Speedbike Project Patch)
Engineering drawings of the Atlas Human-Powered Helicopter. Drawings for the Eta will be of the same style and painstaking detail.
The shell of the new bike is a beautiful representation of the advanced aerodynamics critical to its high speed)

We Appreciate Your Support!

Thanks again for taking the time to learn about this mind-blowing undertaking! We look forward to keeping you updated on this exciting engineering endeavor.

Risks and challenges

After the project is funded, the real undertaking begins. We will need to complete Eta’s design quickly to meet our fast-paced construction deadline, a challenge given how thoroughly we’re re-evaluating every detail of the vehicle. Afterwards, we will be scouring the world for the best materials and components that we still need and bringing them together for fabrication throughout July. July and August will require constant road and track testing to validate our design analyses as well as make incremental improvements to the bike’s design in a quest to achieve the predicted speeds in September.

We have taken steps to mitigate risk in building this prototype. We have partnered with material suppliers and fabrication specialists throughout North America, giving us the sourcing and manufacturing capability to meet our design specifications once funded. Wherever possible we’ve prioritized mature technologies and used novel design and better optimization/analysis to achieve the desired performance gains.

We have budgeted an extensive portion of our timeline for testing – to shake down the design, work out the bugs, and be ready to break the world record.

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