Image: FitCar PPV/YouTube

It’s an idea that seems stupid and brilliant all at once, and a Dutch firm wants it to find a home in Europe’s passenger cars.

Europeans, often portrayed in films as sexy people with a penchant for rich foods and impeccably fashionable clothing, aren’t immune from the sedentary lifestyles and obesity afflicting their Western compatriots. Commutes eat up a lot of time, and not everyone bikes or takes a train to work — even in insufferably progressive Amsterdam.

Following a request from an inventor looking to free up more exercise time during the day, Dutch engineering firm BPO set about converting an Audi A4 wagon to run on pedal power. The car’s turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder still does the work, but it won’t work if the driver doesn’t break a sweat.

A profile in Wards Auto describes how inventor Nasser Al Shawaf compelled the firm to turn an Audi AV Avant into the FitCar PPV concept. BPO’s modifications aren’t brand-specific — the company wants anyone who feels trapped by a lengthy commute to have the ability to convert their own car to pedal power. You’ll just need an automatic transmission. Currently, BPO is waiting on European approval.

The setup strips out both pedals, relocating the brake to a steering column-mounted arm (like those used by people with mobility issues). In place of the accelerator is a bicycle-type mechanism that occupies the footwell. Pedalling the thing spins a flywheel, generating an electronic pulse to engage the accelerator. Pedal faster, and the car goes faster.

“I work in many cities around the world where a 60-minute-plus car commute each way, each day is not uncommon,” Al Shawaf said. “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.”

The company claims there are three drive modes to accommodate low-speed traffic situations, high speed cruising, and sitting at rest (the driver/pedaller can disconnect at stoplights and in traffic jams to keep the workout going). Pedal resistance is also adjustable.

At first blush, it seems gimmicky and potentially dangerous. How is a driver supposed to respond instantly at times when an immediate foot-to-the-floor burst of speed is required? That’s unknown. Certainly, a video posted to YouTube by FitCar PPV shows a pretty leisurely cruise around a racetrack. The test car also contains a very flat bottomed racing wheel with no airbag to accommodate the driver’s busy legs.

Oscar Brocades Zaalberg, managing director of BPO, hopes that the EU gives its system the thumbs-up. He then hopes OEMs take note and offer the system as an option. It’s safe to say the individual modification route is a safer bet.

[Image: FitCar PPV/YouTube]





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