Sinclair's new front-wheel
(Daily Telegraph, 22 July 1997)
Tom Standage reports on Sir Clive's launch of the Zeta
A clip-on electric motor designed to take the effort out
of cycling was unveiled by British inventor Sir Clive Sinclair
An improved version of the original Zeta (Zero Emission Transport
Accessory), the Zeta II costs £95 and works on almost
any bicycle. Compared with its predecessor it is, says Sinclair,
"much cheaper, much lighter, and miles easier to fit.
We think it's a real cracker."
The Zeta II is based on an 0.5kg electric motor, similar
to that found in a domestic power drill, which drives the
front wheel using a patented belt-drive system.
Powered by a 2.5kg rechargeable 12V battery that hangs from
the crossbar and activated using a handlebar-mounted switch,
it can carry an average cyclist a distance of five miles at
up to 12.5mph - and much further with a bit of pedalling.
In fact, its designers intend it to be used only occasionally,
when going uphill or cycling against a headwind.
"One of the main reasons people don't cycle to work
is that they know they'll get hot and sweaty, and they're
going to have to take a shower," says Alex Kalogroulis,
a Sinclair Research engineer who worked on the Zeta II during
its three-year development. "I think this has cracked
The Zeta II takes about 20 minutes to fit, and is pushed
on and off the tyre via a cunning plastic switch to reduce
drag when not in use.
The battery can be charged overnight - a full charge costing
around 1p - and a range of optional extra batteries will be
available so that users can, for example, use one battery
for an outward journey and another on the way back.
Bicycles fitted with the "front-wheel drive" can
be driven by anyone over 14 without the need for insurance
or a licence. It will be manufactured in Scotland, and is
expected to be sold in Britain, Holland and America. It will
be available in Britain by mail order at the end of this month.