April 28, 2017

Hydraulic bike design earns top prize in national competition

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A Purdue student team’s design for a chainless bicycle powered solely by hydraulic pumps and motors rode away with first place at the National Fluid Power Association Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge.

For the April competition, the student team designed a custom bike frame from scratch that doubles as the hydraulic oil reservoir. The custom two-wheeled bicycle frame created out of aluminum balanced the needs of the hydraulic systems with the feel of a “normal” bicycle.

Andrea Vacca, associate professor of both mechanical engineering and agricultural and biological engineering, said the bicycle, named the Purdue Tracer, featured an accumulator, which allowed the bicycle to be powered without pedaling.

“With our hydraulic system, we could attach a lever and hand-pump the accumulator beforehand, which gave us about 500 meters of travel without pedaling,” he said.

A video of the team and the Purdue Tracer is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1_l87GACt8.

As an added bonus, the team developed an accompanying smartphone app integrated into the bicycle. The app indicates how much pressure is in the hydraulic lines, how fast the rider is pedaling and the rider’s heartrate. 

Marinaro bike Gianluca Marinaro rides the Purdue Tracer, a custom-built chainless bicycle powered by hydraulic pumps and motors. (Photo/College of Engineering) Download image

Things like weather and geolocation also were included in the intelligent bicycle.

Vacca’s students had entered similar contests for the past six years, but this is the first time they’ve come out on top.

“It’s not so much about the bicycle as it is about using fluid power in unique ways,” Vacca said. “We’re very lucky at Purdue to have the Maha Fluid Power Research Center, which is the largest academic hydraulics lab in the country. Our students have the ability to tackle any problem, big or small.” 

Writer: Jared Pike, 765-496-0374, jaredpike@purdue.edu 

Source: Andrea Vacca, 765-430-0081, avacca@purdue.edu

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