|By Nick Nuttall, Technology
A DEVICE that gives an
electric-powered boost to a standard bicycle was
launched yesterday by Sir Clive Sinclair,
inventor of the highly successful Spectrum
personal computer and the spectacularly
unsuccessful C5 electric tricycle.
The device, called Zeta and selling for £145,
is aimed at the old, the unfit and the downright
lazy who would like to cycle to work but are
daunted by steep hills and strong headwinds. It
is the size of a shoebox, weighs 10lb and is
bolted above the bicycle's rear wheel. A switch
on the handlebar activates an electric,
belt-driven motor that turns a small wheel
resting on the rear tyre.
Sir Clive brushed aside references to the C5,
which folded after six months of production, and
disappointing sales of the Zike, an electric
bicycle launched two years ago. He said that
sales of his latest creation would be
"amazing". The Zeta - Zero Emission
Transport Accessory - will deliver a top speed of
15 mph on the flat and can carry a 12-stone rider
up a one-in-ten gradient at 10 mph, Sir Clive
claims. It has a range of up to 30 miles and the
lead acid battery can be recharged overnight at a
cost of about 1p.
The Zeta can be used on the road by anyone
over 14, with no need for tax, a licence or
insurance and has been launched to capitalise on
environmental concerns. Sir Clive, 53, said:
"A lot of towns and cities in the world are
going over to banning petrol and diesel-driven
vehicles. Oxford is an example in England, there
are a lot on the Continent and it is happening in
the United States. Bicycle and electric power
will be the only form of transport legally
allowed." The Zeta will be sold initially by
mail order and should be available in shops in
Whether the device will restore Sir Clive's
once-untouchable reputation remains to be seen.
The Zike, which had been claimed to need sales of
10, 000 a year to break even, has sold about
2,000 so far. "Most new products fail,"
Sir Clive said. "If your business is
invention, you are bound to have failures. As
long as your successes outweigh the failures, and
thank God for us they do, that is OK."
In a test-ride around the grounds of Imperial
College in London, the device gave a pleasing
boost to flagging legs. However, the bumps so
common on London roads caused its plastic cover
to rattle like a pair of joke false teeth.