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Last updated
28 Feb 1998

Sinclair's new front-wheel drive



Tom Standage reports on Sir Clive's launch of the Zeta II

A clip-on electric motor designed to take the effort out of cycling was unveiled by British inventor Sir Clive Sinclair last week.

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 that problem."

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.

  • Sinclair Research: 01933 279300