Germany – Czechia – Germany
Visiting Friends & riding the Pedilio
Winter cycling tour
Visiting the “Lindenhof” farm in Eilum, Lower Saxony
I started the tour by taking a train to Hannover, from where I cycled eastward to the organic farm “Lindenhof” in Eilum, arriving in the evening. I set my tent in the courtyard and had dinner with the people currently living and working on the farm. In exchange for the night, the place for the tent and a breakfast next morning, I offered my own work force for the next day. I was ordered to crack down some walls in the former farm-run bakery with a sledge hammer which became my activity for the following morning.
brown = train
Sleeping in a retired open cast pit
The next day I started later on the afternoon which only allowed me to do some 25 kms before sunset. I happened to arrive at the lignite open cast pit “Schöningen” which had been abandoned in the year 2016. I sneaked onto the terrain and set my tent in the shrubbery at the edge of the giant hole. The next morning, when I had almost packed all my stuff, a car drove by and a man got out of the car. I prepared to explain myself, why I had entered the terrain. Luckily, the guy just wanted to chat with me. He told me he had been a former mining engineer in the open cast pit and was now working for the recultivation of the area.
Germany is the biggest producer of lignite globally. However, exploitation and burning of lignite for the production of electricity has become a politically sensitive issue. Why? Not only is burning this 50-60 million years-old coal the dirtiest way to produce electricity (>400 g CO2 per kW/h), it also destroys landscapes, nature and biodiversity and makes relocations of whole small towns necessary, this way making people lose their homes forever. Considering the emission reduction goals Germany has agreed on in the Paris agreement 2016, we would have to completely phase-out the burning of coal in the next few years. However, the government is planning to run these power stations until 2038, which is far too long to meet the 1.5 °C goal of the Paris agreement.
Crossing the former German-German border
Shortly after, I crossed the former border between the capitalist West and the then-communist East of Germany, the German Democratic Republic (GDR). At this place, borderwall, fences, watchtowers etc. were preserved for commemorative purposes. Information boards said that during the first years after the Eastern German GDR-government had closed off the border, on christmas, Western Germans went to the border, forming choruses and singing christmas songs for their brothers and sisters in the “zone” as a symbolic act for the unity of Germany. The border attracted more and more tourists from Western Germany, who wanted to get a glance at what life was like on the other side. Of course, the GDR government did not disliked and they built a screen wall to obstruct the view. The West responded by erecting an elevated viewing platform that was high enough to see over the border grounds.
Berlin: "Scientists For Future" silence demo
In Berlin I stayed with a good friend of mine and participated in a demonstration against the climate politics of the current German government. The demonstration was organized by the “Scientists For Future“, an association of scientists who support the “Fridays For Future” school strike movement for climate justice. Of this acssociation, 26,800 scientists have signed a petition to the government saying that the claims of the students claims are reasonable and justified. The demonstration held in total silence to emphasize the fact that the goverment has been knowingly ignoring the warnings of climate science for decades. Thus, no more words are necessary, because everything has been said already. Now, it’s time for action.
From Berlin, I took a train to Bad Schandau, the last village up the Elbe before the German-Czech border. I rode my bike along the Elbe and the Vlata for three days before I arrived to Prague. In Prague I met my sister and caught up with some Czech friends that I had met on my journey through Kyrgyzstan in summer 2019.
From Prague, I first followed the Vlata again, but then rode in the direction of Plzeň, rode back to Germany, in the direction of Regensburg. From Regensburg, I followed the Danube and from there arrived to Waidhofen, where I met up with Thomas Viebach, the inventor and constructor of Pedilio.
Test-riding the solar-human powered vehicle "Pedilio"
I arrived in Waidhofen around noon, finding Mr. Viebach in his workshop. He started off by telling me the story how he came to the idea of developing Pedilio. He had been working on solar-powered cars for several decades already and taken part in many race-competitions in several countries around the globe. His most recent creation, the Pedilio, is a fusion of a solar-powered car and a velomobile. (Velomobiles are recumbent bicycles enclosed for aerodynamic advantage and protection from weather and collisions.)
I had been very interested in velomobiles in my teenager years, but later found they were rather made for some bicycle fanatics who fell in love with the design or are the possible higher speed, but would be too special and too sporty to reach a broader consumer market and be a viable alternative to cars. Pedilio, on the other had, was from the very beginning designed as an every-day alternative for everyone and for all those short and mid-distance rides we are still using cars for.
The driving/riding experience of Pedilio was amazing. I had been riding several velomobiles before, but the Pedilio really stands out from them. I liked the much more stable road performance of the four wheels and the very ergonomic steering. Due to the power of the 500 W (1000 W peak) electric engine, going uphill is done with ease and going down with a big smile on your face. The Pedilio has been officially registered as a L6e 45 km/h vehicle, which, considering all the regulations Thomas Viebach had to follow, in itself is a proof of his great work. I found that 45 km/h requires a lot of additional pedalling, so most people would probably go at speeds between 30 km/h and 35 km/h.
The roof is made by a 100-W solar panel that can charge the battery and will provide 20-30 kms of additional driving on a regular day. The light weight of just 68 kg makes the car unbeatably energy efficient. With a comsumption of just 0.7 kW/h per 100 km, Pedilio is 37 times more energy efficient than a Tesla Model 3. For developing Pedilio, Thomas Viebach is a real hero of a better tomorrow.
For Pedilio’s ENGLISH website, please click here.
For Pedilio’s GERMAN website, please click here.