Cal shows off its human-powered vehicle

UC Berkeley HPV/Courtesy

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Cycling competitions are notoriously difficult, but even Tour de France athletes don’t built their own bikes from scratch. That would be silly for mere cyclists to even attempt.

Fortunately, the 10 undergraduate members of Berkeley’s Human Powered Vehicle team are far from the average cyclist. These men and women excel at accelerating, but more importantly, they are ingenious engineers, designing and manufacturing their own human-powered vehicle to maximize safety, aerodynamics and comfort.

After a 10-year hiatus, this marks their first year back at Cal and the  start of what promises to be a glorious future. At the 2013 American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Human Powered Vehicle Competition, in San Jose, the team placed second out of 28 teams in the Endurance Event. That’s pretty great, given the fact that this was Cal’s first attempt in a decade. The competition features five tests of the team’s vehicle: the  Safety Test, the Sprint Event, the Design Event, the Innovation Event and the Endurance Event. The tests range from showcasing the safety and comfort features of the vehicle, such as roll bars and even a grocery compartment, to demonstrating the raw power of the team’s athletes, who partake in a 2.5-hour endurance race and a sprint race. The competition involves some serious maneuvering, including hairpin turns and slaloms, as well as avoiding 27 other cyclists on the track.

Just like the Clog, the HPV team has its own brand of quirky humor, going so far as calling its vehicle “PB & J” because it is composed of a central mega lug (or a “mega sandwich”) that maximizes structural stiffness and both in-plane and torsional bending. The team even stuffed the vehicle’s grocery container with PB&J sandwiches out of commitment to the inside joke.

Contrary to what you may be thinking, the team is not entirely composed of nerdy engineers and die-hard cyclists. According to Olivia Tang-Kong, head of HPV marketing, the team’s members have  “a wide variety of majors … including engineering, computer science, business administration, media studies and architecture, just to name a few.” They are currently looking to expand and are looking for new members to both recruit and market the club. More information regarding joining the HPV at Berkeley can be found on the organization’s website.

If this year’s initial success is any proof, the HPV club at UC Berkeley faces a promising future, and in the words of a wise dog in a banana suit, “It’s peanut butter jelly time.”


Contact Kamin Kahrizi at [email protected]