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Building a trike named TWEAK

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By Roger Snodgrass

If all goes well in about three weeks, Michael Ham and the class he is teaching at UNM-LA will have finished building a prototype for their alternative electric vehicle, named TWEAK.

He didn’t have enough money to afford converting from a gas-powered to a battery-powered engine, as an increasing number of hobbyists and experimenters are beginning to do around Los Alamos.

“The idea was that it had to be ultra cheap, meaning under $1,000,” he said Monday out on his back patio, demonstrating what he’s come up with so far with about half the money.

That would include two 1 HP three-geared DeWalt electric drills, which will provide the oomph, a bicycle chain that will connect to a motorcycle chain that will power the rear wheel, also from a motorcycle, and a solar array that will go across the back like a wing so the car can recharge while sitting out in the sun,

This is TWEAK “version zero,” according to Ham, the prototype of an affordable electric car.

Ham is teaching the class with the help of his brother Kenny, who is vice president of a nonprofit company the two have started in order to accomplish a variety of alternative energy ambitions.

The company is called KinAesthetic Wind Inc. and TWEAK stands for Three-Wheeled Electric Alternative by KinAesthetic Wind.

Michael Ham, 28, works in neurobiology at the laboratory, but in his spare time he has been building alternative-energy-mobiles for quite awhile.

He pulled some pieces of an air-pressure-driven bicycle out of a storage shed and said he once held the unofficial land-speed record for a liquid nitrogen powered car.

KinAesthetic is also raising money to build ReVolt, an electric low-rider pick-up truck, which has been supported so far by private donations.

As a way to raise funds, KinAesthetic is selling masked and caped super-monkeys that can by launched like a slingshot.

The object is to find sponsors at $20 bucks a piece to send flying monkeys to every legislator in Washington with information about the kinds of investments for storage devices for conventional energy, including flywheels, super capacitors and superconducting devices that will be needed to make renewable energy affordable.

“It’s a publicity stunt,” Ham said, “but how many petitions have you signed that haven’t accomplished anything. Those Congressmen are really going to wonder about these flying monkeys.”

Ham thinks non-profits have an important role in the alternative energy revolution.

“The government and private industry are doing a lot,” he said, “but non-profits can step in as angel investors and angel purchasers and provide support precisely because they don’t have to make a profit.”

“When gas hits $4 a gallon, people suddenly get it and go, ‘Oh, yeah!’” Ham said. “I’m sure it’s going to happen again, and if we’re in the right place with the technology, we might be able to push some stuff through. Eventually, the public is going to demand it.”

The TWEAK is a perfect vehicle for kids, because it can’t go fast enough for them to get hurt.

On, the other hand, he said, “If we gave a teenager a 5 miles-per-hour car, they’d figure out how to make it go 100.”

Building TWEAK during the four two-hour classes is going to be quite a feat, Ham said, and people can still join in.

Additionally, the TWEAK class is being taped and will be available on KinAesthetic Wind web site at http://www.kinaestheticwind.com/

Michael Ham will also lead a presentation on “Anatomy of an Electric Car,” during the Technology and Imagination segment of The Next Big Idea festival. He’ll be at Fuller Lodge from 1:30-3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.