A Revolution on Three Wheels


Vehicles with only three wheels seems to be a revolution on the roads across the world. Evidently a spate of companies have found out four wheels may not be mandatory to be popular, exciting and useful for humans to want to drive on the roads of the world. Currently on the market or set to be unleashed on roads from California to France in the near future are four contenders racing for a share of a market hungry for something new, worthwhile, economical, or just plain fun.

The first new American manufacturer just about ready for production is Elio Motors. Its production model is a three-wheeled vehicle classed as a motorcycle but with all the amenities of a compact car. The one stand out difference is the alignment of driver and passenger. The sole passenger sits behind the driver and not along side, as in several other configurations of three-wheeled transporters.

Two wheels in front and the other in the rear define it as a motorcycle according to the Department of Transportation (DOT). Paul Elio’s dream of having an affordable vehicle for commuting is going to be realized sometime next year, probably in September. The amenities for the Elio consist of front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, an AM/FM radio, a steel cage surrounding the occupants for safety, power windows, air conditioning, and only one door on the left side of the vehicle.

Several manufacturing considerations help shave the cost of the vehicle. Having only one door saves in the manufacturing process, a three-wheeled configuration also adds up to a lower price. There are two choices in transmission – manual or automatic. There are other add-on features available including blind-spot detectors and navigational aides. Elio Motors has garnered an extensive list of suppliers.

Just as Tesla Motors has done, Elio will sell its vehicle directly to consumers through its own stores, with Pep Boys, an auto parts chain store, operating as a service center. The stores for selling the vehicle are planned for 60 leading metropolitan areas across the country. This three-wheeled revolution is occurring world-wide with captivating outcomes as to design, use, and economy.

Canada has a super contender for sheer driving fun in the form of the Campagna Motors T-Rex Models. Its latest configuration of their reverse trike models is a 16S, powered by a BMW in-line six-cylinder 1,649 cc engine. The 16S has been fitted with different electronic systems, several safety features including three-point seat belts a tubular chassis that has been crashed-tested along with a roll-cage, marine grade seats, an audio system with USB and Bluetooth connections, and Sirius radio.

Toyota has an electric vehicle called the i-ROAD slated to be released in Grenoble France, with realistic driving conditions, along mountainous road and city traffic. The i-ROAD is another three-wheeled entity that is more like an enclosed motorcycle than a car. It leans into turns, is a two passenger transportation module and has access to France’s electrical power grid through 30 charging stations. This too is a revolution in personal transport.

Toyota has released 70 i-ROADS for testing and they will be used every day for a three-year program. The vehicles are part of a car-sharing project between Toyota Motor Corporation, the City of Grenoble, and France’s Électricité de France (EDF) to evaluate the practicality of small, efficient people moving vehicles that are a part of the city-wide shared transportation system. The electric power is a lithium-ion battery that has an electric motor at each front wheel powering the vehicle. According to Toyota, the range for the i-ROAD is thirty miles with a re-charge taking only three hours or less depending upon the depletion of the battery.Revolution

Last, but hardly least is Polaris’ new entry into the three-wheeled extravaganza with its own version of motorcycle fun – Slingshot. Polaris as is widely known has a whole slew of power-sports vehicles from snowmobiles to Indian motorcycles, and the GEM electric motorcar. Its latest offering appears to be its most ambitious and possibly the the most fun to ride and drive. It also is a three-wheeled transportation module, with side-by-side seating, three-point seat belts, three headlights, a steering wheel, rack and pinion steering, and seems very much like a small sports car.

However, it was designed as a motorcycle and has no car-like amenities like bumpers, and air-bags. It may look like a car, feel like a car and ride like a car, but it is a motorcycle. Driver and passenger need helmets, the driver needs a motorcycle license or a stipulation on the driver’s license of having been motorcycle certified.

Having a low-profile, the Slingshot, like many other motorcycles on the road, may be difficult to see in some driving situations, plus the safety factor of being a motorcycle is the same as a trike or two-wheeled bike. It may be fun and exciting to drive and ride as a commuting vehicle and a week-end get-a-way transportation conveyance, though assuming the risk of using it is always up to the driver. Three wheeled transportation has been around for some time but this revolution combines different factors and engages the world with its entertainment, attractiveness, and popularity.

By Andy Towle

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The Auto Future
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