By Eric J. Leech
As we have seen on Mean Green Machines, some hybrid electric designers use a three wheel platform, while others prefer four. There is obviously some advantages to such a layout, so why don’t we see any three wheeled cars today?
Before we get to that why, let’s look at a few of the reasons that some engineers are researching and developing three wheel hybrid vehicles. Three wheel vehicles actually pose many advantages to personal transportation today:
1. They are fundamentally much lighter than a standard 4 wheel due to a simplified chassis, which means less power necessary to get it moving.
2. The weight reduction to the overall vehicle translates to a smaller engine, which gives it its greater economy and gas mileage. Most three wheel vehicles range from 45 to 100 mpg typically.
3. Less parts and pieces, means less salvage and resources to build, and less salvage to throw away, which translates to a cleaner environment.
4. They have superior handling characteristics, because of a much shorter turn radius and in some cases the ability to “lean” into corners, similar to that of a motorcycle.
5. They are more aerodynamic with less drag coefficient.
6. The production costs are also much less, and this is using the same stringent safety standards as today’s 4-wheel vehicles.
So, why don’t we see too many of these out on the streets yet? Well, for one, manufacturers are probably not to sure how the consumers will receive them. They just don’t look as safe and secure as their 4-wheel brothers and in some cases this can be true. If a 3-wheel vehicle is not engineered at just the right dimensions, it does become possible for one to overturn and roll during an extreme maneuver. But if engineered properly, these can have the exact same stability of any 4-wheel.
One concepts that is out on the market right now, getting its feet wet, so to speak is the T-Rex. Take the wide open feel and performance of a motorcycle and combine it with the three wheel stability of a modern day sports car and you’ve got the T-Rex. The new ZX14R (as shown in this video link) is capable of 0-60 in a fraction over 3 seconds, top speeds of 150 mph, and all this using a DOHC Kawasaki 1352cc inline 4 cylinder engine which means less visits to the gas station… even with all this raw power.
Volkswagen also has a guinea pig of its own. The GX-3 was seen at the L.A. Auto Show a few years back and still represents a savvy Eco-friendly crossover between a sports car and a motorcycle. It is quite possible that if the trend of larger vehicles in the U.S. subsides, consumers just might give the 3-wheeler a chance. Some have already turned to the two-wheel scooter in some cases to save gas, and a 3-wheel would be a much more safe and convenient mode of transportation in comparison.