When we think about cars we automatically think about four wheels, but that is not necessarily the best configuration. To start with four wheels have more drag and are therefore less efficient than three wheels. When it comes to three wheeled vehicles there are two basic designs Delta and Tadpole. Delta has one wheel in front, two in back and Tadpole has two wheels in front and one in back.
The Tadpole design offers better dynamic stability, meaning it reacts more safely and predictably under various driving conditions than the Delta design. The Tadpole also offers better breaking. Because the front wheels do the most the breaking and considering the Tadpole’s two wheels in the front are better than the Delta’s one. Although it may appear counter-intuitive the Tadpole’s teardrop shape is also a more aerodynamic design than the Delta. Despite the relative simplicity of the Delta’s steering and suspension the the Tadpole is the better overall design. A Tadpole’s rear mounted engine and batteries provide for more stability than if all the weight was in the front as with a Delta design.
The Elio and the EZOne3 are two examples of three wheeled Tadpole designed vehicles.
In 2013 Elio Motors unveiled a three wheeled, tandem two-seater commuter car that gets 84 MPG (2.8 liters per 100 kilometers) and costs $6,800. The Elio is tiny at only 160 inches long with a wheelbase of 110 inch. Despite its miniscule dimensions it can accommodate people of almost any size. It may be small but it is also safe as it is equipped with three airbags, a reinforced roll-cage frame, anti-lock brakes and a large crumple zone.
The Elio is powered by a 0.9-liter three-cylinder engine that generates 70 horsepower. Its eight gallon fuel tank can travel up to 700 miles on a single tank of gas. It can also reach speeds over 100 MPH.
The latest prototype version of the vehicle was displayed at CES 2015 and had a hatchback trunk and a tablet-based infotainment system. The car was officially unveiled at the 2015 New York International Auto Show just ahead of its public offering. The company will be building the car in Caddo Parish, Los Angeles. Production is expected to start in 2016.
Another three wheeled vehicle seeking funding is the EZOne3 Electric 3-Wheeler. This car has been 8 years in the making and it is about to seek funding through a kickstarter campaign that will help in the production of a kit to build them. The kickstarter campaign will raise funds to pay for the molds to produce the lightweight and inexpensive body.
A second version of the car will use Prius components. To free up space this version will be almost entirely wireless and electronically controlled even the steering. The current ‘version one’ of the car without body or batteries weighs in at 490lbs using Geo Metro components.