I obsessed with tricycles for many years. I’d test ridden many varieties, read about them, called trike designers up to converse about them. This wasn’t formal study though I bought a few and still own one.
Tricycles hold massive promise for micromobility: fewer wheels mean a smaller footprint.
Pedal tricycles may be fun to ride but can sometimes be impractical because they must either be built for slow cargo applications or are low to the ground when built for speed. Cargo trikes have found their place in dense urban delivery niches, but speed trikes have struggled to gain a foothold. Another particular problem with 3 wheels is that the rider experiences more bumps than a car and as much as 3 times the number of bumps of a bicycle. To make matters worse, when you hit a bump on a side wheel, it can destabilize the vehicle compared to hitting a bump on a bike. Tricycles can have a jarring ride in areas where pavements aren’t well kept with pot holes such as on New York city streets.
Notably, the rise of hybrid electric technology has spurned on innovation in human hybrid trikes like velomobiles of which I’ve tried a few models. These can be terrific local electric vehicles or even great car replacements in modest sized towns and cities. But if you’re looking for something more akin to a universal car replacement, if you want more power, or more suspension or fancy steering, the design falls into a higher weight class, where pedaling becomes a distraction and contributes only a small fraction of the energy.
This is why, I simply love fully motorized tricycles: no pedals, no fuss.
Fully motorized trikes can be a genuine form of practical transport and so I’ve been reading and watching videos about the newest motor trikes and microcars for years. That is how and why I instantly recognized the Arcimoto electric trike speeding past me at the corner of Central Park in New York City a few weeks ago.
This Arcimoto, a Burgundy rollcage encased vehicle, passed in front of me just as I was walking home. It edged slowly through the traffic circle, Manhattan’s only one! I instantly recognized the driver, Mark, as the inventor of the vehicle. I waived him down, asked him for a ride, and jumped on the Arcimoto as I imagine 19th century new Yorkers would have jumped on a moving trolley car; It was a hitchtriker’s dream come true.
The rear seat had room for another full size adult to sit on my lap. The heavy duty roll cage was both reassuring yet not spatially constraining. The Arcimoto took the copious potholes on Amsterdam and Broadway exceedingly well, no doubt due in part to its skateboard battery designed low center of mass. I especially enjoyed conversing with the driver. Neither of us wore a helmet. With the frontal fairing shielding us from wind and the stealthy silent electric motor allowed for fluidly audible bidirectional conversation between the Mark and myself. Never did I or Mark ask “Can you hear me now?”
Together, we weaved in an out of traffic all the way north up Broadway from 59th street to Tom’s Diner on 112th,, a distance of nearly three miles. The ride was jubilant. I was in a rear seat behind Mark, double belt buckled yet helmetless. We were higher off the ground than most sedan/coupe drivers, affording us a good view. The steering excelled at aggressively weaving between vehicles and making swift lane changes as we hit the wave of green lights up Amsterdam, safely passing a slew of slow pokes. The breaks were smooth with no lurching. These factors contributed to a general sense of ease and wellbeing as if I were safely and comfortably ensconced in the rear seat of a nimble mini-sedan with the windows rolled down.
I can only compare this experience with a single test ride of the Piaggio Mp3 and a test ride of the German Twike. The Mp3 and the Arcimoto simply aren’t in the same class of vehicle, The former a beefed up French designed Tadpole (2 wheels upfront) Vespa like creature, the Arcimoto more a small and effective car. The former a reasonably quiet and nimble urban motorcycle, the latter an ultra silent highway worthy platform. I won’t critique or praise the Twike, but my experience of it in 2006 is simply not worth comparing to the Arcimoto today.
I’ve also driven a car besides a number of T-rex trikes and CanAm Spyders on highways. I would never test ride those ostentatious vehicles. They attract too much unwanted attention on the road from stationary onlookers and drivers both. The Arcimoto possesses classic, yet distinguished, good looks. You almost wouldn’t know it was a trike. If a vehicle is supposed to perform magic by making it look like nothing happened all, the Arcimoto is a true illusionist, succeeding prestigiously. And like Hugh Jackman, it also demonstrates a tough Wolverineish side to it when needed.
I really couldn’t tell you to buy a vehicle or recommend anyone spend money on anything new in this day and age, that is unless you can afford a nice shiny toy. But I can whole heartedly recommend Elon Musk buy Arcimoto and put Mark in the driving seat with better tech, more talent at his command and a future path that embraces scalable networked architectures. The Arcimoto is probably the first three-wheel vehicle design that has ever proven effective enough in the flesh to deserve such accolades.
Try test-riding one, you won’t regret it.