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Old 02-03-2010, 12:31 AM   #1 (permalink)
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The Dream of the Great American Road Trip

I have this crazy dream of doing something similar to what these people are doing in the trailer for this documentary:



It's a documentary about a road trip across India in a three wheeled auto rickshaw.

My dream is to design and build my own three wheeled light electric vehicle and travel across America while documenting the journey.

My question is: Does anyone here know the laws about driving vehicles that have a top speed of 30 mph on interstate freeways or on their shoulders? I often see cyclists traveling the shoulders of interstate freeways. I wonder if it is possible with a light electric vehicle too. Anyone here know?

For anyone interested I've compiled a bunch of notes and inspiration for my dream three wheeled vehicle.


My Dream Three Wheeled Electric Vehicle


I haven't sketched the vehicle yet, but I have descriptions of it's various elements.


-Three wheels: One steerable, drive wheel in the front and two smaller wheels in the rear aka delta configuration (inspired by New Map Solyto Solyto link).


New Map Solyto

-Two anti-rollover outrigger skids on either side of the front wheel that don't touch the road. If the vehicle ever begins to overturn the anti-rollover outrigger skids will keep the vehicle upright. I'm choosing skids instead of wheels because I want this vehicle to be considered a motorcycle for regulation and registration purposes.

-AC to DC inverter: For plug in charging from the grid

-Electricity storage: Ultracapacitors. Multiple advantages over batteries: Ultracapacitors can be fully charged and discharged whereas many batteries have been designed to only use a small percentage of their capacity to prolong their lifespan. Ultracapacitors can be charged and discharged an unlimited number of times whereas batteries can only be charged and discharged a few thousand or few hundred times. Ultracapacitors do not develop a memory whereas some batteries do develop a memory. Ultracapacitors can be charged in a few minutes whereas batteries that store the same amount of power would take hours. Ultracapacitors weigh a fraction of the weight of batteries that store the same amount of power. However, ultracapacitors do have some disadvantages. Ultracapacitors are currently very expensive as compared to batteries. Some technologies are still being developed to make ultracapacitors easier to use in this application.

-Solar: At some time in the future I'd like to convert the vehicle to solar using high efficiency thin film solar cells. Considering spray-on solar cells (i.e. Spark Solar Spray-On Solar Panels article at TreeHugger.com)

-Motor: Electric motor mounted over the front chain driven wheel with freewheel and moped automatic transmission (inspired by New Map Solyto)

New Map Solyto front wheel and motor

-Honeycomb wheels (inspired by Resilient Technologies and Wisconsin-Madison's Polymer Engineering Center Airless Tire). The idea is to have tires that don't go flat. This also means no more added weight of a spare tire.

Airless Tire

-Low rolling resistance tire treads. These will increase efficiency.

-Drum brakes

-Front coil shock absorber suspension (inspired by New Map Solyto)

-Rear leaf suspension springs (inspired by New Map Solyto)

-Regenerative braking: Considering rear generator/dynamo hub(s) (Shimano Dyno Hubs Shimano Nexus Generator Hubs)

Shimano Nexus Generator Hub

-Downhill regeneration: Considering rear generator/dynamo hub(s) (Shimano Dyno Hubs Shimano Nexus Generator Hubs)

-Aerodynamic enclosed body with removable rear wheel skirts: Considering a partial kammback or boat tail

-Smooth under tray for improved aerodynamics

-Smooth wheel ring hubcaps for improved aerodynamics. Like the following picture, but with a big hole in the hubcaps.

Smooth hubcaps

-Aerodynamic deflectors forward of tires that also act as skids. Skids allow the wheels to climb onto and over obstacles (like speed bumps) at a lower angle.

-Boat tails behind tires, under the car for improved aerodynamics

-Body panels and doors made from soy bean based closed cell foam reinforced with strips of bamboo. This material will add to the vehicles safety. (inspired by Lon Ballard's Spira SPIRA4U.COM)
Spira three wheeled foam vehicle

-Bamboo frame: Bamboo is stronger, lighter and vastly less expensive than steel. Some frame sections will be fabricated with regular hollow bamboo. Frame sections that require more strength will be fabricated from solid iron bamboo. Iron bamboo is a species of bamboo that is solid all the way through and much stronger than hollow bamboo. Bamboo will be shaped while it grows using molds. Bamboo grows several inches a day so the parts can be grown in a relatively less amount of time than other plants. (inspired by Calfee bamboo bikes CalfeeDesign, Pooktre shaping trees to grow into furniture Pooktre Tree Shapers and Viking ships. Viking ship builders would find trees that were growing in the shapes they needed for making ship parts. Hurstwic: Viking Ships)

Bamboo Bike



Shaped tree chair

-Two seater, side by side seat configuration (inspired by New Map Solyto, Zap car ZAP! Electric Vehicles). This seating configuration is sometimes called a "social configuration" in bicycling terms. I know tandem configuration would be more aerodynamic and more stable, but I want to share the experience and conversation with the other rider.

Zap! Xebra

-Passenger seat is removable

-Bamboo or rattan framed wicker seats

-Fabric covered truck bed

-Two removable back benches along the walls

-Handlebar steering and throttle (inspired by Auto Rickshaws Auto rickshaw - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, RTM Tango RTM TANGO). Handlebars with a twist throttle weigh less than a steering wheel and accelerator pedal.

An Auto Rickshaw


RTM Tango

-Foot brake pedal instead of hand brakes (inspired by RTM Tango). I am more accustomed to using my foot for braking than my fingers. If I'm ever in a situation where I need to brake instantly, I would rely more on my car driving skills than motorcycle/bicycling skills.

RTM Tango interior

-All LED lighting


I'd love to hear any comments you have on this adventure.


Last edited by Wayneburg; 02-03-2010 at 11:22 PM..
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Old 02-03-2010, 12:39 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Developing new materials will keep you in the garage until you forget why you started. I'd recommend two front wheels, because the aero works much better, and you can steer under hard braking. Skids will save a delta from overturning, but not from going straight into a collision.
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Old 02-03-2010, 01:29 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Hi Bicycle Bob. Thanks for the reply.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bicycle Bob View Post
Developing new materials will keep you in the garage until you forget why you started.
What new materials are you referring to? I'm looking through my post and the only new material that I wrote about was the spray on solar cells, but I'm not developing that material and stated that I would consider a solar upgrade in the future, meaning sometime after the vehicle is built.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bicycle Bob View Post
I'd recommend two front wheels, because the aero works much better, and you can steer under hard braking. Skids will save a delta from overturning, but not from going straight into a collision.
I've considered the two front wheel configuration for quite some time. And every time I find myself leaning (pun haha) towards the two front wheel configuration I keep remembering the Zap! electric cars and motorcycle trikes and meter maid three wheelers and the millions of auto rickshaws in Asia.


Thanks for your opinions. I look forward to any other comments you or the other ecomodders have.
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Old 02-03-2010, 02:28 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I was thinking of the foam and bamboo panels, but on closer reading, it sounds more like an assembly. Still, you are specifying a lot of cutting edge stuff, and that tends to take a lot of time to buy and learn to use well. Those wheels have had a lot of development poured into them, but still have major issues that have kept them off the market. I love bamboo, too, but it is not easy to work with. You might want to read "Structures" or one of J.E. Gordon's other books to help save weight by canny design and appropriate use of materials.
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Old 02-03-2010, 10:07 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Hi again Bicycle Bob, Thanks again for the great reply!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bicycle Bob View Post
I was thinking of the foam and bamboo panels, but on closer reading, it sounds more like an assembly. Still, you are specifying a lot of cutting edge stuff, and that tends to take a lot of time to buy and learn to use well.
Yeah! Doesn't it sound exciting? That's all part of the adventure. Figuring out things work together to achieve a goal. And when the actual travel part of the adventure starts I can say that I built this thing with my own two hands and a lot of advice from cool people like you.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bicycle Bob View Post
You might want to read "Structures" or one of J.E. Gordon's other books to help save weight by canny design and appropriate use of materials.
I am Definitely going to find this book. I've been wanting reference material on building with appropriate materials.

Thanks again!
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Old 02-03-2010, 12:12 PM   #6 (permalink)
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plenty of low priced books by J.E. Gordon on eBay. Buy used books to save a couple of trees...
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Old 02-03-2010, 01:32 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Two front wheels is definitely the way to go! Much safer and more stable -- any combination of downhill turning and/or braking at speed will be nasty in a 1 front wheel set up. Remember -- you cannot lean with 3 wheels!

I like airless tires, and regenerative braking -- you have to be able absorb the power, and you have to have friction brakes for backup.
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Old 02-03-2010, 01:47 PM   #8 (permalink)
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J. Balwin, tech editor for Whole Earth, says that it takes 3 tries to get to something you want to use. The first prototype illustrates the big flaws, and the third one is getting close to what you originally intended, after some practise making the bits. I like to take big bites in design work too, but that just gets me to some new features for the 3rd version. Car Cycle includes details on a front suspension geometry that uses offset for trail instead of caster angle, which turned out fine, despite no prior art. The integrated suspension was fine, too. It was only intended as a test bed, but would have gone a lot farther except for not being planned for easy maintenance. I saved a lot of weight on a similar body for another chassis, though, probably less than half the original's weight.

Tippy delta trikes are much safer where they are common, and traffic patterns meet their limitations, although road safety in those areas is appalling by North American standards. Have a look at the astronomical insurance rates for Harley trikes over here.

Re: freeway shoulders. In "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," Robert Persig reveals his way to plan a cross-country trip. On a map, squiggles are good. That means hills and scenery. The best riding is on a road that goes from nowhere to nowhere, with an alternate route that gets there faster. The kids wave at you, and the adults have time to chat. Always plan on answering questions for five minutes on your way into a store.
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:08 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Okay. More than one person is suggesting the two wheels in front (tadpole) design for safety reasons. I'm willing to go that route, but would you all help me figure this out? I'd like to weigh the pros and cons of both three wheeled designs.

ONE DRIVE WHEEL IN FRONT, TWO WHEELS IN BACK (DELTA CONFIGURATION)
PROS
-Lighter than a tadpole configuration due to lighter steering mechanism.

CONS
-Unsafe in braking turns.


TWO STEERING WHEELS IN FRONT, ONE DRIVE WHEEL IN BACK (TADPOLE CONFIGURATION)
PROS
-Safer in braking turns.

CONS
-Prone to overturning as compared to equivalent 4 wheeled vehicles.
-Heavier than a delta configuration due to a heavier steering mechanism.



Would you all help me to add to the pros and cons of each of these configurations? I will update this list with your contributions as they come in.

Thanks

Last edited by Wayneburg; 02-03-2010 at 11:20 PM..
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Old 02-04-2010, 12:00 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The steering linkage per se can be very light. Most deltas have a heavy structure to take forces to and from the steering head, which is cantilevered twice as far from the contact patch, on average. There are whole pages of tradeoffs to consider.

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