October 30, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Are VentureOne's three wheels better than four?

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Venture Vehicles, another entry in the alternative car market, says that in 2009 it will start selling a three-wheeled electric car that tilts into turns like motorcycles.

The car, based on a steering technology invented by a Dutch company called Carver, will cost $20,000 for a hybrid version or $25,000 for a full electric version, hold two passengers, and come with optional luggage containers that strap onto the roof. The roof will also come off to turn the car into a convertible.

Called the VentureOne, Venture's car will look different than existing models from Carver, but will still have three wheels and tilt.

The company is hoping to capitalize on the growing interest in green cars with a vehicle more tailored for the urban environment. Venture's three-wheeler will only be 40 inches wide and is shorter than the average car, making it easy to park. You can put two of the 1,400-pound cars into a single standard parking space. (The passengers sit forward and rear, bobsled-style, rather than next to each other.)

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It will also get good gas mileage--120 miles per gallon for the hybrid. The electric version will go 120 miles before needing a charge. Although most of the electric sedans and sports cars coming to market in the next few years will go 140 to 200 miles on a charge, those cars are expected to cost $65,000 to $100,000, or three times as much or more than the VentureOne.

Venture's car is smaller than most cars and will only hold two passengers, but that's all you need for urban driving, said CEO Howard Levine. Roughly 77 percent of car trips in the U.S. involve only one passenger, the driver, said Levine, citing government statistics.

To cut production and inventory costs, Venture will actually only make one car, but then let dealers and owners customize them with snap-on panels. "Twelve will fit into a standard 40 foot shipping container," he said.

Although city cars, both versions of the vehicle will be capable of freeway speeds. Both will also go from zero to 60 in five seconds, the company claims. That's faster than the low-speed vehicles some electric manufacturers are touting, although not as fast as the far pricier sedans or sports cars.

Tilt-a-whirl
But most importantly, it's fun to ride in. Co-founder Ian Bruce took me on a spin around Redwood City in a gas-powered tilting three-wheeler made by Carver, the Dutch company that came up with the tilting mechanism. The tilt, the low center of gravity, and the overhead roof make it seem like you're riding to work in a torpedo.

Everyone who went for a ride seemed fairly exhilarated. The only really tough thing to get used to was the lack of creature comforts in the back seat. Basically, you stare at the headrest in front of you. On the other hand, the legroom is great. You straddle the front seat so you get complete extension of your legs. The car comes with a stereo too and the Spartan MG-Triumph-style cockpit.

How can Venture get the car to market so quickly? The Department of Transportation classifies three-wheelers as motorcycles. The crash testing is less intense. The first cars will hit the U.S. in 2009, and Europe in 2010.

Venture is also working with battery maker A123 Systems, which will also supply batteries to GM for the Volt, car designer Swift Engineering, and others.

Despite the lighter crash testing requirements, Venture is loading all sorts of safety features, said Robert Koch, a partner at venture firm NGEN, which invested in Venture. Swift, for instance, has an extensive history in building safety features into race cars. The car is also nearly impossible to tip over, although it can tilt at 45 degrees.

Still, Koch conceded that overcoming the perception of safety will be a challenge in marketing the car. Because the car is lower to the ground and smaller, many consumers will think they are unsafe at first glance.

Electric cars are one of the hot new trends (or crazes, depending on your point of view) in Silicon Valley. There are more than 20 start-ups and small companies touting electric cars or plug-in hybrids. While some have already started selling cars, most of these new cars won't come out until 2008. The price and performance of these cars range widely. One of the key conflicts these companies all face is lowering the cost of the cars--batteries remain quite expensive--and extending the driving range.

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19 comments

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I want two
And I can't wait to see the final design. The Carver has that unfinished look. Venture should be coming out with their updated design pictures soon and I can't wait. I've wanted a jet fighter type Motorcycle since the Jim Bede built the BD-200. But this one is cooler since it's tilting isn't restricted, it has HVAC,lots of car safety features, gets great mileage and is green.... And it's FUN
Posted by AZEqualizer (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good - you can have mine. Tthe one I wouldn't buy..
"No." three wheels aren't better than four. There's over a hundred years of design evolution that has asked this question repeatedlyand it has been answered over and over. Three wheelers have been around since the invention of the automobile and they have yet to solve enough problems to make a market for themselves that can qualify as anything beyond novelty. This vehicle solves few if any problems for the majority of US drivers. It functions as a limited commuter at best. It has almost no utility and is likely to be comparatively unstable and unsafe compared to four wheelers of the same weight class. Another fad-mobile - green or not. Its only re-inventing the wheel - three at a time.
Posted by duggerdm (103 comments )
Link Flag
At that price
I can still buy a decent sized, comfortable, safe Toyota for less money. After all, you're talking to the SUV generation at that price.
Posted by GrandpaN1947 (187 comments )
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??Price =SUV??
The projected Price of the Venture Vehicle is about the same price of most high end Motorcycle touring machines. The projected prices I have seen in the press are 18-24k depending on the model. And you get to use the HOV lane since it is classed a motorcycle. How many of those SUV's are going to get over 100mpg?
Posted by AZEqualizer (16 comments )
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Tilting cycle
A 3 wheel tilting motorcycle was invented by a General Motors engineer about 15 years ago. It was unusual becuase the rear wheel of a regular motorcycle was replaced by a pair of smaller wheels that allowed it to remain upright when stopped. I think it had a full body shield to protect from bad weather. It was a hobby, never intended for production. I think I saved the article.
Posted by gthurman (67 comments )
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What a Fraud
I notice they kep calling this thing a car, that is, until they talk to the Feds about
safety issues - they then call it a motorcyle and
avoid safety regulations. A more accurate nomenclature would be the "Rolling twin seat coffin." I'm amazed that this media outlet would conspire to push these death traps onto an unsuspecting public, especially the senior citizens who these "vehicles' are obviously aimed at.
Posted by theBike45 (90 comments )
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Regardless of cost, risk, etc.
Regardless of what a vehicle costs, how safe it is, etc., if a consumer buys one, they probably want to be able to keep it.

Other things improve, speed, flash, etc, but what about the ability to secure and keep a vehicle? How long have we been using toggle keys? How secure are they? A family member, while on vacation, rented a car. At some point, stopped at Walmart and locked the keys in the car. Fifth person they asked, that owned the same type of car, was able to use the other car's keys to open the rental car.

Would a consumer like to be able to make their own keys, anytime, anyplace, at very little, if any cost, and have the keys for her/his car work for no other car and vice versa?

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://RememberEZ.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://RememberEZ.blogspot.com</a>
Posted by RememberEZ (45 comments )
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Yeah, but what COLOR is it?
As long as you're going to make these, my question is what is the Albedo of the paint that you use to coat the surface?
Posted by spothannah (145 comments )
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3-Wheelers are selling
ZAP has been able to sell several hundred of its 3-wheel Xebras. I think this is a smart way to expand the niche without making a vehicle that is prohibitively expensive. A mom in Arizona uses one to take her kids to school.
See the video posted to the KOLD CBS TV website in Phoenix today.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.kold.com/Global/story.asp?S=7288669" target="_newWindow">http://www.kold.com/Global/story.asp?S=7288669</a>
Posted by acampbell333 (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Patent infringement
I do believe CARVER will sue their ***** off.

Not to mention, have you SEEN the pathetic state of US highways? People will be wrestling with their damn steering wheel trying to keep that center tire from slamming into those bowling ball gutters you can a road. That's why MOTORCYCLES choose one side of ONE lane to ride in. They don't ride down the center hump.

This isn't damn GERMANY, where they have perfectly flat SUPERIOR lanes and road technology. This is hicksville USA.
Posted by blurble (79 comments )
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Carver won't sue because they're licensing the technology. Here's a great vid on the Carver from Top Gear, a UK Car enthusiast. It's a hoot.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://thekneeslider.com/archives/2007/02/01/carver-tilting-3-wheeler-video-from-top-gear/" target="_newWindow">http://thekneeslider.com/archives/2007/02/01/carver-tilting-3-wheeler-video-from-top-gear/</a>

Regarding safety, it's a motorcycle. Nuff said. Now because it most likely has seat belts, and you can't endo or 'lay it down' it makes it one of the safest motorcycles on the road. Of course anybody that says "safe" and "motorcycle" in the same sentence you should be suspicious of ;-)

That being said, I drove a Twike, a similar three-wheeled electric motorcycle back and forth to work each day for the last 9 months, including a most rigorous winter. I drop my 6 year old off at school in it as well as my 1.5 year old at daycare when my wife is out of town traveling for work (happens quite often). Most of the time at in-town speeds you're going 20, 30, 45 mph max.

That being said, it's a very lightweight vehicle, and if you get hit by an H1-2 OR 3, well, I did tell you it's a motorcycle, and you'll be better off in either the Twike or the Carver than a regular two-wheeled bike where you'll get thrown off.

If you're in central Illinois and want to go for a spin... www.illinois.edu/goto/twike
Posted by mcc@prairienet.org (1 comment )
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Hey I'm all for these kind of environmental friendly automobile. But the problem is that a half a tonne competing on the road/highways against other beast is a joke. Look at how high that thing is and larger vehicles are going to have problem seeing you. Let see what happen when you get into an accident. This vehicle would only be good for inner city or other country that's populated with people and vehicles. We even don't know if it has great &lt;a href=http://www.racepages.com/parts/alternator.html&gt;alternator accessories&lt;/a&gt; to protect the driver from harm. You're going to have to end up buying a larger car anyhow to go with this. This thing is too small and have it limited use.
Posted by RyleeROBERTS (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey I'm all for these kind of environmental friendly automobile. But the problem is that a half a tonne competing on the road/highways against other beast is a joke. Look at how high that thing is and larger vehicles are going to have problem seeing you. Let see what happen when you get into an accident. This vehicle would only be good for inner city or other country that's populated with people and vehicles. We even don't know if it has great [url=http://www.racepages.com/parts/alternator.html]alternator accessories[/url] to protect the driver from harm. You're going to have to end up buying a larger car anyhow to go with this. This thing is too small and have it limited use.
Posted by RyleeROBERTS (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I love the original vehicle they used as the base, the Carver, better. It was already a decently economical vehicle, so why shackle it with a eco-for-show/eco-for-profit petrol-electric hybrid engine and ruin the experience of driving it? A diesel would have given equivalent or better mileage city, superior mileage at highway speed, and better performance. If a real effort was going to be made for mileage and fuel conservation, why not make it diesel electric?

120mpg sounds a bit like PR witchcraft, especially when all of the heaviest parts of the vehicle all have to fit within that small rear compartment/nacelle. This will mean one of two things: either the fuel tank, engine, transmission, batteries and motor have to be shoehorned into it, or everything listed previously except the transmission. If used to drive the wheels at all, engine will be practically ineffectual; giving laughable power as a driving force considering the added weight of the additional electrical drive train.

Full electric, as nice as that sounds (and as mind blowingly cool as the Lightning GT is), is only an eco-smoke screen. The majority of electric power in the first world is still generated from fossil fuels (coal); and because there is more CO2 emission from those coal fired plants than from petrol powered personal transportation, going all electric feels like it will be a big step backwards for both modern society (no more road trips, since it will take around 8 hours to recharge your vehicle) and the environment.
Posted by Angelsilhouette (3 comments )
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Three wheels have their own merits . One major advantage when we make it tilting .Four wheels have become a standard. I am on my mission of developing an unique EV incorporating the merits of both 3 wheels & 4 wheels .I welcome co-creators & financiers to make that model faster .
Pl email to erramalingam.ks@gmail.com
Posted by erksr (2 comments )
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