Finally, the penny drops...

The seventies 'oil shocks' showed the need for more efficient vehicles, a need that has not become less urgent... Two wheelers are the most efficient way possible of transporting two people and some luggage but will never achieve a mass market and any useful effect, unless they avoid the deficiencies in comfort, handling and safety sufffered by the motorised bicycle.

Thus my effort, by no means alone, to get FF two wheelers, more comfortable, safer, easier and as efficient as possible, into mainstream production. The Voyagers, now close to 'historic' status were a step on that path and approaches to mainstream vehicle manufacturers and other corporates have continued ever since. It would be easier to list those who have not been contacted than those who have. I salute here Ernest Buckler, who died last Christmas, an American whose efforts in pitching to US companies made mine look lacksadasical.

The several one-offs I have produced, mostly now rusting in sheds, were done because I was asked to. I've known since working with Malcome Newell in the seventies that it's too expensive to hand-make vehicles for individuals. At least some advanced technical knowledge, a MIRA-recorded CDa of .21 for an open cockpit vehicle was worth achieving.

But the production effort has met with total rejection. Motorcycle manufacturers, complaining loudly about their falling sales, will not discuss FFs. Corporates routinely refuse to acknowledge contact - even when using the instructions for "unsolicited proposals" on their own websites. It's not just me (nasty, brutish and short) it's everyone who's tried. Ernest, using cunning and local contacts, got a proposal letter into the hands of the Tesla postroom, only to have it's existence denied. It was apparantly mysterious.

Reading the Guardian newspaper features on Climate Change denial recently has exposed the reality. It's not just 'Big Oil' that followed the example of 'Big Tobacco' in denial, fake news and science, astroturfing and flat out lies to avoid action preventing Climate Change. The world's automotive industry has, and is, doing the same thing. Big-engined SUV's are not just a brainless pusuit of market fashion, they're part of a deliberate rejection of efficiency and moderation. The long delay in the arrival of EV's has not been mere intertia. It's a pusuit of the bottom line that ignores and is hostile to, any notion of de-carbonisation.

Basically, everyone involved in the promotion and development of efficient vehicles, since the late eighties, has been pushing the wrong product at the wrong people. I would be more pissed off than I am - but I've got one. And I always assumed the people running corporates were phychopathic greedheads anyway.

It's the children they should be worrying about

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Won't someone think of the children

All good points, well made.

Unfortunately PTWs are always going to be seen by the majority in the western world as 'outlaw' vehicles due to their static instability, which equates to danger in many people's eyes. The lack of enclosure and necessity of protective clothing including a mandatory helmet is another problem.

In my view an affordable stable enclosed narrow vehicle, <85cm, able to lane split, would have much more chance of changing people's mind about their mode of transport.

Sadly even fewer people seem to be interested in such a vehicle than are interested in FFs.

If anyone has an interest in such vehicles perhaps they'd like to get in touch.

Cost probably the key issue

Leaving aside technical issues with "narrow multitracks" or fully enclosed FF's, with or without "landing wheels", I expect the key issue in any novel future vehicle will be cost.

A big motivation for current innovation is simply that "electric cars" are too expensive for a large proportion of people who need powered transport. Unless there is a step change in battery tech which dramitically reduces that cost this seems unlikely to change in the near to medium future.

The EV situation resembles that of early cars, which were similarly very expensive and so generated interest in alternatives like the motorised bicycle and 'cycle cars' but the cost of cars eventualy fell because production techniques improved (Ford et al) and continue to do so. EV's require a tranformation in basic technology which still seems some way off.

Even a basic E-FF like an E-Voyager would be seen as remarkably expensive. BMW's C-Evo scooter is an example. It would be more attractive as an FF - warmer, drier more comfortable, with better range and performance, but still too expensive as "ordinary" (non-enclosed)transport. Providing enclosure on such a package dramatically increases the cost. Arnold Wagner demonstrates that there may be a market at the top of this option, but the cost is fabulous and that market very small. The Carver, self-supporting and now electric, fits your bill, but has yet to make the mainstream (See EMN)and is hardly cheap.

Peter Fouche's example of a minimalist E-FF (or Electric Recumbant if you like typing long words) may be closer to the future of 'novel' transport. At present crippled by various non-functional regulations and lack of any serious production or technical development, it minimises battery costs while providing reasonably comprehensive transport. Much better than a bicycle, far cheaper than any EV with the full-scale performance that is uneccessary for urban and suburban commuting.

"Good engineering is doing for five bob what any damm fool can do for a quid"

An alternative potential route to new vehicle types is the electric Cargo Scooter, offering a zero-carbon solution to urban and suburban delivery. ICE Cargo Scooters are already appearing as home-made gig economy alternatives to bicycles. In each case there has to be a significant commercial advantage for any novel solution to be adopted. but no existing corporation so far contacted (e.g Triumph, Tesla, Amazon) will respond to such a concept.

Electric is not the only solution

If road legal quad bikes are available for under £3000, an aerodynamic weather resistant narrow vehicle that weighs around one quarter of what a typical car weighs should not cost a great deal more.

There is no reason that the future has to be electric if a small internal combustion engine can be fitted. Emissions would be greatly reduced simply due to the weight.

I don't agree...

I'm happy to be proved wrong but I just don't believe it's possible to achieve a retail price of much less than £6,000 for a 'narrow' vehicle (single track or multi-track, tilter etc.) with aerodynamics and weather protection - and of course sufficient performance for aerodynamics to matter. Possible to make the vehicle, using other peoples bits, but once product liability insurance, profit and marketing (including retail) costs are added there's just no way. Check out the E-Carver (see EMN) for an actual example of a narrow vehicle with the qualities you describe. Many years ago the Voyagers cost £6,000 to make. The incidentals mentioned took that price to just over £9K. Series production would reduce that cost or course, but inflation since 1989 would put it back. Bodywork to "Enclosed" standard is really expensive. But lets not argue - just prove me wrong!

Using an ICE engine is more problematical. ICE's will be banned from sale whithin ten years, fifteen at the outside, which in turn means that production will be ramped down and the support industry (fuel mainly) will progressively disappear, while becoming more expensive. Vehicle projects typically take three to five years from inception to retail sales. The train for green field ICE projects has really left the station. It was an electric train...

Which isn't to say that there's no fun to be had in ice power any more - on an individual prototype basis. During the Monoliner project we realised that you could turn the Rotax V4 (180BHP) through 90 degrees, to use shaft drive, and the motor would be shorter than the Rotax twin we actually used. The exhausts would come out of the sides and the counter-rotating engine/gearbox arrangement would kill torque reaction. the This layout is available for a wide range of UJM fours, allowing a single seat, rear-engine FF of minimal weight and frontal area with loadsa power. Malcolme would have approved and I'm tempted myself - pointless, iresponsible and self-imdulgent. but quite fun..

and thinking about that...

My brain has obviously slowed down a bit, I had to go for a walk to think of this. Above I described a single seat ICE rear-engine layout that could be built with a reasoanbly short wheelbase that might be a lot of fun. You'd use a crashed donor of course, not needing the front end or chassis.

But people haven't stoped crashing motorised bicycles just because they're electric and some early examples have an obvious battery box and another box for the electronics, plus of course the motor (we're not talking C-evo here, much too well integrated). So using a electric powertrain from such a crasher would be even easier, no exhausts, radiators or fuel tanks, the battery could be stacked over the motor, the electronics between the riders legs, making an even shorter package. I might have to look at that in CAD...

Ideal commuter solution for Londons ULEZ, progenitor of a cargo scooter development. Anyone got a frontalled TT Zero? It is the season of wet leaves under trees after all.

Evidence, not argument and problem solutions

First the evidence:

Road legal 250 cc quads are available for under £3000 as I mentioned previously, so that gives a rough idea of what the mechanics should cost for a vehicle with motorway speed capabilities once enclosed in an aerodynamic body. I can't see how a basic frame with GRP or other material panels or unitary body with some glass and interior is going to add more than £3000 to that cost once something is in series production. I'm not talking about basing manufacturing in the UK.

At the moment there is no plan to phase out ICE drive trains on the vehicle that I propose, which would be configured as a trike or quadricycle in order to give it inherent static stability and therefore greater market appeal. The emissions proposals are only for cars and vans.

So an ICE vehicle could keep down the cost thus enabling market entry for a novel class of vehicle. Conversion to some form of electric would be possible down the line.

Problem solutions:

The technology of the Carver is not really a solution to the problem. It is still too wide to allow filtering or lane splitting. It is not good engineering, but merely doing what any fool could do for a quid.

There are 'five bob' engineering solutions to the problem of narrow vehicles being statically and dynamically stable, that could offer Quasar like performance and much better weather protection, but nobody seems to be using them yet.

Go for it!

You've obviously discovered solutions to basic Physics problems that have eluded people like Tango and have a handle on production costs and incoming regulation beyond anything in the public domain. So get on with it. Obviously you'll have done extensive surveys to confirm that there's a market for your product and I'm impressed by your approach to dealing with Pollutuon and Climate change. You'll probably find 'Big Auto' quite supportive...

However it's got three or maybe four, wheels so it's not an FF and I hope you'll excuse me for a general lack of interest from here on in. My bag is the minimal vehicle.

Very best of luck. success and general fame.

Going for it!

In the original post above it was suggested that "two wheelers..... will never achieve a mass market and any useful effect, unless they avoid the deficiencies in comfort, handling and safety suffered by the motorised bicycle." It was to this that I addressed my reply, perhaps I should have started my own thread in response, as later the comment emphasis moved from the issues suffered by the motorised bicycle to minimalism.

The minimal vehicle is an excellent concept for those who are willing to pit their skill against the vagaries of the road surface and other drivers lack of attention, but it takes some years of practice to countersteer perfectly in emergency situations. Most people don't have those skills.

In the article 'Introduction to FF two-wheelers' there is the following phrase "Turn your Mind to 'Open' Set your Imagination to 'On' and your Pre-conceptions to 'Off' You can leave Scepticism on your normal default setting."

The EU followed this advice in their defintion of a motorcycle, in which FFs sit alongside motorised bicyles and scooters. They allow two wheels close together on an 'axle' to count as a single wheel.

While I agree that FFs are an improvement on the deficiencies of motorised bicycles I would maintain that for the mass market FFs still suffer from the same problems. It seems Malcolm Newell turned his mind to 'open' and possibly saw the same thing as the EU. Which is why, I imagine, he started work on a three wheeler.

He could see that a small compromise in efficiency (the rolling resistance and weight of an extra wheel) was a price worth paying for massively increased safety and comfort.

Large mutinationals and the public have seen the stability advantages in normal riding, hence the emergence of scooter trikes in the last decade or so. Not only that but it is likely that there is a market for an enclosed narrow vehicle as multinationals and other organisations such as the EU are funding the building of prototypes. It is unlikely that they would do this if there were no market. Neither the public or organisations have seen game changing benefits in FFs.

Current narrow internal combustion trikes will reduce pollution relative to SUVs and other cars, so the approach of a developing a narrow vehicle, tilting or not, does address pollution and climate change.

Big Auto are unlikely to be interested as they rely on high cost options to make things profitable, Big Moto may be more so.

As for future legislation, no-one knows what is coming there so we can only go with what is being proposed at the moment. Sadly I have no handle on production costs for such a vehicle, but can only base them on estimates of similar low cost vehicles.

The physics problem can be solved in a different way from the way that Tango and Carver did it, and you're right it isn't in the public domain. However it's a physics problem rather than an engineering problem and I don't really have much engineering ability.

Rather than continue to plough the lonely furrow that I have been working on, on and off, for over a decade, I saw my response to the original comment as a way of perhaps finding those with engineering expertise who could come together to build something similar to an FF. A narrow lane splitting vehicle that could go even further to addressing the deficiencies in safety, comfort and handling that is inherent in strictly defined two wheelers.

If it's narrow, it has to lean!

Martin, you really don't seem to have addressed this fundamental point: if you want to keep it narrow it's got to lean. Whether it's a Piaggio MP3, Peugeot Metropolis, Yamaha Tricity or a Quatro, it has to lean. Or at the very least, half of it has to lean, like a Honda Gyro Canopy or indeed a Carver. You seem to be in denial about this and have offered no answer to it! PNB

Not only, but also...

Forgive me for avoiding discussions of the physics of vehicles beyond simple single tracks - although PNB does raise questions that would be asked by any investor. However I will defend the simple single track against the common complaint that the key control features "balancing", "counter-steering" etc. are too edgy or difficult for the mass of the population.

On the contrary, the simple single track is self-balancing and very stable - once in motion. Control is extremely simple. such that not only small children but chimpanzee's and apparently some dogs can manage it. Taking the most common example, the dangerous and uncomfortable bicycle, essentially unchanged since 1886(?), is routinely used worldwide by millions of people. Even the motorised bicycle, more obviously dangerous and uncomfortable, is the main transport for more millions. Actual surveys show that it is the pain, discomfort and impracticality that discourage people. Very few note difficulty in control - which in any case has been improved.

This is the reason for FF development of the two wheeler specifically in terms of comfort, handling, safety and efficiency. All straightforward engineering tasks needing no secret or esoteric physics, likely to increase uptake by a sufficient margin to actually impact on energy use (and pollution) and congestion. Reasonable and achievable aims, proven by demonstration and readily capable of production at scale. Motivated not by innovation for it's own sake but to address an actual problem using available technolgy.

I'm not sure why anyone with more elaborate ambitions would waste their time on this site...

The future

I for one certainly don't waste any time on this site. I find it instructive, informative and interesting. I've learned a lot from it and at some point I would like to build a minimalist FF of my own based on the very principles of low seating and unsteered suspension.

Hopefully the world will turn to something more efficient than a car or motorised bicycle sometime in the future. Let's hope that at least one of our alternative options takes off.

Fundamental point about leaning

I'm not in denial, but have offered no answer as it is unprotected intellectual property. Once it's built you can come and test it. But don't hold your breath. As everyone knows, funding is tricky.