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Prototyping the Tomorrow Trike

By Bill Moore

Lyon Smith wants to bring an affordable electric three-wheeler to market and is using local high-tech canoe-building technology to do it, creating a single-seat prototype capable of hitting 75 mph... once the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes thaws out.

PHOTO: Official debut of HEV prototype in Minneapolis.

The land of 'Ten Thousand Lakes' is, for obvious reasons, known for its fabulous fishing: Muskies and Northern Pike being two of the most cherished catches. But someday, it also may become now for its northern 'Trike.'

Meet Lyon Smith, architect, designer, entrepreneur. His vision is to some day capture a portion of what may well be a multi-billion market for more city-friendly forms of personal mobility, in he and his partners' case, what he calls a Human Electric Vehicle based -- seriously -- on canoe technology.

Lyon lives in the small university town of Winona, Minnesota, some 100 miles south and east of Minneapolis on the Mississippi River. Besides the two colleges there, it's also home to Winonah Canoes, manufacturers of state-of-the-art composite canoes formed from advanced, super-strong and light materials like Kevlar and Graphite. Naturally, the technology has found its way into the body of Smith's Trike.

But what's more unusual about the 700 lbs vehicle is the inclusion of pedals. No, not the automobile brake and accelerator kind; the bicycle kind. Now before you scoff like I did when I first heard the tadpole-configured trike had pedals, let me explain their function. They don't propel the vehicle, directly that is. Instead, as Lyon explained to me, they are connected to a small dynamo that produces electric power that is routed to the recharge the lithium battery pack. Smith explains that he's not familiar with the engineering particulars of the pack other than its consists of '10 batteries.' He estimates that the rider can replace about 20% of the packs capacity by pedaling. So it's not a prerequisite that the rider, who sits in a recumbent position, pedal the machine to keep it moving. Think of it instead as a small range extender… or built-in exercise machine.

The Trike itself is a prototype built largely to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept. Before Winter set in, the team, which is being led by CEO Rich Kronfeld of Minneapolis, was able to make a number of test runs in the vehicle getting it up to 45 mph. The goal is 75 mph and a range of up to 100 miles. A next stage of the project is the creation of a two-place model that an out-of-state company is interested in ordering for promotional purposes.

More than a decade, a Swiss company, Cree developed the SAM, a similar electric-trike concept, a limited number of which have been built. Others have followed suit, generally with only limited success. Smith's goal of an under-$15,000 vehicle might help overcome the typical sticker shock associated with these vehicles, which in the US, at least, are classified as motorcycles.

Due to technical issues with Skype, we weren't able to capture the video portion of the 18-minute interview, but you can listen in to the audio portion using the MP3 player embedded below the several photos that Lyon set along showing the prototype.

Photo Gallery

Winona e-trike

Winona e-trike

CEO Rich Kronfeld

Times Article Viewed: 11764
Originally published: 24 Jan 2014

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