Foam cars go on sale

The hy­per-eco­nom­i­cal Spi­ra4u has be­gun pi­lot pro­duc­tion in China

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - MIKE HAN­LON

THE 2008 Au­to­mo­tive XPrize fi­nal­ist Spi­ra4u has be­gun pi­lot pro­duc­tion in China of both an elec­tric and a gaspow­ered ver­sion of its dis­tinc­tive and hy­per-eco­nom­i­cal three-wheeler.

The car-scooter three-wheeler has fin­ished emis­sion test­ing to meet U.S. EPA re­quire­ments and ap­proval is ex­pected soon.

The petrol ver­sion weighs only about 200 kg and elec­tric ver­sion less than 240 kg. Both ver­sions share the same hon­ey­comb com­pos­ite chas­sis and a body made of fiber­glass cov­ered by re­cy­clable light­weight foam body pan­els.

The shock ab­sorp­tion qual­i­ties of the EPP foam make the trike much safer in an ac­ci­dent and the foam pan­els also ab­sorb park­ing lot dings.

The $5 000 (R57 500) petrol has a fuel-in­jected, 150 cc Chi­nese Wangye motorcycle en­gine with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion that gives the ve­hi­cle a top speed of 85 km/h and econ­omy of 2,94 l/100 km, de­liv­er­ing a 320 km range from the 9,5-litre tank.

The $9 000 elec­tric ver­sion uses ei­ther one or two 10 kW (13,4 hp) mo­tors with the ad­di­tional mo­tor fit­ted to the other rear wheel at an ad­di­tional cost of $1 500. With one mo­tor fit­ted, the ve­hi­cle has a top speed of 100 km/h. Two mo­tors smoke the wheels. “We’ve mod­i­fied the pro­gram­ming of the con­troller so that it doesn’t spin up the wheels from stand­still,” says Spi­ra4u’s Lon Bal­lard, “but ev­ery­thing can be changed and we’re also happy to share the con­troller pro­gram with the buy­ers so that they can tweak it to their lik­ing.”

The elec­tric Spi­ra4u plugs into any nor­mal house­hold 15 amp 110 v or 220 v power point and fully charges in two to four hours. The small bat­tery packs are re­mov­able and can also be taken into a build­ing for recharg­ing.

The Spi­ra4u is light enough for a per­son to lift the front and a spe­cial pad at the rear al­lows the trike to be parked up­right. “We’ve found that we can fit eight Spi­ra4us in a sin­gle park­ing spot by park­ing them that way,” says Bal­lard.

The Spi­ra4u will be shown at the NAIAS show in Detroit next week, where Bal­lard is hop­ing to find po­ten­tial deal­ers in the United States and man­u­fac­tur­ing li­censees around the world.

Spira is seek­ing rapid pro­mo­tion of the de­sign glob­ally with a very low roy­alty fee of one to two per­cent only on com­po­nen­try de­signed by Spira.

“We are seek­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers to ex­pand pro­duc­tion glob­ally us­ing lo­cal com­po­nents in­cor­po­rated into new light, safe ve­hi­cles meet­ing lo­cal de­sign and pro­duc­tion re­quire­ments,” he said.


Six 10 kW elec­tric and six fuel-in­jected 150 cc Spi­ra4us be­ing pre­pared for shipping.

The Spi­ra4You is light enough to lift and eight of th­ese trikes fit into a stan­dard park­ing bay.

Apart from ab­sorb­ing a crash bet­ter than metal, the foam pan­els also floats.

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