Automotive X PRIZE: Team TW4XP hoping for a three-wheeled win


July 25, 2010

The TW4XP three-wheeler, representing the production human/electric hybrid Twike

The TW4XP three-wheeler, representing the production human/electric hybrid Twike

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It would be a huge understatement to say that the 12 vehicles remaining in the Automotive X PRIZE are pretty unusual. One of the things that was particularly fun for those of us recently attending the Finals Stage in Michigan, in fact, was observing all the different forms and configurations that the different teams’ automobiles have taken. One standout (and they’re all standouts really) has been the TW4XP, representing the team of the same name. The vehicle is a sneak-peek of the next generation of Twike, a production electric three-wheeler built and sold by some of the team members back home in Germany. One of the things that makes regular Twikes special is the fact that they have pedals, so you can extend their range by giving the battery a break and pedaling on the easy stuff. While other X PRIZE contenders such as the Aptera may be sexier than the TW4XP, it represents an already-available vehicle that could help you work off those unwanted extra pounds.

What’s under the hood

First of all, despite what it says on the team’s X PRIZE page, the TW4XP race rig itself does not have pedal-assist. It is built to provide for it, however, in a nod to its commercially-available siblings. What it does have is an electric motor that generates 70kW of nominal power for a top speed of 80mph (129 km/h), a claimed driving range of 150 miles (241 km), and a power consumption of 16 kW hours per 100 miles. By comparison, a regular production Twike’s motor generates 3 kW of nominal power for a top speed of 53 mph (85 km/h), a range of 124 miles (200 km) and a power consumption of 6-12 kWh/100 miles. Both vehicles have side-by-side seating for two, and are steered via a tiller mounted between the seats.

A mountain-sized hurdle

At one point, it looked like the TW4XP might not be able to compete. The Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, which temporarily put a halt to air travel in and out of Europe, kept the vehicle from making it to the U.S. in time for the Shakedown stage of the competition. Fortunately, X PRIZE officials made an exception for the team, and allowed them to wait until their vehicle arrived before completing that stage.

Hopes for the contest

TW4XP, should you wonder, stands for “Three Wheeler for X PRIZE.” It certainly seems to be a hit with visitors to the competition’s website, whose votes have it currently sitting at the #2 spot for the title of “Most Innovative.” The vehicle is competing in the category of Alternative (Side by Side).

“It was our goal in the beginning to be in the finals, and to show that our vehicle is able to fulfill all the requirements,” team leader and Twike CEO Martin Möscheid told us. “The others that are in the finals, they are very good, but... it can happen that one wire is loose, or you have a short, or you lose a small bolt or something, and you are out. I believe we still have a good chance to be in first place.”

TW4XP is still in the running for the X PRIZE after the first two grueling days of the four day Finals Stage, which will be completed on Tuesday. Even if it doesn’t win the X PRIZE, the look and some of the race-designed features of the TW4XP will find their way into the next generation of Twikes. Möscheid informed us that the newly-developed suspension and drive train, for example, will end up in his production vehicles... and yes, they will still have pedals.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Good luck to all the remaining competitors. There has definitely been some interesting innovations on display already.

Lawrence Weisdorn

It\'s vehicles like this that will be the future though I\'d like a little more height to see and be seen for safety.

Sadly they have been way over priced as such shouldn\'t cost over $10k in mass production as there is little to them.

More economical would be a 60 mile range lead battery version with a 3kw generator for unlimited range.

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