When those of us who live in urban areas picture letter carriers – or posties, or mailmen/women – we usually think of them as people who deliver the mail by foot. The fact is, however, letter carriers in much of the world use small motorcycles to make their deliveries. If Australian inventor Simon Williams has his way, many of those motorcycles may soon be replaced by his electric three-wheeler. Not only is the Williams Deliver-E Trike quieter and cleaner than gas-powered bikes, but its two rear swing arms pivot independently, allowing the vehicle to lean into turns and stand upright when parked at the side of a sloping road.
Simon had long been interested in building an electric motorcycle, but it was actually a 2005 Gizmag article on The Rider, a tilting electric commuter concept trike, that inspired him to start work on the Deliver-E. "As a motorcycle rider I could see the drawbacks – as far as handling and practicality – but I saw potential for a cargo vehicle based on the tilting three-wheel concept," he told us.
While his trike could certainly find use with commuters and a variety of delivery people, Williams decided to target it specifically at letter carriers. To that end, he actually quit his job and worked as a postie for 18 months, just to get a sense of what they needed in a bike. He discovered that the Honda CT110s currently in use by Australia Post were stressfully noisy, a hassle to manually back up, and that heavily-laden ones could fall over when parked perpendicular to a slope – a situation that could often arise, when dropping off letters in mailboxes along a road's sloping shoulder.
The Deliver-E has two electric motors, one in either back wheel, which take care of the noise issue (and the need to shift gears). A reverse gear saves riders from having to put their legs down and walk it backwards. The pivoting rear swing arms can be locked in place in any position, allowing it to stand up straight on slopes. They also let it carve through corners, and help ease the rear end up over curbs more smoothly.
"The tilting mechanism was the thing I spent a long time thinking about," he said. "Along the way I came up with all sorts of complex details on how I would get it to tilt. In the end, the tilting mechanism couldn't be more simple. I've never built a motorcycle before – so that in itself was challenging."
The prototype trike weighs 120 kg (264.5 lbs), has a top speed of 80 kph (50 mph) and a range of at least 60 km (37 miles). Its package of 16 li-ion batteries charges up to 80 percent within one hour, up to 100 percent in three hours, and puts out 5,000 watts. Regenerative braking helps extend battery life. It is estimated that once in production, each trike could be built within five hours.
Williams is now facing the biggest challenge of his vision, however – finding money to commercialize the trike. "I am searching for an investor, which has proven to be the most difficult part of the entire project. Building the bike was the easy part," he told us. "Things should progress quickly once there is some backing behind me."
We wish him luck in his endeavor.