Spira4u recently announced
that is had begun pilot production of its three-wheeled urban vehicle. To be available in both an electric- and a gas-powered version, the Spira4u employs a honeycomb composite chassis and a fiberglass and foam body to achieve a unique combination of economy, safety and convenience. Gizmag took time out from the floor of NAIAS in Detroit
to take the Spira4u for a spin.
We first drove the Spira4u
in its first prototype form six years ago and we were mightily impressed. Conceived as a low cost (both to manufacture and run), hyper-economical vehicle to mitigate the world's 1.25 million road deaths each year, the Spira4u went on to become a finalist
in the Automotive XPrize. It was never intended to run against the world's biggest universities and brightest minds – it was always intended for production. Now it's there and seeking to license its design across the globe.
The Spira three-wheeler is a unique vehicle. It's one of the finalists in the Automotive X-Prize but its frugal fuel consumption and low emissions are only part of the vision of making it a car for the people. The Spira starts with a scooter, uses everything but the frame, and all those parts bolt into a foam composite tub to create a lightweight (137 kg) three-wheeled two-seater with immeasurably greater crash protection for the occupants. Gizmag visited the Spira's home in Thailand to drive what inventor Lon Ballard hopes will become a machine for the people, and came away mightily impressed.
A good product must be perfectly adapted to its market - and the Spira looks like an excellent fit for the chaotic conditions of South-East Asian roads. This odd little three-wheel two-seater weighs only 300-odd pounds (130kg) - that's because it uses a super-lightweight reinforced foam for 90 percent of the bodywork. It gets well over 100mpg from its 110cc engine, it's light enough to lift by hand, and the foam shell has huge safety benefits, both for the occupants and for the legions of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists that swarm the roads of Thailand. Oh, and it floats.