After over two years in design and development, brothers Paul and David Loomes have announced that the Ecospin Raptor three-wheeled electric personal vehicle (EPV) is ready to roll. Headed for security personnel, the police, postal workers, theme park staff, event management firms and airports, the vehicle is said to be the first of its type to meet the stringent approval requirements for road legal status in the UK. The rear-wheel drive Raptor benefits from hot-swappable battery packs to allow for round-the-clock patrolling, and can get up to a top speed of 25 mph (40 km/h).
Ecospin's David Loomes told us that obtaining road legal status is a very different process to building an electric vehicle for use on private property. Designs need to be submitted for independent testing and then tweaked and retested to ensure that strict safety criteria is met, before an EV gets anywhere near the public highway. Such has been the process for the Raptor, which being a stand-ride vehicle immediately brings to mind designs by T3 - although it's not nearly as terrifying as the non-lethal crowd control model.
The Raptor can house up to three hot-swap 48-volt Li-ion battery packs for a range of 60 miles (90 km), and features motorcycle-like hand controls with a twist grip throttle to power and brake. The center information display is described as a 5.7-inch, 320 x 240 resolution transflective LCD that offers clear viewing even in bright sunlight, with the rider accessing menus and functions via physical, multi-use buttons.
The company is said to have looked at including a touchscreen display but it was felt that this was not a good fit for a non-consumer vehicle, where the emphasis is on long-haul reliability and easy maintenance. David Loomes told us that should the market demand such bells and whistles then the design will evolve to suit, and hinted that interfacing with smartphones, onboard cameras and GPS are all potential future additions.
The vehicle is key-started but there is an optional tag-based recognition system available, where the throttle ceases to operate and effectively locks out unauthorized riders. It's said to have a watertight and lockable 10-liter glove box, but this is currently being increased to a larger capacity in response to customer feedback. The elevated ride platform also lends itself to the transport of additional loads, and David Loomes told us that "trailers are also an option in the future because of its rear wheel drive giving increased traction to pull loads."
Since the first prototype was launched at the Cenex LCV2010 exhibition and conference, the designers have dropped the 4kW front-wheel motor in favor of a twin rear-wheel drive - each with an independent 2kW brushless electric motor - on the advice of independent vehicle engineering consultancy MIRA, due to sub-standard traction on less than ideal road conditions. The proprietary power train is said to have given its designer a pleasant surprise when a 20 stone (280 pound/127 kg) rider recently test-climbed a 1 in 3 gradient hill for about 100 meters (328 feet) on the Raptor with ease, an effective demonstration of its pulling power.
As the vehicle was designed to be operated in close proximity to pedestrians, it features hydraulic disc brakes on each of its three wheels. There's LED lighting throughout, apart from the main headlight due to regulatory requirements, and its custom-made metal chassis is said to have been built to last. Ecospin's engineers can also restrict the vehicle's top speed, should customers demand it.
The first evaluation prototype was submitted for approval by the UK's Vehicle and Operating Servicing Agency in November 2011, and road legal status was subsequently granted before the close of the year.
Leicester-based Ecospin reports already receiving interest from the Metropolitan Police, the East Midlands Airport and Birmingham Airport, as well as from companies as far afield as Dubai and Singapore, and will begin with an initial run of 60 vehicles, with production gradually increasing to 3,000 units per year.
A base model Raptor is priced at £6,300 (US$9,884), but is not being made available to the public at this time.