The rush for EV three-wheelers design: How about a tadpole look?

3rd September 2021

3rd September 2021

First of all, did you know that a motorised 3-wheeler which is less than 450mm in width, end to end, can be registered as a 2-wheeler in India. To qualify for this, there can be three possible configurations.

The first option would be the most commonly seen in India, suitably narrowed down, one wheel in front and two behind. This is also known as the “delta” design, most commonly found also on tri-cycles and Indian style cycle rickshaws, where the person who controls the steering sits in front and the passengers or cargo are carried behind. Indian battery operated 3-wheelers have also evolved along the same design.

The second option would be what is seen most commonly in China and other Far Eastern countries, with two wheels in front, the person steering and controlling in the rear, with passengers and cargo ahead of him or her, and possibly much better stability at higher speeds and when cornering, Battery EVs are beginning to look at this, though the jury is out on whether steering should be done by the two wheels in front or one behind.

The third option, which is hardly seen anymore, could be a slimmer version of the old sidecar - which may be used only for cargo. There are inherent control issues here so we shall restrict ourselves to the second option, also known as “tadpole” design.

“Tadpole” because that is what it resembles as it moves forward, is nature’s way of designing slow-moving stable configurations. Within the Indian context, with the huge flurry of electric two-wheelers being announced mainly for the urban rich buyers, the space for rural and semi-urban markets for combination people and goods carriers, and where a speed of over 30-40 kmph is not really needed, appears to have been left wide open.

If I was to design an EV for personal use aimed at the rural and semi-urban customer, I would design it to look something like this -

This design above would be for rural applications, with a higher ground clearance as well as pedalling applications, and a large cargo space mostly for farm produce and volume cargo.

The design below would be more for semi-rural and semi-urban, with an optional 2-seater configuration or a 1-seater + cargo quick conversion option.