Cross a motorbike with a car and you have the future of city driving, according to a Deakin University engineering expert

9 August 2011

A new ultra efficient crossover car that combines the fun drive and small size of a motorbike with the safety and comfort of a small car could be a future travel option thanks to the work of Deakin University engineering experts.

While crossover vehicles (a blend of car and motorbike) are not new, the Deakin engineers believe they have solved the issues of price and safety that have plagued the commercial success of similar vehicles that have entered the market.

“Crossover vehicles combine the best of two worlds: the fun to drive, low cost and small size of a motorcycle with the safety, comfort and ease of operation of a car,” explained project leader Frank Will from Deakin’s School of Engineering.

“What has held back the success of crossover vehicles developed in the past decade is the cost and complexity of the mechanism that allows the vehicle to tilt safely, and not roll over. We believe the fully automatic tilting control system developed at Deakin addresses the weaknesses of previous concepts and would allow for a fully enclosed, cheap and safe vehicle.”

With the working name of ‘Tomorrow’s Car’, the Deakin crossover vehicle design uses the SafeRide™ tilting control system developed at the University.

“This system is quite simple to manufacture, which would make the vehicle more affordable. And the driver would not need to put their feet on the ground to balance the vehicle, so it can be fully enclosed and include all the safety features of a normal car,” Mr Will said.

“It also uses kinetic energy from the driver’s balancing sense in a feedback control system. This means that the driver controls the vehicle through a combination of counter-steering and balancing through body movements, similar as for a push bike. The SafeRide™ system only kicks in during critical situations, for example at very low speeds, on slippery surface or during side wind.”

The main features of the Tomorrow’s Car include:
• the cost effective SafeRide™ tilting control system and three wheels (two at the front, one at the back) to allow the vehicle to drive like a normal motorcycle
• small width for easy parking
• electric or efficient petrol engine
• fuel economy better than the equivalent of 2.5 litres per 100 kilometres
• protective exterior similar to a small standard car offering impact zones and collision protection resulting in a safety performance superior to any small car
• seatbelts, airbags, ABS anti lock brake
• performance better than a standard small car with an acceleration from 0-100kph below 10 seconds and a top speed of over 130 kilometres an hour
• an anticipated price range of $10,000-$20,000, depending on the manufacturing location, making it comparable to other micro cars on the market

The Tomorrow’s Car design has also been informed by market research conducted by Deakin marketing experts including Professor Paul Couchman and Associate Professor David Bednall from the School of Management and Marketing.

“This research provided us with invaluable feedback to ensure our design would be well received by consumers,” Mr Will said.

“Customer priorities for such a product were safety and styling. The car also needed to be the right colour and look safe, even if the safety features were the same as for a current small car.”

Mr Will believes that, if it makes it to the market, the Tomorrow’s Car would fill a gap in the market for alternative and efficient means of transport.

“Small, safe, affordable and energy efficient vehicles are needed to alleviate the emissions and traffic and parking issues experienced today, particularly in large cities around the world.

“The Tomorrow’s Car would not only satisfy the transport needs of people in large cities, but also provide an option for people who want to experience the fun and excitement of riding a motorcycle but want the safety features of a car.”

The basic function of the SafeRide™ technology has been demonstrated on a three-wheeled scooter that has been modified and a patent application has been filed, thanks to the support through a small grant from the COMET scheme provided by the Federal Government.

“The next stage is to build a fully functional prototype with production capable safety components so that the vehicle can be driven on public roads to participate in fuel economy competitions and to generate more market research data,” Mr Will said.

“To do this we are looking for funding and research and manufacturing partners.”

The first research results from the Tomorrow’s Car project will be presented at Deakin’s second International Clean Vehicle Conference on 20 September.

News facts
  • Deakin engineers working on new car design that combines best features of a car and a motorbike
  • Car would be fun to drive and small like a motorbike and safe and comfortable like a regular car
  • Key to the design is the tilting control system that would be cheap and easy to manufacture

Media contact

Mandi O'Garretty
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 2776; 0418 361 890

Frank Will speaks about the Tomorrow's Car project

Video highlights the features of the Tomorrow's Car

Below: Images of how the Tomorrow's Car could look

street view of tomorrows car

side view of tomorrows car

rear view of tomorrows car

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17th August 2011