Aug 292011

Fans of three-wheeled cars will tell you that the vehicles come in two configurations: delta, with the single wheel in the front, and tadpole, with the single wheel in the back.

Well, now there’s another type. The prototype Thrustcycle SRT has all three of its wheels in a straight lateral line, and utilizes a mechanical gyroscopic stabilizing system to keep it firmly upright even when standing still. That same system also stores kinetic energy generated by braking, extending the vehicle’s range.

The current version of the SRT is powered by an electric hub motor in the middle wheel. Steering is provided by the rear wheel, while the front wheel is a caster that simply turns in whatever direction the vehicle is heading.

When not in use, the vehicle sits parked on supports. Once the driver climbs in and powers up its proprietary gyro/flywheel system, however, the gyroscopic effect kicks in and the vehicle automatically raises itself to an upright position. Although it will lean into turns, the gyro will always be pulling it back up. Just how powerful is it? In one video provided to us, the vehicle is kicked twice in the side – hard – but both times it immediately rises up again.

The same flywheel that provides the gyroscopic effect is also used to kinetically store power generated by braking. As is the case with hybrid and electric cars’ regenerative braking systems, that power can subsequently be used to augment the vehicle’s chemical battery, allowing it to travel farther on one charge.

Flywheel energy storage systems have been used experimentally in vehicles before, although in some cases the gyroscopic effect generated by them has caused those vehicles to become unstable. With the SRT, however, that is apparently not a problem – instead of fighting the flywheel, you harness its gyroscopic tendencies and make them an asset instead of a liability.

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