What do you get when you combine the exhilaration of riding a fast motorcycle, the safety and comfort of a commuter car, and the fuel efficiency of advanced automotive technologies? The VentureOne—a two-passenger, three-wheeled, 100-mpg plug-in series hybrid from Venture Vehicles in Los Angeles.
Venture compares the driving sensation of the V1 to “flying a jet fighter 2 feet off the ground.” Capable of reaching top speeds of approximately 100 mph, it takes corners like a racing motorcycle that leans almost completely to one side. The two wheels and propulsion system in the back stay firmly on the ground, while the single front wheel and cabin—more like a glass-enclosed cockpit—tilts at angles up to 45 degrees. The automated tilting system, developed by Carver Engineering in the Netherlands and licensed by Venture Vehicles, uses a combination of hydraulic and mechanical technologies to determine the ideal angle and balance based on the traveling speed, rate of acceleration, and road conditions.
Sounds Thrilling—But Is It Safe?
According to the company, the VentureOne was designed to exceed the federal safety standards used for traditional automobiles, making it 30 times safer than the average motorcycle. Unlike the leaning, leather-clad moto-racers whose knees skim the pavement, the driver of the VentureOne is encased in a “safety cell,” complete with driver’s airbag, impact protection, restraint systems, and bumpers. The safety cell seats two passengers, one in front of the other.
Priced between $18,000 and $23,000 (depending on model), the VentureOne could be considered a devil-may-care toy for the wealthy—if it weren’t for the 100-mph worth of indulgence being tempered by 100 miles-per-gallon of environmental penitence. The vehicle is available in three shades of green. The fully electric version, featuring two in-wheel 20 kW electric motors and a 17 kWh lithium ion battery pack, delivers approximately 120 miles on a single charge. If you want to boost your range to 350 miles, you can opt for a 50 kW series plug-in hybrid version using a small internal combustion engine, a four gallon fuel tank ,and a 3 kWh li-ion battery pack. The third version, a 100 kW plug-in hybrid model, can bring your maximum speed to 120 mph, but cuts your range down to 300 miles. The batteries are charged via a standard 110-volt outlet, as well as a regenerative braking system.
Richard Hammond reviews the original Vandenbrink Carver in an episode of the BBC episode’s “Top Gear.”
The first set of VentureOne vehicles, expected in 2009, are being developed by a partnership that includes Swift Engineering, Cal Motors and Automotive Marketing Consultants. A123Systems of Watertown, Mass, supplies the lithium batteries.
Nothing Like It
The VentureOne could very well be the first plug-in hybrid to hit the market, and the first vehicle that delivers 100 miles-to-the-gallon. But how big is the market for a $20,000 three-wheeled, two-seater tilt-a-whirl motorcycle-car gizmo? Big enough for NGEN Partners, a cleantech venture firm with offices in California and New York, to invest $6 million in Venture Vehicles. Steve Parry, managing member at NGEN, believes the vehicle will meet the real-world needs of consumers. Parry said, “But without question, it is the absolutely extraordinary nature of the driving experience that ultimately will sell the product. There is simply nothing like it on the road.”
UPDATE – March 2010: In December 2008, the VentureOne was renamed Persu Hybrid. In March 2009, Persu Mobility, the renamed behind the vehicle, promised to track news on its company website. In December 2009, Persu Mobility withdrew the vehicle from the Automotive X Prize competition. As of March 2010, the Persu website’s news page is described as “under construction,” while the company tries to “define a fresh identity that reflects our work to delineate a new segment of urban transportation.”
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