Although fuel prices have fallen far from last summer’s peak, the pain at the pump will not soon be forgotten. That’s particularly true in the United States, still the world’s biggest automobile market, where people have long enjoyed cheap energy and could therefore barely believe they were paying US $4 for a gallon of gasoline ($1.05 per liter).
Clearly, U.S. car buyers have abandoned hulking SUVs for smaller, fuel-sipping hybrid electric vehicles, sticking auto dealers with unsold gas guzzlers and lengthening the waiting lists for hybrids. But it’s hard to say whether the swing in demand is wide enough to create a market for the new car from Venture Vehicles. The Contoocook, N.H.–based start-up will introduce the three-wheel VentureOne plug-in hybrid in 2010.
Though the 680-kilogram trike will be completely enclosed, it will qualify as a motorcycle—which makes sense because the driver and passenger sit in tandem. The vehicle should also lean into turns like a cycle, because at high speeds an electrohydraulic system—made by Carver Engineering, in Gravendeel, Netherlands—will tilt the cabin and front wheel up to 45 degrees while keeping the two rear wheels upright. That maneuver keeps the trike’s center of gravity right over the front wheel, ensuring that g forces push the vehicle down into the road rather than turn it over.
Along with this neat trick, the VentureOne has such eye-grabbing stats as using 3.14 liters per 100 kilometers (75 miles per gallon) and going more than 30 km before the gasoline engine turns on to recharge the batteries. Nevertheless, will consumers plunk down about $25 000 for a car that seats only two people and stows nothing larger than a child’s schoolbag?
It remains to be seen how the public will view this vehicle and the five other items we are inviting you to vote on. They include a biometric database that uses pattern-matching technology to identify people by their tattoos, a handheld device that unrolls into an e-book reader, and a giant microwave oven that its makers say can cook a tire until it turns into diesel fuel.
Have your say on these other new technologies: