So, with the Elio trying to get (anemic FWD) legislative traction Senator David Vitter (D) from their home state of LA has introduced the 'Autocyle Safety Act'. The idea being to codify the standards that three wheeled vehicles need to meet so they no longer are in the weird straddled area of motorcycle/car regulations that has caused things like the Polaris Slingshot to be declared not-road-legal in some states (lookin' at you TX and CT).
Sounds good right? Opens the door to lighter, smaller vehicles which can be designed to either take advantage of that new design space for up-to-now unseen efficiency or alternatively...gnarly performance.
Not so fast. I finally tracked down the wording of the bill, and I'm shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you that it's half baked.
autocycle means a motor vehicle with 3 wheels, an enclosed occupant compartment, and a steering wheel
Morgan Three Wheeler, Polaris Slingshot? You're out. Campagna T-Rex? Um...maybe.
(1)complies with the motor vehicle safety standards for passenger vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings of less than 10,000 pounds, as set forth in Part 571 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, relating to—(A)seating systems (FMVSS 207);(B)belted occupant crash protection (FMVSS 208);(C)seat belt assemblies (FMVSS 209);(D)seat belt assembly anchorages (FMVSS 210);(E)child restraint systems (FMVSS 213);(F)roof crush resistance (FMVSS 216);(G)child restraint anchorage systems (FMVSS 225); and(H)flammability of interior materials (FMVSS 302);
(2)meets the performance criteria relating to upper interior impact set forth in FMVSS 201 to the extent possible to reach the target points;(3)is equipped with a steering wheel air bag, 2 curtain side impact air bags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control; and
Remember how the whole design space that would be opened would usher in a new era of lighter, more efficient or better performing vehicles? Nah, needs to meet automobile crash, air bags, and roof test standards. Sorry folks. All we'd get out of this is minor savings from the removal of a wheel.
So basically this bill is targeted specifically at getting the Elio legalized. If you think that's a great idea, I'd ask you to think again. Once a three wheel standard exists, you'd be delusional to believe that the states and feds will still turn a blind eye to creative interpretations of the motorcycle standards that have allowed interesting vehicles like the Slingshot to be developed.
Do we need three wheeled standards? Yes. Is this the right way to go about it? Not unless you're into a severely limited design set.
Bill Text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills…
Photos from the respective manufacturers