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XR3 Three-Wheel Hybrid: Is the spiel for real?

Vehicle designer Robert Riley first made his XR3 Personal Transit Vehicle available strictly by way of plans sold over the internet, requiring the buyer to undertake the ultimate vehicle DIY project in his garage. Now, Riley intends to turn the XR3 Hybrid into a production vehicle.
xr3 cockpit
by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: 2-passenger PHEV
  • Class: Motorcycle
  • Manufacturer: XR3 Motors LLC
  • Propulsion: 23hp Kubota D902 tractor engine; advanced DC 8-inch motor
  • Top Speed: 80 mph (129 km/h)
  • Vehicle range: 40 miles on battery; combined 440 miles
  • Fuel(s): Diesel fuel, electricity
  • Fuel efficiency: 125 MPG on diesel, 225 MPGe on diesel and electric
  • Battery system: Optional
  • Time to full battery recharge: Contingent on battery pack
  • Tailpipe emissions: Yes
  • Price: Plans cost $100-$200
  • Production price: $10,000-$25,000
  • Availability: Sure

The Manufacturer says

"Everyone knows that driving little econobox cars would help save fuel. But those are not the kinds of vehicles that consumers want to own. No one wants to drive a dorky little car - even if it costs less - in order to save the planet or help ease the transfer of wealth to the folks who own all the oil."

The FutureCars.com writer says

"This is one of the best manufacturer's quotes we've ever featured."

Overview

Active since the 1970s, vehicle designer and writer Robert Riley first made his XR3 Personal Transit Vehicle (PTV) available strictly by way of plans sold over the internet, requiring the buyer to undertake the ultimate vehicle DIY project in his garage. Now, Riley intends to turn the XR3 Hybrid into a production vehicle. No production or market dates have yet been announced.

XR3 Motors claims it will make available complete knockdown (CKD) kits before the mass-production vehicle hits the market. Existing plans, they say, could "become a collector's item over the long term," a claim that seems like a stretch.

What we like

The weight. Robert Riley's super-fuel-economy design philosophy is founded on reducing mass as low as possible, and he's certainly done this with the XR3, which has a curb weight of 1480 lbs (671 kg).

The choice of operational modes. The XR3 promises a choice among three operational modes: diesel-only, electric-only, and hybrid. The diesel engine powers the XR3's two front wheels, while the electric motor powers the single rear wheel. Nothing connects these independent power systems; rather, Riley claims to have installed a '$10 throttle integrator mechanism' and some dashboard switches to make switching modes both easy and within the driver's control, unlike hybrid platforms currently on the market.

Customization. The builder can customize performance and styling. For instance, the builder could opt out of the 550-lb electric power train, replace the 3 gallon diesel engine tank with a 9 gallon one and, according to the web site, achieve a ridiculous 1,000 mile vehicle range on a single tank. Furthermore, the builder could leave off the diesel powertrain, add more batteries and achieve an electric range of 100 miles or more.

xr3 profile

In matters of style, the clam-shell canopy is removable, allowing you to install a windshield that can give the vehicle an open-air roadster effect. In fact, the front clip (front body section) is also removable and open to restyling, for example if you wanted to install a larger engine.

The safety. Designs for the XR3 call for a side-supported steering wheel that should break away in a frontal collision, and a composite roll bar and a tubular steel perimeter frame to protect the occupants from injury in a rollover. Furthermore, part of the front clip is filled with foam to absorb frontal impacts.

What we don’t

The website. I hate single-page, eternal-scroll websites like the one for the XR3 right now, ones loaded with twenty different fonts in ten different sizes. They scream 'unprofessional.'

The designation. I've said it before, I do NOT like all the many acronyms in this industry. I especially dislike two: the NEV and what the XR3 calls itself, a PTV. Recall that the Chimp calls itself a PTV as well. C'mon, either drop the acronyms altogether or find a method to standardize them.

Conclusions

The real question here is what Riley will ask for his production version. He's already given away what the vehicle costs to make in your own garage; how much extra will be tack on in the name of overhead, of manufacturing costs, of profit and more? This, perhaps more than anything except one factor, will determine the success of the XR3.

What is that one factor? The 3-wheel platform. Plenty of 3-wheeled vehicles have been announced or are in development, but we have yet to see whether the public will accept them or not. Furthermore, there are only a couple US states that don’t require a helmet when operating a designated 'motorcycle', whether it's a car or not. This is why so many are built and sold in California. XR3 Motors intends to build the vehicle in Cleveland.

This site follows the emergence, application and development of transportation innovation. Reference to manufacturers, makes and models, and other automotive-related businesses are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by FutureCars.com.

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