Spira4U 3wheeler - Foam Home

The Spira4u however is a real first, a vehicle that weighs just over 300 pounds and is composed of 90% foam, reinforced with fiberglass and aluminum.
image from Spira
by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: 2-person foam car
  • Class: Three-wheeled motorcycle
  • Manufacturer: A & G Technology Co Ltd, Thailand
  • Propulsion system: 110cc gas-powered engine
  • Top Speed: 70 mph (113 km/h)
  • Vehicle range: NA
  • Vehicle weight: 302 lbs (137 kg)
  • Fuel efficiency: 100 mpg
  • Fuel(s): Conventional gasoline
  • Price: NA
  • Availability: NA

The manufacturer says

"Inspiration and perspiration gives [sic] us aspiration to launch a soft, safe, sexy Spira."

Overview

We are without question in the midst of an automotive revolution right now, as numerous start-ups compete to find their niche in a market made wider by the collapse of the economy. To that end, cars are being designed without the restrictions of the past, and with a view towards the future, allowing us to see a wide range of innovative vehicles made from increasingly light-weight material to improve fuel economy.

The Spira4u however is a real first, a vehicle that weighs just over 300 pounds and is composed of 90% foam, reinforced with fiberglass and aluminum. Occupants are protected from impact by six inches of foam, which helps explain why a vehicle with tandem seating should still manage to be a full five feet wide.

The vehicle is built by Thailand's Aluminum and Glass Technology Co. Ltd, and led by engineer and entrepreneur Lon Ballard.

What we like

The unique safety tests: Who needs crash test dummies when you have blow-up dolls and dead swine? In what sound like scenes from Mythbusters, the folks at Spira have run a pair of unique safety tests. In one, they put a150 lb pig carcass behind the wheel and collided it with a 4-ton Hino truck. The pig suffered neither lacerations nor broken bones, but this wasn't enough to avoid being eaten later by the crew.

In another, Spira filled a toy elephant with water and performed the same collision. When the toy did not burst on impact, a roar of approval went up in the long-overlooked inflatable pachyderm community.

The business model: Spira isn't trying to take over the car world. Rather, they're focusing on the Asian motorcycle market which, if you don't know, is a big one, and most motorcycles currently in use are both unsafe and environmentally unfriendly. With a closed cockpit, the Spira also offers occupants slightly better air to breathe on the otherwise crowded, smoggy streets of major Asian cities.

What we don’t

The seating: Tandem seating has its purpose on vehicles hoping for better fuel efficiency, but by-and-large the arrangement sucks and that's all there is to it. Although, elephants tend to walk in tandem, trunk to tail, maybe this feature is meant for them.

The design: While I like the low profile (just 52 inches high), the Spira4u looks like a storage freezer.

The sandal analogy: Spira is keen on drawing a precariously thin analogy between the effectiveness of foam in sandals—that's right, footwear—and foam in their vehicle, to wit:

  • "Foam can replace steel in cars for a more cushioned impact just as foam has replaced leather soles on most shoes and sandals."
  • "40 years ago who would think that nearly everyone would have foam shoes.  First came flip flops and then came Crocs.  It is now hard to find leather or solid rubber soles."

I like rhetorical arguments as much as the next guy, except in discussions about vehicle safety.

The unsinkability: The company claims that the Spira4u is unsinkable. So was the Titanic, but at least the Titanic was supposed to be in the water. Why would you drive a Spira4u into the water?

Conclusions

Spira recently survived the drastic cuts made by officials at the Progressive Automotive X-Prize, leaving them among the 43 remaining teams. One likely reason they made the cut is because the Spira is made from off-the-shelf motorcycle parts, almost immediately lending itself to production—one of the primary demands of the X-Prize.

At any rate, a foam car really only sounds good in a foam world, where everyone else is driving foam, drinking foam, foaming at the mouth. To drive the lone foam car in a world of steel… I hear a "you asked for it" at the end of that sentence.

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