Perfect stability while tilting, absolute support while breaking, a tadpole style which ensures comfortable vehicle gait – all of these form important active safety systems in three-wheel electric vehicles. However, there are some safety systems that form an integral part of passenger safety in three-wheel electric vehicles, which, surprisingly, haven’t grabbed the eyeballs of inventors much. In the third of our series on three-wheel electric vehicles, we walk you through interesting passive safety systems that enhance biking in trikes all the more safe.
Riding a trike-bike is possibly the next big thing that’s set to take the automobile market by storm. Now these are not simply any trike-bikes, but trikes that run on electric batteries with a hybrid function to switch over the conventional fuel in case of a battery discharge. We’ve spoken in length in our previous blogs about the tadpole design and the super safe tilting aspects that make biking (let’s say triking!) all the more fun. But what’s to be given more importance is the passive safety systems. Surprisingly, there are very few inventions in passive safety technology. Innovators – here’s your call to earn a patent super quick in this space.
What are passive safety systems?
A trike-bike in tadpole design may have a zillion features of safety. But, there’s one important measure that could simply magnify the safer travel experience – a capsule. While trikes like the Toyota iRoad come with a completely covered cockpit, the Piaggio MP3 has a more open structure.
While running through the patent world, we were indeed surprised to find that globally there are only 55 patents supporting a completely closed cockpit in a trike, while there are 23 patents suggesting passive safety technology in partially-closed trikes and 107 patents for completely open ones.
Even more surprising was the fact that only one patent has been filed with regard to seat belt technology for three-wheel electric vehicles, and two patents for an airbag safety. This sure leaves a huge white space allowing innovators to crack codes and implement their safety ideas for trikes.
UK-based Henty Capital Ltd. filed a patent GB2508709A describing seat belt safety and airbag mechanisms for electric trike passengers. There are various detailed concepts of passive safety systems included in the patent, such as a full four point harness to restrain a passenger’s shoulders and torso. Alternatively, the safety belt may comprise a simple lap belt in combination with a lateral restraint solution.
One of the provided lateral restraint solution may comprise internal inflatables provided on both sides of the passenger seat. These internal inflatables may get triggered by a tipping sensor, which are described in relation to the external inflatables. A first inflation stage provides buffer for a passenger against normal lateral leaning, whenever the scooter corners during travel. Such a first stage can get triggered by the weight of a passenger on the seat pad, where the inflation stage may be inflated a pressure as low as 0.5 psi. The deflation is effected as a passenger gets up from his seat. A final stage of safety provides a full side air bag in the event of vehicle tipping over.
A second lateral restraint solution comprises mechanically adjustable side supports provided on the passenger seat. The side supports may be operable by a lever, or be automatically triggered by the weight of a passenger on the seat pad. The adjustable side supports may therefore, intelligently move into position against at least a passenger’s hips and shoulders. Preferably, the adjustable side supports are ergonomically shaped and padded for comfort. Engagement of the lap belt preferably locks the supports into position and unlocks the supports once the lap belt is disengaged. There is a third lateral restraint solution that describes a hydraulically operated side cushions.
Another patent (i.e., JP2011230651A) deploying airbag as passive safety mechanism in trikes belongs to Equous Research (a fully owned subsidiary of Aisin Group). Surprisingly, the patent also has a secondary focus to the passive safety mechanism and primarily it focusses on travel of the vehicle on slopes when the inclination drive part fails. The vehicle talks about a failure handling means that functions when the drive part for tilting the entire vehicle fails. Once the drive part failure is detected by the failure handling means, the latter starts a tilt suppression device to suppress tilt of the vehicle, eventually allowing the vehicle to travel temporarily.
Companies such as Equous Research, Honda, Bombardier, Toyota, Ford and Piaggio are leading the chart for passive safety mechanism in electric trikes. They are joined in their effort by universities, with Kunming University of Science And Technology being a notable patentee.
Since the inception of passive safety mechanisms in electric trikes in early 1970s, 74% of the innovation has occurred in between 2007 and 2016. This does show a promising future of an increasing number of innovations in passive safety systems for electric trikes, and a growing number of these safer bikes on the roads.
In our next blog, we discuss aspects of battery technology in three-wheel electric vehicles and interesting IP associated with it.
(Featured image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Campagna_T-Rex_14-R_rear_left.jpg)