It describes itself as the “future of urban mobility”. With a range of 93 miles and a top speed of 50 km/h, the electric tricycle looks futuristic nimbus costs about 10,000 US dollars and wants to position itself as a green alternative to cars, safer than motorcycles and with a high degree of user-friendliness. We tested a prototype of the trike to get a feel for where the company is going.
The vehicle I drove was an early prototype and it showed clear signs of it; The doors were difficult to close and the team had to ‘prep’ the car before I could get in and make some last minute adjustments before I took over the wheel. And yes, even though this is a cornering trike, it does have a steering wheel. As an experienced motorcyclist, I found this very strange indeed.
This prototype felt a little wobbly and unsafe, but I suspect that’s the teething problem of a vehicle still in development. The great thing is that it’s fully enclosed; They have a heater and seats and a roof and a windshield and wipers. Countless times I’ve ridden in the rain and wished I could just be warm and dry, those are countless pros. Scooters with a roof have of course been around for a long time (BMW built one in 2000), and the Nimbus is characterized by being almost incomparable to anything else on the market.
The biggest challenge I’ve had is that when I’m on a motorcycle, the “right” lean angle of a motorcycle is a function of speed, weight (of the motorcycle + rider) and the tight turn you’re taking. Driving small slaloms in Nimbus’ prototype felt like the bank was “wrong” – sometimes too little, feeling like the car could tip over, and sometimes too much, feeling like the car could tip over again . I gave the feedback to the team and the company’s CEO, Lihang Nong, and the company was able to fix some of the issues I was having:
“We adjusted the steering feel after you left based on your comments, and then it drove much more predictably for new drivers,” Nong wrote in an email to me.
Of course, the luxury of an early-stage prototype car is that everything can still be adjusted and updated, and it’s probably not worth judging the car on its driving characteristics after my brief test drive. On top of that, I hasten to add that I have driven tens of thousands of kilometers on two and two-wheelers three wheel scooters and motorcycles, so maybe I’m a particularly picky audience in this case.
My impression is that this vehicle isn’t for the recreation of two-wheeled speed freaks, but rather for people who wouldn’t care what else one down, five up means. And that’s okay, because that’s the vast majority of the population.
The vehicle features a number of really clever innovations. For example, under a small “hood” at the front of the vehicle, it has both a 220V charger – similar to what you would find on any electric car – and a roll-out 110V vacuum cleaner style charger. This gives you many options for charging the vehicle in many situations.
In addition to charging the batteries in the car, the batteries are actually removable. There are four of these, all under the driver’s seat, and the company jokingly refers to them as “V-4 batteries.” The ability to remove the batteries to charge elsewhere makes this vehicle a particularly interesting choice for those who do not have an allocated parking space or driveway where they can charge the vehicle. An added bonus on that front is that the tiny car is short enough to be parked perpendicular to the curb – meaning you can take advantage of even the smallest parking spaces.
The vehicle’s top speed of 50 mph is a bit of a deal breaker to me. For one, it means you can’t actually drive on freeways, including the San Francisco-Oakland bridge. Well, technically the speed limit on the bridge is 50mph, but on my drive back from the Nimbus test drive I decided to exceptionally stick to that speed limit in my car. Other cars sped past me to the left and right. Sticking to the speed limit didn’t feel safe in a car, and the Nimbus is a tiny little thing compared to my daily driver. In short, it wouldn’t feel safe to drive across the bridge, and given that it’s the only way to easily get from Oakland to San Francisco, it torpedoes the company’s offer to replace a car.
The small car has a back seat that allows a second person to sit behind the driver, straddling him with one leg on either side. There are seat belts to keep you in place and the vehicle features a predictive Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS) to keep you safe too.
As a six-foot-tall person, I’m probably on the extremely high end of who fits in this car. With the seat (which doesn’t recline) pushed all the way back, I could barely find enough room for my knees to move between the gas and brake pedals. I also felt my hair brush the windshield above me, and the pillars around the doors created quite a large blind spot for me, which I found difficult to avoid given the vehicle’s limited size. Given my proximity to the windshield, I’m afraid to imagine what would happen if I’d crashed at 50mph; my head has nowhere to go but right through the glass and there wouldn’t be enough room in the car to wear a crash helmet. #TallPeopleProblems, sure, but worth mentioning.
The test drive itself was fine and it’s impressive how far the small manufacturer has come. The vehicle’s acceleration wasn’t particularly impressive: even the cheapest 125cc scooters I’ve ridden seem to have more punch. I couldn’t push the vehicle to its limits either; When I hit the gas pedal the drive belt jumped and made an awfully loud crunch/click. For a moment I feared breaking the vehicle, but it turns out to be just a quirk of the little car’s prototype status. A little disconcerting, but more importantly, I couldn’t get around in the car like I would on a motorcycle and it was hard to gauge what performance it’ll be capable of when production units roll off the assembly line.
I think the biggest challenge preventing me from pre-ordering the Nimbus is that while $10,000 is relatively cheap, it gives the cute little tricycle a tremendous and impressive competitive landscape. Ten big puts you in the same range as one Electric cargo bike with all the trimmingsa cheap e-bike or a very cheap used electric car. Somehow, amidst this onslaught of better-known competitors, Nimbus has to find a home and an audience.
Overall, I really want to love the Nimbus. I think such vehicles deserve to exist in the increasingly complex micro-mobility landscape. I can certainly see a fleet of these available where you could use one of the hourly hire electric scooters today. Small cars or covered motorbikes definitely have their place in the cityscape. I’m very excited to see how they develop and I really hope to get the chance to drive one of the production cars.
All in all, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on Nimbus as the company nears production.
First impressions of the Nimbus 3-wheeled urban transportation pod – TechCrunch Source link First impressions of the Nimbus 3-wheeled urban transportation pod – TechCrunch