Trikes always draw the eye when you see them on New Zealand roads. Perhaps it's because they are so rare, or maybe it's just because they look so odd in a world where we expect the number of wheels on a vehicle to be even. While it may be tempting to relegate this design to the quirk bin, you might be surprised by recent advances in the trike world – particularly when it comes to fuel.
A motorbike, redefined
Trikes, for the uninitiated, sit in an odd space between a motorcycle and a car. Equipped with three wheels and taking up the same road space as a car, these unusual vehicles have been difficult to pin down in definition even for officials in New Zealand.
In fact, the New Zealand Transport agency has an entirely separate class for motor tricycles, with additional subclasses for those with two wheels at the back and one at the front, and vice versa. Is it a bike? Is it a car? According to authorities, it's in a class of its own.
Because trikes are required to weigh less than one tonne, they have one big advantage over other vehicles on the road when it comes to fuel efficiency: less weight means less petrol needed. However, while cars have been trying to catch up by experimenting with hybrids and electric vehicles, the trike world has not been sitting on its laurels – not by a long shot.
For example, the Honda Neowing, the manufacturer's first step into the trike market, features a hybrid engine – and Honda may not just be revolutionising for the sake of it. Trikes seem to be growing in popularity in foreign markets, with the LA Times in a January 2015 article describing how the Harley-Davidson trike equivalent has quickly become one of the company's best-selling machines.
But could a trike be an option for a fuel-conscious Kiwi fleet manager?
Looking to the future
The fact is that there are more sensible options for somebody looking to get the most out of their fuel purchases.
The fact is that there are more sensible options for somebody looking to get the most out of their fuel purchases. Using a fuel card is a good start, but picking the right vehicle is also a necessity. A trike would certainly be a quirky choice, but quirky isn't always great financially. The Harley-Davidson Tri Glide, for example, get worse litres per 100km than the ever-popular Toyota Corolla, and also lacks the same cargo space.
However, the march of progress moves ever on, and there may come a time when trikes manage to better combine the best of the motorbike and car world, opening up the industry for greater adoption from fleet owners looking for a slightly more unusual addition to their fleet.