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National Winner

Electric Cargo Trike

A compact tilting electric vehicle designed for last mile delivery in urban contexts.

What it does

The trike is a compact electric urban delivery vehicle made for delivering packages from the depot to the recipient. It offers a sustainable alternative to large delivery vans and is able to lean into corners to improve handling, stability and safety.


Your inspiration

We were inspired by tilting sport bikes and thought the concept could be applied to a compact delivery vehicle that could provide a sustainable alternative to large delivery vans that are inefficient for delivering small packages in urban and suburban areas. Small delivery vehicles like this are gaining popularity with postal agencies such as NZ Post, but are often compromised when compared to vans and motorcycles due to poor handling and safety issues. The delivery trike design offers better handling, speed and safety over existing compact delivery vehicle solutions whilst improving the sustainability of last-mile delivery.


How it works

The three-wheeled setup allows for more cargo capacity than a traditional motorcycle whilst not compromising the handling and dynamics offered by two-wheeled vehicles. The trike is designed so the rider can lean into corners, improving stability and speed. This makes the trike almost impossible to tip over during normal use, enhancing rider confidence. The tilting mechanism is built around wishbone suspension arms which are connected in the middle to a pivoting shock mount, keeping the wheels parallel during leaning manoeuvers. Two contact patches at the front improve braking and traction in the wet. The suspension arrangement means the trike has fully independent suspension on all three wheels, allowing the trike to travel over obstacles such as speed bumps and curbs very easily as the tilting action gives a huge amount of suspension travel over a typical non-tilting vehicle. This also means packages will not be thrown around and damaged whilst in transit.


Design process

At the very beginning, we brainstormed ideas on what direction we could go with the project. We investigated existing products in the market and identified a possible design solution that could offer potential. Developing off of this we created scale models and drawings to illustrate our ideas. During the initial prototyping stage, lego mockups were particularly useful for working out how the vehicle would actually work. Then we moved on to creating rough prototypes out of old bike parts. Our first prototype did not work and was not rideable as we did not have a good enough understanding of the tilting mechanism. Our second prototype was more successful, but we still did not get the tilting action that we desired. In this prototype, the tilting mechanism behaved more like independent suspension as opposed to a tilting mechanism. We then created a small working scale model of the suspension mechanism and moved onto creating a full-size ergonomic mockup made out of wood that would allow us to get the proportions right. Our third prototype functioned successfully and was powered by a 48v 1000w Hub motor mounted in the rear wheel, for the prototype it was powered by a 14ah Lithium battery. We then painted the frame, added headlights and brake lights, and attached the cargo tray.


How it is different

The vehicle is significantly different from any existing fully electric cargo delivery vehicles. The focus of this design was on handling and driver experience. This makes for a delivery vehicle that inspires confidence when sharing the road with much larger and faster vehicles. The ability to lean into corners make the vehicle much more stable at higher speeds, which is a flaw that we saw in a lot of existing products that could make them unstable and dangerous when travelling at normal traffic speed. The frame is built to be adaptable to different contexts, and the suspension design handles obstacles such as speed bumps, rough terrain and curbs exceptionally as the suspension has a huge degree of travel, much greater than you would get on typical small delivery vehicles. Hot-swappable batteries give the vehicle a long range and allow it to be put back on the road quickly meaning it can be run all day continuously with only short breaks to swap out batteries.


Future plans

The vehicle itself is able to be applied to more than just a delivery vehicle. Other potential use cases could be as a car replacement for families, or as a food truck replacement as equipment could be set up on the front platform. The modular frame opens up a wide array of design opportunities. And if the vehicle was fitted with electric motors on all three wheels to give it excellent traction on loose surfaces, it could work well within an agricultural context. Potentially replacing quad bikes with a vehicle that is much safer as the tilting suspension design makes it much harder for the vehicle to roll over and injure the driver.


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