By Dennis Chung
Kawasaki is working on a three-wheeled vehicle similar to the Polaris Slingshot, but with one key difference: it leans into turns.
A patent published by the European Patent Office describes Kawasaki’s vehicle as two wheels up front and one at the rear, just like the Slingshot. Also like Polaris’ autocycle, the vehicle sits two, side-by-side, with the driver behind a steering wheel. Where it differs is a rolling mechanism that allows the three-wheeler to lean while cornering.
The two front wheels rotate into the corner but stay upright like on a car or a UTV. The rest of the chassis tilts into corners while turning.
Unlike leaning three-wheelers like the Yamaha Niken and Tricity or Piaggio‘s MP3, only the vehicle body and the rear wheel leans while the two front wheels remain vertical. That’s because it’s the two wheels that makes the vehicle turn, like a car, rather than the lean like single-track vehicles. The purpose of the lean, according to the patent, isn’t for turning but rather to counteract the centrifugal force of a turn that would normally push the driver away from the cornering side.
Each of the front wheels is fitted with a steering knuckle and is suspended by its own twin-tube fork. The rolling mechanism is made of two arms (#40, #41 and #51 in the diagrams above) that attach the the forks on one end and the chassis on the other. The two struts shown in the diagrams (#64) are attached to each front wheel’s lower arms but they serve more as dampers to prevent the chassis from rolling too much. Adjusting the preload on these struts will affect how readily the chassis leans into turns.
Kawasaki’s proposed three-wheeler rolls along an axis (labelled here as #102) that runs diagonally …read more