It describes itself as “the future of urban mobility”. With a range of 93 miles and a top speed of 50 mph, the futuristic-looking electric three-wheeler from Nimbus costs $10,000 and wants to position itself as a green alternative to cars, safer than motorcycles and with a high degree of ease of ownership. We tested a prototype of the tricycle to get an idea of where the company is headed.
The vehicle I was driving was an early prototype, and it showed obvious signs of it; the doors were difficult to close and the team had to “prepare the vehicle” before I could get in, making some last minute adjustments before I got behind the wheel. And yes, although it is a three-wheeler that leans into the corner, it has a steering wheel. As an experienced motorcyclist, I found this to be really, really strange.
This prototype was a bit wobbly and unstable, but I suspect that’s the initial problem of a vehicle still in development. The great thing is that it’s fully enclosed; you have a heater, seats, roof, windshield and wipers. The number of times I’ve ridden in the rain wishing I could be warm and dry is countless, so those are huge pluses in the “pros” column. Of course, scooters with a roof have been around for a while (BMW made one in 2000), and the Nimbus stands out by being almost completely incomparable to anything on the market.
The main challenge I had was that when I’m on a motorcycle, the “correct” lean angle of a motorcycle is a function of speed, weight (of motorcycle + rider) and force of the turn you are making. Going through small slaloms in the Nimbus prototype, it felt like the lean angle was “wrong” – too little at times, making the vehicle feel like it could tip over, and too much at other times, again giving the impression that the vehicle could tip over. I shared my feedback with the team and the CEO of the company, Lihang Nong, and the company was able to address some of the issues I had:
“We tweaked the steering feel after you left based on your feedback, and then it drove much more predictably for new riders,” Nong wrote to me in an email.
The luxury of having an early-stage prototype car, of course, is that everything can still be tweaked and updated, and it’s probably not worth judging the vehicle on its driving characteristics after my brief test drive. road. On top of that, I hasten to add that I’ve done tens of thousands of alternate miles and three wheel scooter and motorcycles, so maybe I’m a particularly picky audience in that case.
My impression is that this vehicle is not for reclaiming two-wheeled speed freaks, but rather for people who wouldn’t otherwise care to figure out what one down, five up means. And that’s okay, because that’s the vast majority of the population.
The vehicle has a number of really smart innovations. For example, under a small “hood” at the front of the vehicle, it has both a 220V charger – much like you’ll find on any electric car – and a vacuum-style 110V charger. . This means that you have many options for recharging the vehicle in many situations.
In addition to charging the batteries in the car, the batteries are actually removable. There are four, all under the driver’s seat, and the company jokingly calls them “V-4 batteries.” Being able to remove the batteries to charge them elsewhere makes this vehicle an especially attractive choice for people who don’t have assigned parking or a driveway where they can charge the vehicle. An added bonus on that front is that the small car is short enough to park perpendicular to the curb, meaning you can take advantage of even the smallest parking spaces.
The vehicle’s 50mph top speed is a bit of a dealbreaker for me. On the one hand, that means you can’t really drive on freeways, including the bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. Now technically the speed limit on the bridge is 50 mph, but on my trip home from the Nimbus test drive I decided to stick to that speed limit for once in my car. Other cars passed in front of me to the left and to the right. In a car, I didn’t feel safe driving within the speed limit, and the Nimbus is a tiny little thing compared to my daily driver. In a nutshell, it wouldn’t be safe to drive across the bridge, and given that it’s the only easy way to get from Oakland to San Francisco, it torpedoes the company’s bid to replace a car. .
The toy car has a rear seat where a second person can sit behind the driver, straddling them with one leg on each side. There are seat belts that keep you in place, and the vehicle is equipped with an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) that also works to keep you safe.
As a six-foot-four person, I’m probably on the taller end of who fits in this car. With the seat (which doesn’t recline) pushed all the way in, I could barely find enough room for my knees to move between the gas and brake pedals. I also felt my hair touching the windshield above me, and the pillars around the doors gave me a pretty big blind spot, which, given the limited size of the vehicle, I had to evil to avoid. Given my proximity to the windshield, I dread to think what would happen if I had crashed at 50 mph; there’s nowhere for my head to go except straight through the window, and there wouldn’t be enough space for me to wear a hard hat inside the car. #TallPeopleProblems, sure, but worth noting.
The test drive itself went well, and how far the small manufacturer has come is impressive. The vehicle’s acceleration wasn’t particularly impressive: even the cheapest 125cc scooters I’ve driven seem to have more punch. I also wasn’t able to test the vehicle to its limits; when I pressed the throttle, the drive belt would jump, making a horribly loud cracking/clicking noise. I was worried for a moment that I had broken the vehicle, but it turns out that it was just an oddity of the prototype status of the small car. A bit disconcerting, but more importantly, I couldn’t move around the car like I would on a motorcycle, and it was hard to gauge what performance it would be capable of once production units started rolling. out of the production line.
I think the biggest challenge stopping me from pre-ordering the Nimbus is that while $10,000 is relatively cheap, it gives the cute little three-wheeler a great and formidable competitive landscape. Ten grand puts you in the same range as one electric cargo bike with all the bells and whistlesa cheap electric motorcycle or a very cheap used electric car. Somehow, amid this onslaught of more familiar competitors, Nimbus has to find a home and an audience.
All in all, I really want to like the Nimbus. I think vehicles like this deserve to exist in the increasingly complex landscape of micromobility. I can totally see a fleet of these being available where today you could use one of the electric scooters for hourly hire. There is absolutely room for small cars or motorcycles covered in the cityscape. I’m super excited to see how they develop and really hope to get the chance to drive one of the production vehicles.
All in all, Nimbus is definitely worth watching as the company nears production.