Cabin motorcycles, the nomenclature for fully enclosed 2 wheelers, are an interesting vehicle concept that, no matter their function or rationale, have to overcome a lot of resistance from both drivers and motorcyclists. Peraves, makers of the Ecomobile, Monotracer and the soon to be unveiled E-Tracer electric and X-Tracer X-Prize competitor, are well aware of the mental leap necessary for drivers to be comfortable with less than 4 wheels or for motorcyclists to accept a vehicle that confines their feet inside.
After the article on the Peraves SuperBallMotor, one of our regular commenters, Gordon Swanson, decided to follow up a bit more with the company. They responded with a short update on the SuperBallMotor but also included more information about the continuing evolution of their cabin motorcycles which Gordon forwarded on to me and it's the first time I really sorted through the various versions. The more I looked through the information, the more interesting and appealing they become.
The Ecomobile, the first of their cabin motorcycles, has already been around for 20 years, it has proved to be functional, fun and reliable and owners think they're a hoot. The Swiss company had 10 of them over here in the US in 1996 and traveled from Atlanta to Montana to Arizona and back with no problems at all in the 3 week trip, but most of us have never seen one up close nor had one out on the road and it's hard to build an appreciation for an alternative vehicle like this without a bit of seat time.
The Monotracer is the newer, redesigned and updated version, has BMW K1200 power with 130 hp, 14 gallons of fuel on board, tops out at 155 mph and at a steady 75 mph gets 47 mpg. All of the expected climate control features, heating and A/C are included. The body is a composite-monocoque made from glass, kevlar and carbon weave bonded with epoxy-resin and reinforced with aluminum crash and roll bars.
These enclosed 2 wheelers have stabilizing wheels deployed at low speeds, while stopped and when in reverse. They extend or retract in about a half second and are "computer supervised." When retracted, the stabilizing wheels are still exposed and touchdown when leaned over at 52 degrees, a pretty impressive angle for some high speed maneuvering.
Motorcycle handlebars control the steering, throttle and such and when strapped into your seat, the videos give you the impression of being in a tandem seat airplane cockpit. It actually looks like a lot of fun and performance appears to be really good, more than enough to dust off any cars you're likely to encounter and easily able to keep up with most bikes.
The Monotracer body style looks very aerodynamic though it is not what I would consider beautiful, functionally appealing would be more accurate, though it doesn't look bad by any means. Once you took a high speed ride swooping through the turns, I bet it would begin to look a lot better, too. Also, it seems to be a considerable improvement over the original Ecomobile.
The new Monotracer is priced at 52,000 Euros, ($73,500), so it's out of reach of a lot of buyers but, exclusivity can be a strong attraction.
If you're able to be in the Czech Republic at the Brno GP track on July 13th to 16th, they're going to have a track day and driver training event which will show you just what these cabin motorcycles are capable of, for the rest of us, we'll have to consider these from afar.
Two interesting developments are coming soon:
The E-Tracer, scheduled to appear this year, is an all electric version and, according to Peraves, is much faster than the BMW powered version. That should be interesting.
Peraves is also one of the official contenders for the X-Prize and they are working on the X-Tracer as their entrant in the 100+ mpg competition. I believe this will be a hybrid using the SuperBallMotor for the ICE component.
Quite honestly, though I've known about them for a long time I never thought much about these 2 wheelers, but looking at them more closely, I think they would make for a really enjoyable riding/driving experience. Would they replace the feeling of riding a motorcycle? I don't know, because of their very different nature, it would have to be experienced first hand to make a real judgment, but, like a lot of you, I'd sure like to give one a try.