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            Contact Me Follow 3-wheelers.com on Facebook Follow 3-wheelers.com on Twitter See my videos on YouTube See my photos on flickr Add Elvis Payne to Linked In

            3-wheelers.com e-interviews

            Robert Q. Riley

            One of the world's foremost pioneers on the design of low-energy demand passenger cars... and mechanical guru!

            3-wheelers.com

            I have read that you are one of the world's foremost pioneers in the design of low-energy-demand passenger cars. Even before 3-wheelers.com started in 2000, your web site was one of my favorites and as I used to drool over pictures of the Trimuter. When the Trimuter appeared in 1980,  long before the threat of global warming and carbon footprints, there was  a choice of either a petrol or electric engine? Have you always believed having an option of either petrol or electric vehicles was the way forward?

            Robert Q. Riley

            Yes, you could build it with either gasoline power or as a pure electric vehicle. In other words, you had to choose which power system the vehicle would have. Later I built a series hybrid. Initially, I was not very enthused about hybrids. It seemed to me that if one could get super fuel economy from an ICE, then there was no benefit to adding all the extra costs and weight of a hybrid. I've since changed my mind. But designing a good hybrid requires a lot of thought. It's not as simple as just combining ICE and electric power.

            3-wheelers.com

            The XR3 Hybrid is your latest project that is diesel (powering the front two wheels) and electric (powering the single rear wheel). With a fuel consumption of 125 - 225 mpg that is phenomenal Is it selling well, I'm amazed we don't see them on every street corner?

            Robert Q. Riley

            We're selling plans showing how to build it. Plans are selling well.  There are lots of them at various stages of construction. But unless they are manufactured by the thousands, you could go a long time and never actually see one on the road. It's a big country.

            3-wheelers.com

            At the moment the XR3 is sold as plans or a kit, will it be available as a turnkey product?

            Robert Q. Riley

            Hopefully, it'll become available as both kits and turn-key vehicles. The goal is to take it on to production, but we're about $25 million short. Having been in the business of designing vehicles since the mid-seventies,  I'm very aware of the tremendous resources it takes to bring a vehicle to production. I have a great appreciation for today's automotive products and a great admiration for the large carmakers. It's a big job.

            3-wheelers.com

            As mentioned all your 3-wheelers have been both electric and petrol.  Is each vehicle a brand new concept or as manufacturing techniques and technology change, is each vehicle a step forward to the ultimate machine you have always wanted to design and build?

            Robert Q. Riley

            Whenever I design a new in-house project I make an attempt to offer something new and innovative. In other words, I try to avoid doing the same thing twice. When I'm working for a client, however, then my job is to help
            them realize their vision.

            3-wheelers.com

            I understand the you were the primary consultant on Project 32 Slalom;a rather fascinating tilting 3-wheeler. In the last few years a few tilting 3-wheelers have appeared on the market. Was Project 32 just a one off or will the vehicle be available one day?

            Robert Q. Riley

            Project 32 was the brainchild of Larry Edwards, who is now retired. I was a consultant on the project - one of several people involved. The project never reached completion. Larry retired before the project was finished, s it was put on hold - not abandoned, but on pretty much permanent hold.   It was an honor to be asked to become involved in P32, and to have an opportunity to work with such a brilliant man. Among many other well-known projects, Larry Edwards led the Lockheed team that developed the world's first underwater-launched missile, the Polaris missile. He was also Director of Engineering at NASA during the early stages of the development of the Space Shuttle. I could never get away with anything when Larry was present  If there was an error in my thinking, Larry could see it in a second and he was quick to point it out. A brilliant man, and a man of the highest integrity. It was a pleasure to work with him.

            3-wheelers.com

            With the exception of the Tri-Magnum all your 3-wheelers have two wheels at the front and one at the back. I notice that the Project 32 Slalom has one wheel at the front, was this just the design or because it had to be that way due to the way it tilts?

            Robert Q. Riley

            Larry Edwards had specific ideas about the architecture of the vehicle, and that was one of them. That layout naturally follows the shape of two occupants sitting side by side with legs extended forward. He definitely did not want a tandem-seater, and I agreed with him. One of the disadvantages of the single front wheel layout is its inherent oversteer. But Larry had studied the issue and had ideas on how to create neutral steer with a single front wheel layout. His ideas were valid.

            3-wheelers.com

            I have learnt that you pioneered the automotive application of  FRP/foam composite, without this technique how different would your vehicles be?

            Robert Q. Riley

            Without that construction process, most likely, the whole series of  vehicles would not have existed. It's a great process for one-off construction. Even GM used it with their Ultra-Lite design in the early nineties. It creates a very light and exceptionally strong structure, and it requires no mold. When building a mold, one normally builds something called a "buck" or a "plug", from which a mold is then taken. This buck is essentially a car body, but it's normally not design to be used as a body - the wrong materials for it. With the FRP/foam process, one directly builds the body itself. And you can create virtually any shape using that material (fiberglass over a foam core).

            3-wheelers.com

            Out of the Trimuter, Tri-Magnum and Doran, which one has had the most interest?

            Robert Q. Riley

            Doran was an outside design, created by an excellent designer, Rick Doran. Trimuter and Tri-Magnum were in-house designs. These two vehicles were built about two years apart, and both were equally popular at the time of their release. Tri-Magnum, however, is by far the most popular of the two today, something I could have never predicted in 1982 when it was built.  It has turned out to be one of those timeless designs that cannot be placed  in a particular period in time. If you compare it to production cars built around that time, Tri-Magnum looks nothing at all like the vehicles of  that period. I knew we were doing something unusual with Tri-Magnum, but I   had no idea it would still be popular nearly 30 years later.

            I'll tell you an interesting story about the fairings on the tail light nacelles of Tri-Magnum. We had mocked up the body in foam, but the  surface on which the tail lights were intended to mount was still just a flat surface extending laterally from the body. Nobody knew how to finish off  that area. One day, I picked up some scrap pieces of foam from the floor  of the workshop, and using a razor knife, I cut something to emulate  fairings. I then temporarily stuck them to the body with nails, stood back and   looked at it, and said to myself... "Nope, that's not it. It looks too much  like  something from an old Sci-Fi movie." But I called in a few of the other guys, and they all went nuts over the treatment. And that's how it ended  up with those fairings swooping back from the tail light nacelles. I am reminded of that every time I see photos of Tri-Magnum. It actually  looks pretty good, despite my initial reaction.

            3-wheelers.com

            I should mention that it is not just 3-wheelers you design but cars,  vans, EVs, Hovercrafts, Boats, Submersibles, Health and fitness products and more. Is there anything you don't do?

            Robert Q. Riley

            I like anything that moves, but I'm especially fond of cars. And I like designing fitness products. So I'm mainly a fitness equipment and car  guy. But one of the most challenging design projects was AquaSub, a snorkel  sub that goes under water only about 40 inches. At that depth, it seemed  that it would be fairly simple to design, and its simplicity was one of the  main attractions of the project. But let me tell you, there was nothing  simple at all about the design. Once you get dragged underwater, you're in a whole different world with almost unlimited considerations. It was a challenge.

            3-wheelers.com

            Given how diverse your products are, have you ever thought about merging products and making a 3-wheeled Aqua-car?

            Robert Q. Riley

            You know, I'm glad you reminded me of it. Some Tuesday when I have nothing to do, I probably ought to design a three-wheeled submarine.  That way, I'd have all the three-wheeled submarine business around. Where  else is anyone going to get one?

            3-wheelers.com

            Robert, thank you very much for taking part in this interview for 3-wheelers.com's 10th birthday and indeed for helping me with information  in the past. Your time both then and now is much appreciated .

            Robert Q. Riley

            Thanks Elvis. And good luck with your update. Ten years goes by pretty  quickly doesn't it.

            Robert Q. Riley

            The Trimuter

            The Tri-Magnum

            The XR3 Hybrid

            Project 32 Slalom

            The Doran

            For more information about Robert Q. Riley visit the Robert Q. Riley Enterprises web site at http://www.rqriley.com

            For other e-interviews please click here

             

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