For the last century and a bit, cars and motorcycles have proven themselves to be affordable, simple transport options across the globe. But there's always been folks wondering – could the two platforms somehow be merged to join their strengths and minimize their weaknesses?
Cars, while relatively safe, comfortable and totally weatherproof, are much bigger than they need to be, at least 95 percent of the time. They get stuck in traffic. Motorcycles, while efficient, nimble, fun and able to dart through between lanes of traffic, leave the rider exposed to the weather, as well as much higher risks of injury in an accident.
For many years it has looked like somebody is going to make a big splash in the global transport market by coming up with a narrow-track vehicle not much wider than a motorcycle, that's fully enclosed and capable of leaning over in corners to keep its width to a minimum while still being stable in a corner.
We've covered a ton of concepts in the past, from the Sidam Xnovo to the Nissan Land Glider and the Terracraft. And while this one's essentially just a stack of patent drawings at the moment, it's notable for a couple of reasons.
The work of inventor Frank Knisley out of Ridge Manor, Florida, it's called the Narrow Tilting Vehicle with Non-Tilting Wheels, which breaks down to the catchy NTVNTW.
The NTVNTW is a platform that allows two, three or four wheel configurations, with Knisley's preferred first run being a three wheeler in a reverse trike style with two wheels at the front.
Notably, it uses flat car tires rather than curved motorcycle tires, as the wheels themselves don't tilt relative to the pavement. Instead, the whole vehicle cabin sits in a kind of cradle mechanism that can tilt to shift the cabin weight up to a whopping 52 degrees on either side in a corner or on slanted ground.
That's an impressive tilt angle - for reference, top level MotoGP riders on their incredibly sticky qualifying rubber rarely exceed a lean angle of 60 degrees in the turns, while dragging their knees and elbows across the track.
But those GP riders don't have the advantage of three fat, flat tires with their maximum contact patch in constant contact with the deck – and that's a significant stability boost. This thing has the potential to corner hard.
The NTVNTW's cabin tilt is managed by hydraulic actuators that work in response to a group of sensors. As the sensors detect that the road surface angle is changing, or a cornering G-force is being applied, they move the cabin to the appropriate tilt level to maintain passenger comfort and neutralize the cornering forces. The road can slant up to that maximum of 52 degrees, and the cabin will remain vertical.
In this way it seems most closely related to the Terracraft tilting vehicle out of Texas, which also manages its tilt electronically and uses separate systems for steering and tilt. Mind you, the Terracraft team currently only has its vehicle tilting to 30 degrees, and its tilting front wheels are spaced wide enough to make it effectively take up a full car space in traffic.
Now that his patents are through, Knisley wants to work on a prototype vehicle to demonstrate the NTVNTW concept, but he sees it as being applicable to a range of transport modes up to and including public transport, with tiltable train carriages that allow faster rail cornering.
As a "man of meager means" he's looking to team up with other businesses and individuals that can help push the idea forward - particularly folks who can help with CAD design, parts, materials, machining and of course funding. We hope to see a prototype up and running soon - the proof of these ideas is always in the thrashing and we're always keen to help out with that. In the meantime, Knisley has left his contact details on some of the photos in our gallery, so feel free to contact him if you believe you can help.