Anaheim (CA) - Police departments frequently catch criminals with cars, motorcycles and yes even Segways, but some departments, like the Los Angeles Police Department, are now trying out an electric trike made by Irvine Calfornia-based T3 Motion, with spectacular results. The T3 vehicle sorta resembles a Segway, but instead has three wheels and a familiar bicycle-like steering and braking system. The trike uses just pennies of electricity a day and, according to the company, is very cheap to maintain.
Company representatives showed off the T3 by zooming around the convention floor at the Alternative Fuel and Vehicle Expo in Anaheim California. Riders step on the platform and insert a traditional metal key to get the T3 started. On top, a digital display shows the current speed along with the trip mileage and battery status. Standard bicycle type squeeze brakes are used and you can immobilize the bike by turning it off or hitting a special switch.
The front shell covers the lower and most of the upper body of the rider and is made of fiberglass molded over a steel-tube skeleton. Forward-facing steady red lights along with flashing red and blue lights are mounted in a row along the middle of the body. Rear-flashing lights are also available. All the lights are controlled through switches in the head unit.
While the shell will provide no protection against gunfire, ballistic panels are available to stop small caliber rounds. The company is also looking into adding a plexiglass or Kevlar windshield to protect the rider’s face.
Police officers can mount a small bag onto the T3 and an aluminum forms holder, “Posse” box in police-speak, can be placed in a locked center compartment. Holders for shotguns, rifles, batons and flashlights can be attached to the side of the T3.
The T3 can carry up to 425 pounds and you can tow an extra 500 pounds with a specially designed trailer. Police officers often need to carry traffic cones, medical gear and other equipment.
The top speed of the T3 is 25 MPH and the twin lithium-ion batteries give enough juice for up to 75 miles of travel. Mike Carra, a former Beverly Hills police officer and now a T3 Motion rep, told TG Daily that the vehicle uses just 10 cents of electricity per day and the batteries can be charged in three hours.
In addition to the low fuel cost, the T3 wins out over regular police cars in unit cost and maintenance costs. Regular police cars like the Crown Victoria can cost several tens of thousands of dollars to purchase because are often outfitted with special lights, sirens, computers and internal cages. Maintaining the brakes, fuel system and transmission often adds thousands more per year to the total cost. In contrast, the T3 costs around $8000 each and according to Carra has very little maintenance cost. He says the brakes generally don’t wear out and the belt-driven wheels use normal automotive belts that can be purchased at any automotive supply store.
For police officers, the T3 is a much safer vehicle than the Segway. Carra told us that criminals could tip a Segway-riding officer over with a simple, well-placed shove. In addition, Segway riders sometimes cannot stop quick enough because they have to shift their weight and step backwards away from the Segway. With the T3, the brakes stop vehicle quickly and you don’t need to wait for it to balance itself.
Segway users generally always need two hands on the “steering” wheel which could limit the self-defense options available to police. The T3 can be driven with one hand, which was demonstrated when Carra rode around dodging convention goers all while talking on a cellphone. Of course, one-handed operation means a police officer can fire their service pistol with their other hand.
In addition to officer safety, the T3 gives an officer more “officer presence”, what citizens could call intimation factor. Carra told us that the vehicle adds nine inches to an officer's height, allowing them to tower over people. “But you can still step down and talk to people. Then you’re normal,” said Carra. In addition, he said the T3 looks very intimidating if it’s speeding towards you adding, “imagine how it looks to a criminal if I’m coming straight for you at top speed.”