Kawasaki is working on a unique open-air three-wheeler with a rolling body that can lean into turns, according to a patent application published by the European Patent Office and discovered by Motorcycle.com.
Like the three-wheeled Polaris Slingshot — which just got an update including a more powerful engine — it seats two people in a side-by-side layout, but it has some key differences. Most notable is the ability to tilt inward into the turning direction, which the applicant says makes it "possible to realize a favorable driving feeling similar to that of a motorcycle or the like." And that's the whole point: to counteract the centrifugal forces that normally push the driver away from the cornering side.
As described in the patent, the vehicle includes two front wheels that turn and remain vertical, plus a stationary rear wheel, which would be fitted with a rounded motorcycle tire to accommodate leaning. It uses a steering knuckle member mounted to the inside of the front wheels that rotates about the steering shaft, telescopic twin-tube forks for suspension and the use of struts to keep the chassis from rolling too much, and can be adjusted to the driver’s preference. The rolling mechanism consists of upper and lower arms that connect to the forks and the chassis.
"Since the roll axis is located at a position higher than the center of gravity of the vehicle in this manner, the vehicle body is inclined inward in the turning direction when the vehicle turns," the description reads. "Therefore, it is possible to suppress the influence of the force received by the driver at the time of turning. As a result, the burden on the driver at the time of turning can be reduced."
Unlike the Slingshot, the engine — presumably combustion, but the patent says an electric motor or hybrid system could be used — is mounted behind the seats. It drives the rear wheel via a chain.
It’s an interesting melding of three-wheel car and motorcycle features, and it was initially filed in Japan in 2018, so the company has apparently been working on this for a while now. But there’s little attention given to anything other than the rolling mechanism itself, so who knows when — or if — this will come to life as a production model.