WASHINGTON — The autocycle, a type of three-wheeled vehicle, is now welcome on Maryland roads. The state’s transportation secretary held a news event Monday to introduce the latest vehicle to join Maryland’s transportation mix.
“They have merged together a healthy motorcycle and a very foxy-looking car,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn. “It’s just fun.”
Autocycles are subject to the federal safety standards that apply to motorcycles. But they have three wheels and features common to cars, such as a steering wheel, foot pedals to control speed, seat belts and permanent seats that don’t require drivers or passengers to sit astride.
Virginia approved the vehicles in 2014; it was among the first of about 20 states that now allow the vehicles under various rules.
“Three-wheel vehicles in general have been around almost since the beginning of motor vehicles,” said David Young, co-owner of Tanom Motors, which builds autocycles in Culpeper, Virginia.
Trikes like those ridden in childhood are most common, where there’s one wheel in front and two in back. Autocycles are “reverse trikes,” with two wheels in the front and one in the rear, which makes them more stable.
The slingshot autocycles Rahn drove at Pete’s Cycles in Bel Air, Maryland, are made by Polaris. A base model starts at $21,999; the deluxe model starts at $28,499.
“You could easily spend another [$10,000-$15,000] on add-ons such as wheels, stereos and a sunshade,” said John Leach, the vice president of Pete’s Cycles. “We plan to have inventory for sale by Labor Day.”
Rahn’s experience with the vehicle suggested to him that the autocycle could be used for commuting, but likely would not perform well in winter conditions when roads are icy with snow.
“I’m not a salesperson for it, but my take on it is — you would buy it [just] for fun,” Rahn said with a chuckle.