iTank: “A three-wheeled scooter is the future”

The Kickstarter campaign for the Doohan EV3 iTank three-wheeled scooter began this week. It’s brought to you by Kartik Ram, the same guy behind the Zeitgeist electric bike that debuted this spring.

Before we get into the question of whether a three-wheeled scooter really is the future, as Ram said in a phone interview, here are the details of the iTank:

  • Bosch motor goes from 0-28 mph in 4.6 seconds (the top speed is limited)
  • Removable lithium-ion batteries fully charge in 6 hours
  • Range of 62 miles (official) or 100 miles (according to Ram)
  • 50:50 weight balance and low center of gravity

“It’s not a scooter, and it’s not a motorcycle,” said Ram. The iTank is┬ámeant to take on neighborhood cruising, light trails and places where people don’t want to use their car but they don’t want to walk, either, like marinas, RV sites and golf courses. It’s able to climb a 15-degree incline without losing power, but “I wouldn’t take it off-road and climb rocks with it,” Ram said.

Amazon has placed a sizable order through Launchpad (it’s already available on Amazon Prime), and Ram is pursuing relationships with police departments, private security agencies and businesses like Camping World. “Where Segway failed, we can do that,” he said.

But the iTank’s Kickstarter early-bird price is not cheap at $4,000; the Amazon purchase order, Ram said, was for the full retail price of $5,500 per scooter. “As three-wheeled scooters go, it’s extremely cheap,” Ram said — and he’s not wrong. The Piaggio MP3 Sport 500 is $9,000, and that’s where the U.S. market pretty much ends. There are far-more-powerful trike motorcycles, like the Harley-Davidson Freewheeler, that start at $25,000, but that hardly compares to a scooter that goes 28 mph.

What keeps the iTank from being just a toy for people tooling around the marina? “I believe this is the architecture of the future,” Ram said. “Cars are getting smarter and smaller. In general, the sharing economy requires you to think about smaller form factors that are personal for you. But two wheels aren’t right; I can’t tell my mom, who’s in her 70s, to ride a scooter. And four wheels signal cars or golf carts; it seems heavy.”

Ram noted that scooters are cultural for a lot of people in India and Europe, and a quick search on China’s massive e-commerce site Alibaba for “three wheels moped” turned up more than 1,000 results. Ram senses that scooters are perceived as being too dangerous in America. “I think little fiddly scooters aren’t going to cut it. You need something stable.”

And so, on the heels of a well-designed electric bike, he’s introducing a well-designed three-wheeled electric scooter. “A three-wheeled scooter is the future,” he said. “I truly believe this is going to be the urban mobility future: interesting personal vehicles that can carry stuff. I’m totally committed to this architecture for the next 10 years.”