Tricycles (trikes) have been around since 1655 when Stephan Farffler (1633 –1689), a Nuremberg watchmaker of the seventeenth century, invented a manumotive carriage which is widely considered to have been the first self-propelled wheelchair.
In Asian and Southeast Asian countries, motorized trikes are used as small freight trucks and commercial vehicles. Nicknamed “tuk-tuks” in popular parlance, they are a motorized version of the traditional pulled rickshaw or cycle rickshaw. While they are mostly used as taxis for hire, they are also used for commercial and freight deliveries. They are particularly popular in cities where traffic congestion is a problem, however, they are banned from Pattaya’s streets.
According to Wikipedia, motorized tricycle’s wheels may be arranged in either configuration: delta or tadpole. A delta trike has one wheel in front and two in back, and the tadpole trike has two wheels in front and one in back. Occasionally, rear wheel steering is used, although this increases the turning circle and can affect handling (the geometry is similar to a regular trike operating in reverse, but with a steering damper added).
They usually have a sheet-metal body or open frame that rests on three wheels, a canvas roof with drop-down sides, a small cabin in the front of the vehicle for the driver, an air-cooled scooter version of a two-stroke engine, with handlebar controls instead of a steering wheel. The smaller motorized trikes are used as delivery vehicles for lighter loads. The larger trikes, with more powerful engines, have larger cargo bays, and they can carry freight within a city.
India would appear to be more advanced than the surrounding economies and since 2012, electric tricycles known as e-rickshaws have become popular, replacing other commercial transports. The motorized versions are popular for their low cost, because they are put together from salvaged motorcycles and often do not require the operator to have a driver’s license.
If you have ever driven one (and I had one in Australia that I imported) tadpoles are more stable under braking and more likely to slide instead of roll; front braking hard on a delta requires the vehicle to steer almost straight to avoid tipping. The balance of friction patches and rolling resistance also means that tadpoles tend to oversteer and deltas understeer.
Under some local regulations, while riding a three-wheeled vehicle, it may be possible to carry multiple passengers with a motorcycle driving license, to ride a motorcycle-style vehicle with a car license, or to avoid motorcycle helmet use regulations. Every time I drove my Tuk-Tuk the police would stop me. If it was a motorcycle, where was my helmet? If it was a car, where were the seat belts? Up against rigid police thinking, you don’t stand a chance.
However, I used to take it out some nights and have a blast around the block. Fun with a capital F.