by Jakob Barry
Usually when something's out of context, people stutter as if in shock and then seconds later it all makes sense. "Oh Yeah! Now I remember," is the common response.
That's how I reacted when I first learned Tuk Tuks, the three wheeled tricycle-looking vehicles used in much of the Eastern world, were going to be distributed in America. Not quite a car and not quite a motor scooter, the golf cart-like Tuk Tuk has a cabin, and depending on your preference, is battery-operated-emission-free or fuel-based.
In most countries, Tuk Tuk's are run on gasoline and often used as taxis. Unfortunately the Green option is not widely accessible.
One company out of the Netherlands, Tuk Tuk Factory, distributes the eco-friendly version, which has a battery life of 12 hours before needing to be recharged. It runs up to 31 miles per hour and includes accessories such as a radio, heater, rain covers, and custom colors, but the starting price is $15,101 – and that doesn't include shipping and handling.
Tuk Tuk North America (TTNA) was the US company that back in April 2009 received EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and DOT (Department Of Transportation) approval for importing Tuk Tuks from Thailand. Their models were said to travel 55 miles to the gallon but the starting asking price was $10,000; also not so appealing.
Price aside, let's take a step back and envision the possibility of driving a Tuk Tuk around town. Part of their popularity overseas is the convenience and accessibility for local travel. They maneuver well through traffic and narrow passageways, can be a pleasant experience as the breeze catches you from the sides, and best of all: you can imagine you're in Bangkok, Thailand, or Vietnam while you're zipping by the Smiths, the Joneses, and the Simpsons.
However, there are disadvantages. At less than 35 mph they could easily bottle up traffic where everyone else is traveling at greater speeds. It's probably better to invest in a motorcycle if you're planning to travel the interstates or don't want to leave extra early for work. Furthermore, while the temptation to take the Tuk Tuk off road would surface, they roll better on pavement. You probably could take it on the trails but if you break an axle and you didn't assemble it yourself, how many experienced Tuk Tuk dealers do you know of near you? What would AAA say if you needed a tow?
Nevertheless, if people in the US began using the vehicle, manufacturers would figure out ways to improve its functionality. Then, having one would be a no-brainer and there would be no doubt whether you'd park one out front with your SUV.