Prepare for an invasion of tuk-tuks! Aa worker checks the roof on an electric Tuk-Tuk being prepared for export at the Denver eTuk factory in northeast Denver (AP photos)
Prepare for an invasion of tuk-tuks!
Lexile

They're ubiquitous in Asia, swarming the bustling streets of Bangkok, New Delhi and Beijing.

Now, a company that manufactures the tuk-tuk the three-wheeled motorized rickshaws that have moved the masses for more than half a century aims to make inroads in the United States.

The Tuk Tuk Factory, based in Holland's Amsterdam, has signed a licensing agreement with Denver-based eTuk USA to allow the company to manufacture and sell an electric version of the vehicle. The company's founders hope the eco-friendly vehicles, a far cry from the loud, pollution-spewing versions common in Asia and South America, will become the next hip mode of transportation for urban dwellers and tourists across the country.

It's too soon to know if Americans will embrace tuk-tuks, but Michael Fox, director of sales and marketing for eTuk USA, says the company has been selling the vehicles across the country to individuals, marketing companies and food vendors for between $16,950 and $25,000, depending on how they are customized.

The three partners' other company, eTuk Denver, launched a call-and-demand shuttle service in downtown Denver after receiving approval from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which regulates for-hire transportation services.

The service is the latest entrant into an increasingly crowded field of transportation options that includes pedicabs, car-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft and golf-cart taxis.

Fox is banking that the tuk-tuk's open-air design will help it stand out.

"When you look at a golf cart and you look at a tuk-tuk, which has more curb appeal?" he asked.

But like car-sharing services, the tuk-tuk has faced some pushback from a handful of cab companies and other shuttle operators and raised concerns about the vehicles' safety.

Terry Bote, a commission spokesman, said several cab and shuttle companies were successful in restricting where the tuk-tuks can operate, what types and how many vehicles can be used and how many passengers each vehicle can carry.

The tuk-tuks operate mostly in a restricted downtown area and are banned from providing scheduled service to the nearby Broncos' football stadium, a lucrative destination for the competition.

But even with the restrictions, Fox said his service can complement Denver's bus and light rail systems.

He noted the "last-mile concept," a term that has been used by urban planners to describe the difficulty of getting people from places like a railway station or a bus depot to their final destination.

The concept originally applied to suburban areas, but is also relevant when studying how people complete their trips in downtown areas, said Carolyn McAndrews, an assistant professor of design and planning at the University of Colorado-Denver.

"Everybody has the last-mile problem and they solve that problem by walking or we drive our cars," she said.

McAndrews also said the market is ripe for new modes of transportation like tuk-tuks to close that gap.

She points to a 2012 study in New Jersey that says "last-mile" shuttles are playing an increasingly important role in connecting people and jobs to rail transit, especially because of the decentralization of jobs and homes in most cities over the past few decades.

"To be competitive with cars, you have to make the point-to-point as convenient as possible," she said.

And it seems like Colorado's legislature agrees.

Because the tuk-tuks are classified as motorcycles by the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers would have had to wear eye protection and get a motorcycle endorsement for the license. Anyone under 18 would also have had to wear a helmet.

But state Rep. Paul Rosenthal said such requirements for vehicles that travel short distances at low speeds don't make sense, especially for a shuttle service.

"Say you have four kids. They would have to go find a helmet or have them on hand to do that," he said. "It becomes cumbersome."

On May 4, the legislature passed Rosenthal's bill to strip those requirements for 3-wheeled motorcycles with a windshield, seatbelts and a top speed of 25 mph. Each shuttle model also has undergone a standard commercial vehicle inspection to make sure it complies with federal safety standards

Still, most states heavily regulate three-wheeled vehicles because of what some say is the potential for serious accidents.

Sherry Williams, who chairs a committee of independent researchers on motorcycle safety, said helmets should be required. She believes passengers need to be aware of the possible danger in the event of an accident, even at slow speeds.

"Most motorcycle accidents occur under 30 mph and many of them are fatal. This is a serious issue," she said.

Critical thinking challenge: What characteristics of the tuk-tuk make it a good fit for crowded cities?

Assigned 11 times


COMMENTS (12)
  • 9alexmr
    6/01/2015 - 12:52 p.m.

    I think that the car is a cool idea. the car would be easly accused. it big and easy to drive. it is a small car that might be uncomfortable to sit in but is big. the company is has a good idea.

  • 8ethanr
    6/01/2015 - 01:01 p.m.

    Yes even though that cars are light weight and can be tipped easily. the three wheels is one of the worst ideas ever why not just four wheels. the old fashion fur wheels is just ok with me. i u get hit in one of these the car will tip over.

  • Johnsooe
    6/01/2015 - 06:48 p.m.

    Answering the Critical Thinking Question: The Tuk-Tuk is great for small place and crowded cities. While places like New York City are crowded, but not like places in India. But the tuk-tuks are good for extremely crowded places like New Delhi because they are much smaller than other vehicles and they would de congest extremely populated areas. I think the tuk-tuk would be good in India, but not in Ameria because there are many accidents linked to the tuk-tuks.

  • Josh01Chargers
    6/01/2015 - 09:45 p.m.

    Those cars are so tiny, how can you survive on a highway in Oregon in one of those. I would rather have a Ford F-350 instead of a tuk-tuk.

  • 5EthanS
    6/01/2015 - 10:01 p.m.

    Tuk-tuks are a good fit for crowded cities because they're cheap, they can be used in restricted areas, and they can fill the "last mile" concept. So, first off they're cheap, A standard electric tuk-tuk costs only $16,950 which is much cheaper than other transportation. Next, they can be used in restricted areas. Tuk-tuks can be used in areas that other transportation cannot get to so more people would use them. Finally, tuk-tuks fill the "last mile" concept. Tuk-tuks are a great way to get from the bus station or train station to a persons final destination. All of these reasons add up to make the tuk-tuk a great fit for crowded cities.

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    6/02/2015 - 08:03 p.m.

    When I first looked at the photo, I thought I was looking at a motorcycle. Then I looked at it again and thought I was looking at a punchbug. As I read through, I realized what it actually was: It was actually called a tuk-tuk. I thought that it was African and stood for something else. Is it bad that I want to take a ride in one of these?

  • NickB-2
    6/02/2015 - 08:52 p.m.

    This article is about Tuk-tuks. The three-wheeled motorized vehicles that are insanely popular all over the world have now signed a contract to build an electric version of the Tuktuk. It is unclear how popular they will be in the US, but they are sure to generate a lot of profit. However, some cab and shuttle companies who's profits would drop if it became popular managed to restrict where the Tuktuk can operate. I think it would be cool iof Tuktuks became popular in the US, as I have always liked them.

  • NickB-2
    6/02/2015 - 08:52 p.m.

    This article is about Tuk-tuks. The three-wheeled motorized vehicles that are insanely popular all over the world have now signed a contract to build an electric version of the Tuktuk. It is unclear how popular they will be in the US, but they are sure to generate a lot of profit. However, some cab and shuttle companies who's profits would drop if it became popular managed to restrict where the Tuktuk can operate. I think it would be cool iof Tuktuks became popular in the US, as I have always liked them.

  • 5jakem
    6/04/2015 - 01:42 p.m.

    The pros of having the tuk tuks become a transportation vehicle in the United States are that it will create travel from short distance places like a bus station back to an apartment in the cities much faster and will get the person to their destination without them having to walk from the place where a vehicle stops at like a bus station or a subways station. Since the tuk tuks will also be electric it will be environmentally friendly and will help save on fuel use. Although there are good advantages to this method of transportation is it all that safe? Three wheeled designs have been discontinued in the past due to safety issues with tipping and having to find a helmet to wear just to ride one would be very unappealing to people because they would have to take it on and off just for a short trip and also not everyone owns a helmet that they can just bring along.

  • Tdoles430
    6/05/2015 - 11:38 a.m.

    The Tuck tuk is a very weird looking golf cart. It look like one of those alien land rovers. It looks like it can go fast for a golf cart. It looks like it cost a lot of money but many people want to buy one. It has a lot more space and can hold more people

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