What Engines Can I Put In A Trike?

Kubota Turbo Diesel Trike

When we look at building a trike, we have to decide on the question of what engine should we choose?  At this point in time there are a multitude of options all of which have different parameters that they bring to the table.  Electric, In Wheel Electric, Petrol Hybrid, Diesel Hybrid, Motorcycle Engine or Car Engine.

For me, electric is pretty much out.  Not that I don’t absolutely love electric vehicles, I do, but when it comes to a fun car that I want to blast around in, the sound is something I want.  So for mine it will be a thunderous roar of either a high power motorbike engine (most probably) or a smaller car engine like a subaru boxer. However let’s take a look at some of the engines you could go for that would still make the trike an awesome beast.

Using An Electric Motor In A Trike - Valene Black Mamba

As far as I can tell from my research this car has not made it to market.  This seems to be a common theme in the industry. The car industry is littered with failed startups and even strong behemoths failing due to financial concerns or even lack of sales.


But all that said, let's have a look at this piece of work.  I absolutely love the design and feel they were right on track with this.  Being electric with the motor in the rear wheel hub puts all the weight exactly where you want it and having batteres to store your power allows you to distribute wieght across the platform as needed.  As far as balancing a car, electric wins hands down.


  • Ultra-lightweight Full Electric 3-Wheel Sports Car
  • Electric motors ranging from 80kW (107bhp) to 600kW (810bhp)
  • Up to 500 km range on a single charge (with 50kWh battery pack)
  • DC Fast Charging support, with optional HyperCharging Compatibility (AC/DC Charger integrated)
  • Steel and aerospace aluminium chassis with optional titanium alloy elements
  • Regenerative braking and high-performance disk brakes on each wheel
  • Composite material body
  • Driver identification system with keyless operation
  • Advanced multimedia system with optional Clarion Full Digital Sound System
  • Full-LED lighting throughout
  • Highly Customisable
  • Dimensions 3.71m x 1.98m x 1.10m

The design of the Black Mamba was engineered to be as simple as possible, so as to make the vehicle extremely reliable and maintenance free. The innovative approach is apparent immediately from its unique design.


The vehicle comes with an all-electric drive train, featuring in-hub rear wheel electric motors with powers ranging from 80kW all the way to 600kW. All the electronic components are at the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle comes with an on-board charger featuring a COMBO-2 connector, that can accept both AC and DC chargers. With battery packs available in 15kWh, 30kWh and 50kWh packages, the vehicles have an autonomy that ranges from 180km all the way up to 500km on a single charge. Thanks to the battery design, the user can fully charge the 50kWh battery pack in 1 hour using 50kW DC chargers, and the 15kWh battery pack in less than 15 minutes. The Black Mamba will also be HyperCharging compatible, with charging times under 5 minutes for all battery sizes.

Black Mamba Performance?

0-100kmh in 4.2 seconds for the base  model.  And the 810 W motor has yet to be tested but they are thinking wild figures.

Pretty damn impressive I would say.  What do you think? Electric? I am tempted to put in-wheel electric hubs with regen braking in each of the three wheels and make it a 3 wheel drive???  Mmmmmm.

Using A Motor Cycle Engine In A Trike - Malone Super Trike F1000

The Malone Car Company is a small family business that was started in 1997 in the UK by Jon Malone. In 1999 at the Stoneleigh Kit Car show (UK) the company launched its Skunk Sports Special. The vehicle is powered from a range of motorbike engines from 650cc - 1300cc that include the Suzuki GSX 1100G, Yamaha 1200V-Max and Yamaha XJ 900. The latter when combined with the vehicle’s average weight of 290kgs, gives the Skunk Sports Special a power to weight ratio of around 385 bhp/ton leading to a top speed of 130 mph and a 0-60mph time of approx 4.5 - 5 seconds. The body consists of a fully triangulated space-frame chassis that has an aluminium floor pan and is covered with a GRP body shell. The cavity between the chassis and body are injected with a rigid closed-cell polyurethane foam that strengthens the whole body and enhances side impact protection.


The new Malone "Super Trike", the F 1000, represents the pinnacle of the Malone high performance three-wheeler design. It couples a 1000cc thoroughbred superbike engine with an ultra light weight redesigned chassis. The sleek, aerodynamic body-shell is now a Kevlar reinforced GRP composite. It is using new lighter 300mm front discs, lighter callipers and shocks. It also has a totally redesigned drive system, which still incorporates a chain for the final drive. There is a new moulded interior with increased storage space for those longer trips.

Let’s Talk Performance

I mean this is what Trikes are all about, is it not?  The get up and go. The handling and comfort that a trike offers over a motorbike.  So this particular trike gets the following figures from a Yamaha YZF R1 engine. There is a 2009 Yamaha YZF R1 for sale in Australia right now for $4,000 AUD and it only has 26,000 km on it.  That is really cheap for 180 hp.

Total Car Weight From 275 kg / 605 lbs

Power up to 180+bhp

Top speed 240 kmh

0-60 <4 seconds

The Drive Train is likewise a specially designed assembly that cleverly incorporates a donor bike's right-angle drive hub, which is mounted inboard with the rear brakes. It drives the rear wheel via a heavy duty 630 'O' ring chain and sprockets, this gives a complete absence of the Jack-up problem that plagues most shaft drive trikes. The final drive transfers the power to the back wheel through a specially produced "cush-drive" unit, that ensures smooth delivery of power.

What About Traction?

This is one of the huge misunderstandings about 3 wheelers.

I often hear people say, “Oh it only has one drive wheel therefore you won’t be able to get the power down onto the road!” Um - NO!  That’s 100% INCORRECT.  Maths is what we need people.

If you have a car (super light sports car like a Mazda Miata) they come in at around 1000kg.  A Porsche 911 comes in at 1400kg.


So there are two things going on.  First you need to push the weight around so you need a bigger engine - which weighs more.  Second you need the equivalent extra rubber on the road to get that power to stick.

For 2019, Mazda has given its traditionally peppy-but-not-quick MX-5 Miata 17 percent more horsepower, its engine output jumping from a modest 155 hp to an exuberant 181.  Motor Trend did the following tests. The refined 2019 model races from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds; in three separate tests of the 2016 version of the MX-5 Club, they hit 60 in 6.1, 6.0, and 5.8 seconds.

So a 1000kg car with a 2000cc engine does 0-100kmh in 5.7 seconds.


This Malone Trike weighs in at 300kg and has 1000cc engine putting out 180 bhp - One Third the weight with the SAME horses. The time to 100kmh?  4 seconds. Now we’re talking.

And the best part of the Tadpole Three Wheeler is the fact that we have TWO wheels up front to control all our braking and steering and a larger single wheel at the rear to put the power where it needs to go.  Remember, half the rubber for one third the weight. It gets more power to the ground with more grip. Simple maths.

Using A Car Engine In A Trike - Vanderhall

At this point in time, my favorite car engine trike is the Vanderhall.  They have a range of cars with slightly different specs but wow have they mastered their finish.


Putting the GM turbocharged 1.4 litre engine in their cars gives them lots of power (180bhp) which they put over the front axle.  This is a design choice that makes building the car more complicated but it also comes with a set of benefits that may well attract you.

Using the space up front is good because it keeps the main weight of the car (the engine) over the front axle and between the two front wheels.  This helps a lot with the balance configuration. Secondly, using a car engine makes things like air conditioning possible and other creature comforts like heating.  Although these can be done other ways, it is simpler when using a car engine to start with.


Performance is very good.

Horsepower: 180 @ 4,950 rpm and Torque: 185 @ 2,450 rpm

0-60 mph: 4.5

Top Speed: 140 mph

Lateral Cornering Stability: .95

Power-to-Weight Ratio: 8.6:1

For a vehicle that looks s good, this is still a beast.  Well done Vanderhall.


So there you have it.  Three different ways to power a trike.  Personally I am leaning to the motorcycle engine as they offer stupendous performance in a small package and are relatively cheap.  Tell me what you think. Cheers.