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A combination of interviews with action sport participants and secondary research techniques were used to establish user wants these were distilled into design specifications and used in the development process.
Concepts inspired by Exoskeletons and advanced prosthesis were developed and a vehicle concept selected for further development. The vehicle form was designed around the human body to act as an add on or exoskeleton.
A full size mock up was constructed from reclaimed bicycle wheels and timber to evaluate driver position and different heights the vehicle could be driven at. Lego models were used to examine steering options and the possibility of changing the height of the vehicle during motion.
Simple centre of gravity mapping was used to find the best place for the battery. In a 3 wheeled vehicle the centre of gravity should be as close to the 2 wheeled axle as possible for maximum stability in cornering and braking. G force calculations were used to calculate an appropriate track width.
The vehicle was detailed in Solidworks and rendered.
The height change system is user controllable and changes the dynamic behavior of the vehicle. In the high state the user has a wider field of view, the centre of gravity(cog) is raised, the machine has a higher drag coefficient and the vehicle leans slightly in corners. In the Low state the users view is lower, the wheelbase is longer, the cog lower and the vehicle leans more aggressively when cornering.
The framework for the Exo is aluminium tubing TIG welded. Machined components are mild steel and all parts are powder coated. Stock electronic components include a 10kW brushless DC motor, controller and a Lithium Ion battery pack.
A fully working prototype was constructed using metal fabrication and machining techniques. Due to the time/budget constraints box section steel was used instead of aluminium and a 1500w motor powered by lead acid batteries was used.
Feedback was gathered from three users who drove the Exo. Feedback indicated strong potential for further development of a vehicle with this driving position although further work needs to be carried out on the height change and lean system. Further padding also needs to be added to this prototype to improve driver comfort.
Exo - 2013

Exo is an electric off-road vehicle for recreational use on dirt, sand and gravel. The aim of the project is to merge man and machine providing a deeply immersive driving experience. The vehicle leans during cornering connecting body motion to vehicle motion and allows a higher maximum cornering speed. The birdcage frame is fabricated from Aluminium tubing. Power comes from a 10kW DC brushless motor run from a Lithium Ion Battery pack. The project was completed as a final year project in Dublin Institute of Technology.

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Henry Daly
Freelance Designer Wellington, New Zealand