Triac - Click above for high-res image gallery

The history of the Green Vehicles' Triac is a convoluted one. First surfacing in the summer of 2008, promised delivery dates in November and December 2008 were not kept, but Green Vehicles' Ehab Youssef and his team kept on pushing forward, taking reservations for the $24,995 three-wheeled vehicle. We saw the Triac caged in a booth at the AltCar Expo last year, but were somewhat surprised to find one cruising the parking lot this year as part of the ride and drive. After all this time waiting, we just had to hop in and see what the trike, which uses a 20 kW AC motor and a 160 amp hour lithium battery pack, is capable of. Just like our time in the Coda Sedan, we were not allowed behind the wheel, but our ten minutes in the passenger seat told us all we need to know for now. Read all about it after the jump.

Photos copyright ©2009 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.

While the Triac story has evolved over the years, the look of the trike hasn't changed that much. This is still an odd-looking three-wheeled ride. The Triac available for rides was a nice deep red color which we preferred to the silver vehicle that we saw inside. The most noticeable change is that the original Triac's middle-mounted headlight has been removed, leaving two sensible lights on the front. The side mirrors have been moved from the front end to the doors, which was a smart move, and the distracting vents above the hood are also gone. The two-tone color-scheme with the black bottom remains.

On the inside, the Triac felt not quite finished. Lee Colin, VP of business development for Green Vehicles, was our driver around the block and said that we were riding in the prototype model that was used for the first 20 production vehicles. These 20 Triacs were just delivered to the cars' early adopters. The production version will have a little bit less vibration than the shaky prototype, Colin said, because the production versions have another stabilization piece that goes between the transmission and the motor.

The Triac feels bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside but it's still not a spacious vehicle. Two adults are able to sit in the seats without touching shoulders, but just barely. This isn't terrible since, as a three-wheeled vehicle, the Triac is classified as a motorcycle and single drivers can cruise down the commuter lane all alone.

From the driver's seat you can easily keep an eye on three analog gauges – displaying speed, amp hours and the water temperature for the battery cooling system – and a basic touch screen that can display the state of charge of the battery or be used as a battery management system and controller to help train driver behavior. The system tracks how the Triac has been driven over the last seven days and can suggest ways to get the maximum range from the pack. Under the right conditions, the Triac can go "up to 100 miles" on a charge. The screen also doubles as a diagnostic tool and can tell you which battery cell is causing trouble if something goes wrong. The Triac uses 144 volt, lithium-ion 160 amp-hour batteries that can fully recharge in five hours. Colin said that the angled gauge line was designed "to be sexy," but we think each driver will have his or her own take on that. It's unlikely anyone will be buying a Triac for its looks, anyway.

On the road, the Triac retains that "not quite done" vibe. Colin said that Green Vehicles considers work on the Triac finished, but will be listening to the 20 early adopters and possibly make changes to the full production version before those vehicles leave the San Jose assembly facility in about 60 days. On the urban streets – and at city traffic speeds – of Santa Monica, the Triac operated fine, but we don't think it will make a very fun highway experience. Considering the Triac's top speed of 75 mph, this is something we're looking forward to testing out for ourselves in the future.

One thing that seemed to operate well is the Triac's five-speed transmission. What's neat is that there's no need to push in the clutch to shift from gear to gear or when the Triac's regenerative brakes bring the trike to a stop. The Triac can also start moving from a full stop in second gear. Othewise, the gears should be changed at about the same speeds as a standard vehicle (15-20 mph into second, 30-35 mph into third, etc.) What, if anything, the 20 early adopters suggest Green Vehicles should change is unknown at this point, but Colin said that, "Improvement is always something that a car company should be thinking about. We have a very good product at a very good price, but there is always room for improvement."

What is that price? The Triac sells for $24,995. If that sounds reasonable to you for an all-electric, highway-speed motorcycle that's available in 2009, go for it. Just don't expect the Triac to treat you like any other vehicle you're used to. This is a trike built by a start-up, and we'll hold our money until at least the next-generation model to see if Green Vehicles can get it done right.

Green Vehicles also brought their Moose all-electric minivan to Santa Monica. Twenty-two copies of the Moose minivan will be made available in 30 days and are being assembled now in San Jose. The Moose costs $23,995 and is also available without lithium ion batteries – lead acids take their place – for $17,000. With li-ion, the Moose is a highway speed vehicle (this is what we think we heard; we're double-checking this with Green Vehicles). Check it out in the gallery below:

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