The K-2 Urban Auto

Invented and Designed by John Kirkwood for City Transport of Two Adults, a Week’s Supply of Groceries and a Child or Two

Picture from the 1976 Idahonian, a Moscow, Idaho Newspaper
Picture from the 1976 Idahonian, a Moscow, Idaho Newspaper


Human factors design, contemporary composite materials, and a hybrid hydraulic propulsion system play key parts in this solution to urban personal transportation needs. A configuration of two passengers side-by-side on a three wheel chassis with the propulsion between the two rear wheels was chosen for good weight distribution and controlability. With a hand control stick replacing the foot pedals, the floor is smooth and spacious and the seat cam be made an integral part of the structure. Light weight (700lbs.) and low drag co-efficient (0.255) enable this vehicle to go more than 100 miles on one gallon of fuel.
After surveying urban shopping centers in several cities, it was determined that the present efficiency of transportation was very poor, and that the K-2 Urban vehicle would make an excellent alternate transporter in most urban situations.

The Technology Environment of 2019 Viewpoint

Were this design task to be executed today, the outcome would be similar, with some significant changes. The human space and cargo space would remain the same. In the absence of any crash test data, the structural design seems to be adequate without any changes. The propulsion system in today’s iteration would undoubtedly be changed to plugin electric. The battery and control elements necessary for this vehicle would fit nicely between the rear wheels. Electric motors would replace the orbital hydraulic motors within all three wheels in the 1976 design. A smart suspension system would overcome any concern for increased unsprung weight. The control cluster would be equivalent to that used in the Tesla model 3. Air bags and seat belts would need to be included in the new design. A digital electric suspension system designed by Bose and currently available from Clearmotion could fill the suspension needs of the K-2 Urban. “Clearmotion’s system is active, which means it sees what is coming up and pushes or pulls the wheels accordingly. To do this, a modified MacPherson strut assembly at each wheel houses a combination of magnets, motors, and controllers. Bose called them linear electromagnetic motors and power amplifiers. ClearMotion calls it the ActiValve, which consists of those magnets, motors, and controllers. When the controller detects a disturbance, it takes 5 milliseconds for the motor to counteract it by applying pressure to the damper. HD road mapping and control algrorithms also pitch in to create a ride that is incredibly flat. Over bumps, through slaloms, and under braking, the test car consistently remains level. That means the passengers inside remain consistently comfortable.” It also means that the heavier motor/wheel unit of the K-2 Urban would be competently and delightfully controlled. A fourth wheel could be added to provide more power from a fourth motor and remove the wheel well from the front foot space. Another advantage to adding another wheel is in operation on roads where there are just 2 tracks from right and left wheels on other cars. This means that the K-2 would be able to straddle rocks, sticks, bumps, holes and other obstructions in the center of the road as the other traffic had.

Photo taken about 1976
Photo taken about 2000
High Angle View
Top View
The seat backs can be hinged down to provide a long load platform.