Tierrasanta man's invention put to a real-world crash test

Posted at 11:22 PM, Aug 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-01 02:22:45-04

SAN DIEGO -- A Tierrasanta inventor had his uniquely designed three-wheeled vehicle put to a real-world crash test recently. 

The man behind the wheel walked away with just a scratch.

"It seemed like a fun car to drive,“ said John Crawford. “It gets a lot of attention from people.”

Crawford has rented a Spira more than a dozen times. 

In late July, he was riding down Pomerado Road off the 15, when someone crashed into him and never stopped. 

"It clipped my back left tire,” said Crawford, who then rolled four times while inside the Spira. “The first impact happened on the top right of the windshield."

Crawford thought of only one thing. 

"Please don't die,” added Crawford. “I was scared and a little worried because of the vehicle.”

It turned out, the Spira did exactly what its inventor designed it to do.

"Rather than coming to a complete dead stop, you want to bounce off,” said inventor Lon Ballard.

Ballard says the Spira, technically a three-wheeled motorcycle, is made of foam and plastic honeycomb. 

That honeycomb makes up the core of the car - the chassis. It's 10 times stronger than plywood, 100% recyclable and the same material used in Formula One race cars that crash at 200 miles an hour.

"None of the chassis was damaged from these rolls,” added Ballard.

Before this real-life crash, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety put the Spira to a 40 mph crash test - the kind of crash when a vehicle hits an object like a pole or tree. The Spira bounced off, rather than completely coming to a dead stop like most heavy, metal cars.

"In a big car, you have two tons pushing you into another object,” said Ballard. 

Ballard believes the lightweight Spira, which can also float, is the solution to saving more than a million lives every year.

“It was amazing how I was still alive considering I was on the other side of the street,” said Crawford.  "I ended up very safe. I only had a scratch on my back."

Crawford rented the Spira at a shop called Other Ride Motors in the Midway District. 

The owner, Jeff Smith, rents and sells scooters, motorcycles and unique vehicles.  He says the Spira has received a lot of attention. He was even more amazed after finding out how it performed in a real crash. 

“It’s one thing to watch the videos of the crash test and to read the specs. But to see how it performed in the real world was simply amazing,” said Smith. 

The Spira costs between $6,000 and $10,000. There’s a gas and electric version. 

On Sept. 17, Electric Vehicle Day, you can actually see the wrecked Spira and test drive one at Qualcomm Stadium.

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