University of Toronto PhD students Phil Lam and Jonathan Lung have spent 18 months designing and building the prototype of a electric vehicle designed for urban transportation – but it’s neither a car nor a bike. Think of it as a “car-bike”.

Right now, the prototype has three wheels, an enclosure provides some shelter from the elements, and a seat for a single person. The electric motor that propels the vehicle (at a maximum speed of 32 km/h) can be plugged in to charge, or the driver can pedal to charge a battery. Eventually, they plan to add to the original design with a solar array to charge the battery and the option of having a second seat.

Lam and Lung are pursuing this project under the name “Sojourn Labs”, which is supported by U of T’s Impact Centre, a program that has been helping students, researchers, and industry collaborate on technology startups for the past five years.

The pair hopes to land a six-figure investment to turn this prototype into a commercially available product in the next year or two.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Lam said the vehicle “combine[s] the benefits of driving a car with all the good things that come with riding a bicycle.”

While the price of the vehicle is not disclosed, affordability is one of the major considerations. In terms of classification, the vehicle is technically an e-bike, meaning that drivers won’t need registration, a licence or insurance, which keeps costs down and avoids barriers to would-be drivers.

Given Toronto’s beleaguered transit system, legendary gridlock, and various dangers to cyclists, it would be interesting to see if this ‘car-bike’ will provide a useful addition to the urban transportation mix.