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Slingshot: A car or a motorcycle?

ST. PAUL -- The Polaris Slingshot, a three-wheeler looking like something out of a superhero movie, came under scrutiny Monday by Minnesota senators considering whether the relatively new vehicle should be treated like a car or motorcycle.

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Polaris Industries' three-wheel Slingshot and similar vehilces were under debate in a Minnesota Senate committee Monday, April 4, 2016, about whether a driver needs a car or motorcycle license. (Polaris Industries' photo)

ST. PAUL - The Polaris Slingshot, a three-wheeler looking like something out of a superhero movie, came under scrutiny Monday by Minnesota senators considering whether the relatively new vehicle should be treated like a car or motorcycle.

Both, the Senate transportation committee decided.
While federal authorities consider the three-wheeled vehicles motorcycles, committee members decided it is so car-like that operators should not need motorcycle driver’s licenses. They also decided an owner could opt for either motorcycle or the more comprehensive car insurance for the vehicles.
The legislation, which faces debate in other committees, attracted senators’ attention mostly because the so-called autocycle is a pretty new concept.
Sen. David Tomassoni, D-Chisholm, said he has no interest in riding a motorcycle, “but I would love to drive this. ... It looks like a lot of fun.”
Minnesota-based Polaris, founded in Roseau and headquartered in Medina, asked Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, D-Plummer, to sponsor legislation to change state law so only car driver’s licenses are needed to drive the vehicle.
Senators decided to allow owners to either carry car or motorcycle insurance, not a Polaris suggestion.
The Spirit Lake, Iowa-built Slingshot, which starts at $21,500, is a low-sitting and angular vehicle with a steering wheel, two car-like seats and brakes and gas pedals like cars. It is topless, has no doors and power comes from an engine that had been used in small cars.
Three-wheeled motorcycles are different than autocycles because the motorcycle driver straddles the body of the vehicle while an autocycle operator runs it from a car-like cockpit.
The Stumpf legislation requires both people in an autocycle to wear seatbelts.
“What we are trying to do with this legislation is help the new autocycle...” Stumpf said. “It currently is kind of stuck in the definition of a motorcycle but ... has a steering wheel and everything like a car has.”
Lynda Linsenby, representing Polaris, said the Slingshot is titled and operated as a motorcycle in Minnesota. Some states have or are considering changing rules to allow car driver’s licenses to be used. Iowa is the only state adjoining Minnesota looking at the change.
“This looks very much like an automobile,” Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, said.
Linsenby agreed: “You are sitting in it, not on it. You do not need to balance it.”
But there are differences. Linsenby recommended that occupants wear helmets, and if they don’t do that they should wear eye protection due to bugs and road debris.

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Chris Boerner of Duluth and his sister-in-law, Kim Boerner of Little Falls, stand by the newly released Polaris Slingshot three-wheel motorcycle. The $25,000 cycle is made in Storm Lake, Iowa, in August of 2015. Barry Amundson/Forum News Service

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