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Startup Shows Off a Two-Wheeled Electric Car

Gyroscopes keep it from falling over; it’s not a Segway.
September 11, 2012

The key problem with electric cars is they’re expensive and can’t go very far. Some companies think the solution could be making the cars very smaller and lighter. GM, for example, has designed a little capsule of a car that it means to use on the crowded streets of Shanghai in the future (see “GM Rides a Rickshaw to China”).

Now TechCrunch says Lit Motors, a startup with less than a million dollars in funding, has developed its own lightweight prototype, which it calls a two-wheeled electric vehicle (more commonly known as a motorcycle). 

Two things make the vehicle different than an ordinary electric motorcycle though. First, it features a pod that encloses the driver, which is meant to make it more comfortable and safer on the road. Second it has a pair of gyroscopes that keep it from tipping over, which is necessary because your feet are stuck inside the pod and can’t be used to prop it up at a stop sign. It’s entertaining to watch a video of people from the company trying to kick it over (at around 1:04).

The vehicle has generated a fair amount of excitement, and the phrase “future of transportation” has been tossed around. But if the main selling point is that it’s safer than other motorcycles, that seems like a tough sell. It still looks tiny and vulnerable.

At an estimated $24,000 for the first production models it would be cheaper than full-sized electric vehicles but not much—the Nissan Leaf costs $35,200, or $27,700 after a federal tax rebate. The cost is expected to go down to $16,000 in large scale production, or about what some other electric motorcycles cost. 

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