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This Is the Gyro-Stabilized, Two-Wheeled Future of Transportation (wired.com)
221 points by evo_9 on May 29, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 159 comments

This is a cool concept, although I doubt it will be ready by 2014 at their current rate. My reasoning on that is that you have to have a complete pre-production vehicle before you can even start safety testing. But that isn't a knock, I like optimism as much as the next person.

The horizontal flywheel concept is quite cool, and I'm glad they avoided the problem of earlier attempts which just had one (cars that did this would change their front/back weight balance going around turns in a non-helpful way) Having both (and running them in opposite directions!) means you can cancel out that effect.

I'd worry a bit about the need to keep them spun up at 'idle', its a work load that electric vehicles don't normally carry, but you do get some of that back in efficiency gains when using them as dynamic energy storage so perhaps it is a wash. Would love to see the math on that.

If they wanted to hit the tri-fecta of buzzword viral bingo they should use a 3D printer to print the body out of carbon fiber or something :-)

Amusingly the problems you mention are inherent to a two-wheeler, and given the necessary dimensions of the egg-shaped outside you might as well add some more wheels at the corners to solve the stability problem. Then you end up with something like Renault Twizy [0] (look at the top view on page 2 to get an idea of its dimensions), currently sold today starting at 7000€, plus 50€/month of battery rent.

I would not have bet on that vehicle but it seems to be selling, since I already encountered a bunch of them.

A bunch of stats (for the topmost model, as the lower one is limited in power and does not require a driving license):

    80km/h top speed
    0-45km/h in 6.1s
    100km range
    6.1kWh battery 
    473kg with battery (~100kg)
[0] http://www.renault.fr/media/e-brochures/att00409285/ebrochur...

I always wonder how things with no doors do when it rains. It seems if I commuted in that thing and it rained, I'd show to work soaked.

There are models with no doors or half doors - apparently some legislation somewhere would require a heated front screen if it had full doors:


ah... I thought the "half door" was that bar across the opening. It seems that is a third model which would still get me wet. It seem the half door is the lower half (of course.. it wouldn't make sense to be the top half). SO driving that would be like driving with the windows down the whole time. It still makes we wonder how people make use of these when it rains. Maybe the shape of things deflects the water out enough to miss the passengers. Maybe I'm just too spoiled with my fully enclosed vehicle... I'd rather stay dry. :) Interesting bit about the heated windshield (assuming that is what "front screen" means).

Actually, the idea of having a vehicle with a windscreen/windshield in a damp climate without some means of keeping it free of condensation is pretty scary - so that legislation kind of make sense (at least for Northern Europe).

oh... don't get me wrong. I understand the usefulness of having a good heater when it is raining. Likewise I understand the horror of having an inefficient heater when it is raining. It was just interesting that there is legislation mandating it. I'll assume that the US has this as well then.

Initially I thought it sounded like a particularly daft bit of legislation - then I thought about it for a bit..... :-)

Nice. That looks like something out of a science fiction movie. More of a golf cart than a car but still, interesting to see that they are in production.

It's beautiful! I just think it needs a bit more of a trunk.

"If they wanted to hit the tri-fecta of buzzword viral bingo they should use a 3D printer to print the body out of carbon fiber or something :-)"

I can see the headline now: "Printable Solar Powered Hover Bike Vending Machine Hits Congested Highway Rest Stops"

This is a non-starter. This fills the same niche as an electric moped at 6% or less of the cost. And people can drive electric mopeds on city streets legally today. For less than half the price someone could buy a used, low-mileage sedan (such as a Civic, Corolla, or Accent), with a trunk, seating for 5, seatbelts and airbags. And then use the other $8k to pay for gas at $5 a gallon for the next 48,000 miles. Or, they could buy 2x brand-new 150cc Honda motorcycles and use the extra money to pay for the gas (at $5 a gallon) for the next 50,000 miles for both vehicles (100k total).

Doesn't make economic sense. Doesn't make safety sense. Doesn't make logistical sense. Doesn't make practical sense. Doesn't make environmental sense.

What's the value add?

I'm just as skeptical as you, but...

Electric mopeds cannot go on freeways. An electric motorcycle is better for nontrivial distances.

On the other hand, an electric moped which cannot travel faster than 20mph also has an advantage: in California it is treated as a bicycle and can travel on bike paths on major bridges.

My main complaint: if neither electric motorcycles nor self-balancing motorcycles are currently popular, why would an electric self-balancing motorcycle be popular?

Personally, I've always wanted a vehicle with the speed and fuel efficiency approaching a motorcycle and a 5-star crash safety rating. Motorcycles are a death trap, and I refuse to ride one despite their many advantages.

Unfortunately, I think you're imagining a fantasy vehicle: your requirements are pretty much in direct conflict with each other.

The smaller the vehicle, the less it can rely on passive safety (crashing better), and the more it has to rely on its advantages at active safety (avoiding crashing). You can't cheat physics: a tiny personal vehicle is never going to have passive safety as good as a midsize car. Even relatively safe compact cars like the Toyota Yaris don't have 5-star crash ratings, so I don't see how a 2-wheeler ever will.

Motorcycles are dangerous primarily because (a) small fast vehicles tend to attract more than their share of irresponsible people (which, not uncommonly, includes alcohol), and (b) car drivers have trouble seeing tiny vehicles. I don't see how this vehicle proposes to change either of these factors.

And this is the value add.

No...it's not. This thing is just as dangerous as a motorcycle.

The danger is from not having the steel cage protecting you, not from tipping over in a parking lot. Motorcycles aren't even difficult to balance...at all.

They're easier than bicycles in that respect because they self-stabilize from the speed that operate at. You only need balance when puttering about in the parking lot, and even then, scarcely.

I have to stop reading this thread. I'm a keen motorcyclist and it's vividly apparent none of you know what you're talking about in the slightest.

This vehicle is useless.

Sorry, but aren't you contradicting yourself? If the danger of a motorcycle lies in the lack of a cage, why is this useless?

It's useless because it's inferior to a motorcycle in every respect including safety.

This vehicle is likely more difficult to see in a rear- or side-view mirror than a motorcycle given it's so low to the ground.

Well, if you want a highway vehicle then you can buy an electric motorcycle for half or a quarter the cost of this thing (such as the Brammo Enertia or the EMC GPR-S).

Electric motorcycles seem to have some degree of minor popularity, but are certainly a tiny niche even compared to plug-in hybrid cars. But the value-add of a self-balancing motorcycle seems highly dubious.

I would imagine we don't have self-balancing motorcycles because we don't need them to self-balance. You can just put your foot down when you stop. But this isn't a normal motorcycle. The enclosure makes it necessary to do something else. Self-balance is what they decided to try. Another option could have been some speed triggered training wheels that popped out but that wouldn't be quite as cool looking.

I don't really see this being comparable to a moped. A moped is like a teeny tiny motorcycle - it's an exposed 1 or (at best) two seater with barely any cargo capacity, no protection from the elements, and no crash protection. This should appeal to someone who wouldn't be comfortable on an exposed two wheeler in traffic.

And considering that 80% of trips taken in cars today have a single occupant, the "seating for 5" argument probably doesn't matter to plenty of people. Obviously, it always will for people with kids and dogs to transport, but there are enough people without those encumbrances to make up a very healthy market.

There are a few things going for it:

    - handling is supposed to be better than anything
    - performance of a bike + safety of a car
    - higher mileage than electric cars + faster charge
You are comparing the launch price of a completely new vehicle to market prices of commodity ones. This could be cheaper than a car in the future, and maybe even safer since it won't roll/tip as easily in an accident.

It won't have better handling or performance than a bike. Just look at it: it's twice the weight of a large sports bike, has a longer wheelbase, it's still hamstrung by having only two wheels, it can't lean over as far as a bike.

It may be possible to engineer some improved safety over a bike, but it will never have the safety of even a compact car. You can't beat physics.

The whole "won't tip as easily" thing is misleading.

They say it would take "a small elephant" to knock it over. You know what is the size & weight of a small elephant? A car...

Rolling isn't the major cause of crash injuries anyway, it's crush and impact injuries. While this is an improvement over motorbikes in these areas (as well as the critical one of weather protection!) it is nothing like as safe as a car.

Talking about safety, why is the driver's forehead right behind a metal beam? Even the slightest head-on crash would lead to death or paralysis!

These very much remind of a two-wheeled Can-Am[1], which are "trikes" in the vein of a motorcycle. They're also much larger and would never be able to lane-split (legal or not).

[1] http://www.can-am.brp.com/

Actually, they remind me of BMW Isettas[1].

[1] http://microcarmuseum.com/tour/isetta-3wheel-special.html

All the seating and cargo capacity of a motorcycle, with the visibility of a car! There's no way in hell I'd split lanes on that thing; when I'm on my motorcycle, I have no obstructions and can see all around me, and definitely know where the edges of my bike are. This looks like a low-slung claustrophobic nightmare.

Even if it is a very technically cool thing.

As I understand it, lane splitting is illegal in many U.S. states, but is considered lawful in California (though there is no law for or against it... it is simply "allowed"). I might be wrong but I thought the main justification for lane splitting was due to the air-cooled aspect of motorcycles and the harm that can come from sitting in stalled/slow traffic (although, where I live I see this get abused everyday by motorcycles that just want to go faster than the cars around them). Being electric, this vehicle would not have that cooling problem and would have less need for lane splitting. Not being able to lane split would not be a significant negative to me.

Being two wheeled it will be classified as a motorcycle (at least here in California.. don't know if that is everywhere). Being a motorcycle gets you other privileges besides lane splitting like being in the HOV lanes and (in some places) special parking.

I split lanes (San Francisco) to avoid being rear ended by an inattentive driver. The safest place to be is between 2 cars at a red light. Of course I like going faster than all the cars around me and I can get a block or two ahead of everyone by cruising up to the front of the queue. There is a safe way to split lanes - do not go more than 5-10 MPH faster than the cars, and watch for gaps because a car will change lanes unexpectedly to fill those gaps.

I like the idea of the vehicle in the article mainly for these reasons: more throughput on the roads (every car has only one passenger) and fuel efficiency. I would like to see a world where people commuted in these and only used the SUV for bigger trips.

True, not every lane splitter is unsafe. In stopped traffic, getting to the front of the line on red (thus out in front on green) is probably the safest. I'm talking about the people zipping in and out of 50mph traffic on 580. I see it everyday.

I split lanes (San Francisco) to avoid being rear ended by an inattentive driver.

Isn't that statistically the least likely way of getting hit on a two-wheeled vehicle? Drivers may be distracted, but even the most inattentive look in front of them.

It's more than that. Between myself and my girlfriend, both 100% powered two wheeler riders, the only times we've been hit by cars was rear-ending - my girlfriend twice, me only once. The typical situation is a junction; looking to make sure the way is clear, the car driver - for whatever reason - expects you to have already pulled away, and they pull away while not looking ahead, and instead looking for approaching traffic in the stream they're pulling out into.

When you're on two wheels, what you want is space. Space in front of you, space behind you, and ideally space on either side. Space gives you time to react to the unexpected. One of the most dangerous situations to be in is having a car tailgating you; in that case, if anything bad happens, you die. (I don't feel guilty about speeding, filtering at higher speeds, etc., to get away from a dangerous tailgater, and into a situation where they can overtake safely.)

The easiest way to make space for yourself in the urban environment - i.e. one with traffic lights - is to filter to the front and use your acceleration power to get a lead on the traffic when the lights turn green. The idea is that you can largely stay ahead of the cars until the next traffic light. If traffic starts to bunch up, you don't want to get caught in an ever-decreasing amount of space; ideally, you want to move, safely, towards increasing space, overtaking and filtering if necessary to do so.

I've come to understand there is a difference between "filtering" and "lane splitting". 100% on board with filtering to the front when traffic is stopped at a light. It is the weaving in and out of traffic that is still moving at a good clip that bothers me. When I'm driving in 40mph traffic it is quite unsettling to suddenly encounter a vehicle moving in between other vehicles at 50mph.

Lane splitting in the UK is allowed and encouraged, as it reduces traffic on the road.

Well... this is being developed in Alameda, CA... so in one of a few US states that even allow lane splitting. Just like a lot of European cars never make it to the US, this may never make it out of the US. So to completely discount it because it can't/shouldn't do what is not really allowed in the vast majority of the most likely market seems like just looking for a reason to hate on it. If lane splitting is the best way to reduce traffic around here then we're all screwed.

The vast majority of motorcycles are water cooled and have been for some time.

Incidentally, lane splitting isn't being abused when motorcyclists do it to go faster than cars; that's the whole point.

I see a hell of a lot of Harley Davidsons (whatever your opinion on them) out on the road every day, and those are air cooled. So is my Triumph.

Since there is no law on the books that really defined the "rules" of lane splitting, back when I drove a classic Mini I often wondered what would happen if I just started driving in between cars that I knew I could fit between. I suspect I'd be getting tickets for that. So bikes are allowed to do it for what ever reason. I wonder what a biker would think if I just pulled up along side them on the freeway. I suspect they would not be keen on that. But I wasn't trying to debate the merits or legality of lane splitting... just that "not able to lane split" is not a very compelling argument against this vehicle (at least for me anyway).

A good motorcyclist would not allow you to pull up along side them in their lane. When riding normally, we take up an entire lane by riding in the middle, to prevent people from thinking "Oh, that motorcyclist is at the edge of the lane, that means I can try and use the rest of the lane to pass".

Lane splitting is an exception, and a pretty hair-raising one at times because people are constantly jockeying to get into the next lane over which looks faster, without signaling. And then there are the people who actively attempt to prevent lane-splitting, by pulling onto the line when they see you coming.

So I guess we can agree that lane splitting is a double standard where the motorcycles get favor. Besides the air-cooled aspect (which may or may not be as relevant today), what are some other reasons why motorcycles should be allowed to pass in such a way that cars are not?

Maybe around the SF Bay Area we are the exception to the lane splitting exception because I see countless motorcycles lane split at all speeds on the freeway during my commute. I would NEVER intentionally get in the way of a passing motorcycle. That is just wrong and dangerous. However, I don't really go out of my way to move over for them either. See... I also drive in the middle of my lane, just like all the good motorcyclists do. :)

I figure that if a motorcyclist is splitting lanes, he's not taking up a spot in the jam of cars ahead of you. That means one less person in there slowing things down. I can definitely see where it would feel unfair, but really it's more like the self-checkout at a grocery store, or when a post office sets up a separate line for people who just need to pick up a package. The motorcycles are capable of getting out of the way, so they do, which reduces the number of vehicles sitting in the congested area.

I've only ever lane-split when traffic is essentially stopped; at that speed, having somebody suddenly change lanes in front of me would suck, but I wouldn't expect to die from it because I'm moving slowly. It's a lot different when an SUV swerves into you as you're both going 75 on the freeway.

Aside from safety reasons (on which I can't comment) there is no reason not to let bikes go faster in between the lines -- car drivers aren't losing anything. Maybe there are some hurt feelings because it feels unfair and perception that they should stand in line like everybody else, but that is unjustified as they don't slow down your kind of traffic (well, maybe marginally). So double standard here is perfectly justified.

(disclaimer: I don't drive bikes and we don't have too many of them on the roads most of the year)

well... "no reason not to" is not quite the same as "perfectly justified" but I kind of see your point. By that same logic though, there really isn't any reason not to let other vehicles lane split if it can be done safely.

There are substantial benefits in terms of reducing congestion - e.g. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/motorbikes/9272532/Why-c...

Exactly. So if we all did it then we get even more benefit.

It's been a long time since I rode motorcycles, but I believe that, legally speaking, it works like this: In California you can split lanes, but you can't pass on the right in the same lane. In other words, if you pass on the right side of a car in the same lane then you might get a ticket, but it's legal to pass on the left side of a car in the same lane.

ha... I saw at least 5 violations of that one on my drive home this evening.

I don't think the target market is existing bikers. The idea isn't that you "split lanes" trying to get places faster in a car-dominated environment, it's that you have a reasonable commute vehicle to use as a car replacement. Note that it was designed to have a windshield and roof (although this one doesn't seem to have the windows installed).

I don't think they'll tap any market but motorcycle drivers. The cost -- even their lowered "target" cost of 16k -- will put you in a car of sorts (either a city car or a used one). I sincerely doubt anyone who can afford a four-wheeled alternative would consider this. It's just too small and too dangerous.

Also, the gyroscopes will keep you upright even if you're hit? Yeah right. Let's see how that works out when an SUV hits you at 60.

If it were way cooler -- and remember a Ducati, BWM, or just about any premium bike can be had for under 16k already -- I might consider it as a motorcycle driver. But like the OP said I would feel less safe in it because it's lower to the ground and has much less visibility.

You're not controlling variables. Of course you won't sell these into the existing market. But the existing market is unsustainable (fuel costs alone would change your calculus about "same cost as a car" today), so what will you sell in the future? Bikes, or these? I know what I'd buy.

And I don't see anywhere where it claimed that the gyros would work in a collision that would destroy the vehicle; that's silly. The point is they won't tip over in a fender bender.

In what future will the two transportation choices be motorcycles and covered motorcycles?

On a more serious note, how is the current market unsustainable? Even if something as specious as "Peak Oil" were true, it's well within our power to move to another fuel source. And since when does fuel availability dictate personal vehicle design? If we can make any personal vehicle, certainly we can make one with four wheels and room for passengers and groceries?

At-the-pump gasoline prices have been moving steadily, inexorably upward for the past 13 years. It's not even news any more when we hit new record prices; it happens every summer. You really think that trend is going to halt any time soon? A median car in the USA is now less expensive than the fuel it will consume (and outside the USA, of course, fuel is a much greater fraction). You think that constraint won't "dicate personal vehicle design" in the future? I don't need "peak oil" theories to make this argument, just simple facts you can google for yourself.

(And the bit about the choice being "only" two wheelers is a strawman; please don't do that. I said it was a "reasonable commute vehicle", it was you that wanted to make an argument about whether it competes with a bike.)

And people are stilling buying trucks that get 15mpg over Priuses that get 50mpg.

My current car gets 22-25mpg (older Subaru Forester) and it's hardly bigger than a Prius. I could cut my gas bill in half with that switch and lose almost no functionality and certainly no loss of safety.

And the way I look at it, I'd rather just not drive than drive something horribly unsafe.

"Inexorably". Yes. Now, if we believed that any consistent trend over a period of about a decade would last forever, where would we all be? Buying multi-million dollar 2-bedroom homes in Detroit with our pets.com investment proceeds, I'd imagine.

Your point being what, that there's a speculative boom in petroleum prices?

It's a finite resource with a growing demand. Seems like my argument requires less in the way of elaborate justification.

I don't expect to convince you of anything. So: write it down. In 2012 you thought $4 gas was going to stop getting more expensive. In 2014 when it hits $5, you'll probably think similarly. At $10, maybe you're change your mind. And if you've written it down you'll hopefully avoid this kind of mistake in the future.

People like you have been predicting cheaper gas right around the corner since 2003. They haven't been right yet.

For most of the 90s gas was underpriced compared to historical levels. This was due to a variety of reasons, some technological, some economic, some geopolitical. Over the last decade or so gas has gone up in price though the price is still quite volatile. Short-term estimates are that gas prices probably won't go much higher. Longer-term estimates are tricky, but increasing production of crude oil and natural gas from North America will probably cause prices to fall.

The "finite resource" aspect is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, oil is finite, and it is used up. But what matters is how long can current rates of use be maintained. If it's only a decade then prices will definitely skyrocket, if it's more like a century then prices might not outpace inflation.

I could argue all day about technology and production but the best argument is the simplest one, more often than not the claim that "this time it's different" is seldom justified. What argument do you have that "this time it's different" in regard to cost and volume of oil production vs, say, the 1970s?

People like you have been arguing that we're going to run out of oil since the 1950s. They haven't been right yet.

You're strawmanning. I didn't say we were going to "run out" of oil, I said prices were headed upwards, had been for a long time now, and was showing no signs of reversing. And that we're at the point now where fuel costs are 1:1 with production costs of vehicles, and thus we're going to start seeing changes in vehicle designs at the low end to compensate.

I don't see a "this time it's different" anywhere, just an extrapolation of pretty clear evidence. I'm willing to listen to alternatives, like this one:

> Short-term estimates are that gas prices probably won't go much higher.

For which you conveniently fail to produce a cite. :)

(edit: and still haven't. The only link I found that matches your point is a Reuters story saying that prices are expected to be stable "this summer". So if a three-month window is your criteria for "short term" then I grant you that. And when the expected rise continues in the fall, you'll promise to change your mind?)

> > Short-term estimates are that gas prices probably won't go much higher.

> For which you conveniently fail to produce a cite. :)



but... because pets can't drive... your argument is invalid. LOL

It's illegal to split lanes in most states.

And it's not like it's illegal but folk do it anyway -- I have never, ever seen someone do that in my state.

How congested are the roads there? It is legal in California, although I typically don't ride in heavy traffic so I don't feel the need. I'm told that it's also quite common in Washington DC, despite being illegal there.

Maybe you can split two lanes occupied by other similar vehicles.

Yeah, I thought, ditch the body work and it might be cool.

Remember the last two-wheeled, gyro-stabilized future of transportation? The one that was largely a commercial flop, and which the company president (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Heselden) _drove off a cliff_.

Worth clarifying that he didn't drive off a cliff in an act of suicide- it was an accident.

Yes, I remember the Segway. I've owned a pair for five years and have 13,000 miles between them.

It didn't take over the world, but it fits my use case perfectly.

Why don't you use a bike?

I've done that sort of distance on my pushbike. It cost $AU 750 and it kept me fit.

No shower at the office, otherwise I'd have given up the Volvo for my Raleigh a long time ago. I agree with you about the fitness aspect of bicycle riding, and used to do distance stuff (no racing) until I wore the cartilage down in my left knee. Nowadays I treat that knee with respect.

Bicycle goodness notwithstanding, the Segway is a hoot to ride, and five years in I haven't tired of it.

The segway does what it's supposed to do. I think it has it's useful niche. It was marketed as a replacement for all transportation, but that is silly because only because of the cost.

Speaking of cost, this vehicle will start for ~$24,000.

I mean, I'd buy it for... maybe $5000ish, if I were feeling particularly spendy?

They did mention that rev two would be around $16,000, assuming they're still in business. That's getting closer to a realistic price relative to competing products. Keep in mind that this is competing with commuter cars, not motorcycles.

You can also deduct the cost of fuel over the vehicle's lifetime. For someone commuting one hour each way to work five days a week, the cost of gas for a big car can exceed $200/month, $2400/year, or $12,000 over the course of five years. That makes the up-front price seem quite a bit more competitive with gas-powered alternatives.

You need to factor in the medical bills, though. With a loaded weight of under 1000lbs, in any sort of collision, this thing will lose. Doesn't really matter how strong the frame is, it's just simple physics.

Similar situation with the "Smart" car. The passenger cell can take a 60mph impact into a barrier just fine. The passengers - not so much, the g-forces inflicted are much higher than a traditional vehicle. Even 12-18 inches of crumple zone would make a BIG difference.

Unless the person you crash into is also driving one of these, in which case you both win, relatively speaking.

Safety does remain a very important consideration here, and I'm also wondering how safe those heavy gyroscopes under your seat are in a collision. They had better be extremely well-shielded from the passenger compartment.

Even hitting another one of these or a similar super-light vehicle, you both still lose. For survivability there is absolutely no replacement for deformable structure aka crumple zones.

That's the arms race - on the road the more massive vehicle in a collision wins.

So if you care about your dear little children you have to buy the M1 Abrahams tank. A mere $4.3M for the peace of mind of knowing your little ones are protected in a collision with an Escalade.

(ps the 120mm cannon is also useful against Volvos)

Well, you're still paying for fuel/energy unless you recharge at work. ;)

Of course it's a much more efficient vehicle than a car, due to it's weight, the higher efficiency of electrical motors[1] and regenerative braking. One figure in the article is 220 miles on an 8kWh battery. I think I pay something like €0.25 per kWh, most of you probably spend less. So about 100 miles/€, and about €2 to recharge the whole battery.

[1] Not that they're readily comparable, since "regular" motors convert a primary fuel into motion, while electrical motors convert electrical energy. Which itself is often generated from a primary fuel, introducing significant inefficiency.

Power plants operate at a much higher efficiency than internal combustion engines, on cheaper and more diversified fuel sources, including renewable.

[Electric motors and batteries also have relatively little energy waste, making the system as a whole more efficient to operate, especially when you consider being able to leverage the superior distribution infrastructure of the electric grid versus the relatively sparse network of fuel stations. Consider that most fuel stations receive their supply by tanker-truck, which introduces yet more inefficiency.]

On the other hand, they also require charging infrastructure, and there is some loss in transmission, so you don't get to keep all of that efficiency.

Not quite so clear cut for a small car.

A small common rail diesel engine in a car gets close to 40%, a coal power plant runs at about 45%. Add in transmission losses and charging/battery/electric motor and the diesel g CO2/km is probably better.

The US is presently doing a lot to switch over to natural gas, which has a lot less carbon-per-kWh than coal. If that's what they have in your area, the figures look better. Also good for the figures: if you happened to be doing your charging off-peak such that you're not actually adding to the emissions that would otherwise be emitted by idling power plants. (Or if you live in an area with good hydro/nuclear and the like.)

Of course, that's not really transparent to the electricity user in most cases.

Coal is significantly cheaper than diesel, and coal power plants have filtration systems to reduce their emissions; diesel engines not so much.

You should really check out modern diesels. A VW TDI engine has cleaner exhaust than a typical modern gasser. You could hold up a white handkerchief to the tailpipe and it'd stay clean.

Coal stations have flue gas sulfur filters, but still emit a lot of CO2 (and a lot of radioactivity), road diesel is ultra low sulfur in civilized countries.

Well, no- it was supposed to revolutionise personal transportation. At least, that's what they said when it launched. And the "future of transportation" sounds eerily similar.

This was what I thought they were talking about when I saw the headline. I assumed this was an amused look back on the good ol' days.

I never did understand why anyone ever thought the Segway would revolutionize anything. I don't see the big advantage, and - frankly - you look downright ridiculous riding it.

And yes - I did get to ride it. It's kind of cool for the novelty factor, but I fail to see any incredible advantage over the more traditional alternatives.

One place I've seen them where I thought they really made sense were in large parks where security guards ride around on them, able to cover a lot of ground using the walking paths.

Covering more ground in a way that was more effective at stopping ne'er-do-wells than riding a bicycle? Electric-assisted bicycle if it is hilly?

Segways are not off-road vehicles, nor are they fast or maneuverable enough to be an effective security vehicle.

I would actually like to see a high-speed segway chase!

Or Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion car? It suffered a similar tragedy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dymaxion_car#World.27s_Fair_acc...

The first picture in the Wired article shows the driver's unhelmeted head poking out of the roof above the rollbar. Prototype or not, how could the CEO even let a photo be taken of such an obvious safety flaw, let alone allow a journalist to take it for a test drive? Demonstrating a lax attitude towards safety is enough to scare off investors.

It's obviously designed to administer as much force as possible directly to the brain in the case of a collision.

If they added two more wheels instead of the gyros, they'd get passive stabilization and lower cost. They'd also get more room for a larger battery and cargo or passengers. And since roads and parking lots are already designed for 4-wheel vehicles, the extra width wouldn't be much of a disadvantage.

Two-wheeled vehicles have a party piece - they keep moving when traffic stops. In a city like London or Paris, a pedal cycle is faster than a car for most journeys. In a city like LA, a motorcycle can be twice as fast as a car during rush-hour.

This has effects beyond the two-wheeled rider; Remember, you're never stuck in traffic, you are traffic. A recent study suggested that if 10% of car drivers switched to two-wheeled vehicles, congestion would reduce by 40%[1]. Currently, riders of motorcycles are at an exceptionally high risk of death or serious injury. A fully enclosed two-wheeler could be every bit as safe as a car.

There are also substantial efficiency savings to be made, due to the C1's very small frontal area. A faired two-wheeler with a recumbent seating position is naturally very close to the aerodynamically ideal dolphin-shape. A four-wheeled vehicle could only achieve similar aerodynamic efficiency by being very long and low, with single or tandem seating, as in the Volkswagen 1L concept[2] or Shell Eco-Marathon competitors. This substantially compromises visibility and turning circle, making such a vehicle very poorly suited to its obvious use as an urban commuter.

[1] http://www.acem.eu/publiq/PTW_Belgium_Study_FEBIAC_ENG.PDF [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_1-litre_car

I'm not sure how safe it would be to split lanes in the C1; it's wider than a motorcycle, and it's being marketed to non-cyclists who may not be so skilled at weaving through tight spaces even with gyros. It would be more aerodynamic, no doubt, but I think we're a long way off from comparing the relative efficiency of electric vehicles. I think range and carrying capacity are bigger consumer concerns.

I've split lanes in LA traffic. One of the important parts is watching drivers heads as you approach to pass them for an indication that they might suddenly change lanes. That level of awareness saved my life a few times. I don't think you can do that with the C1, as the driver is lower to the ground and doesnt have the same field of vision.

  A fully enclosed two-wheeler could be every bit as safe as a car.
Sure... if it also weighed as much as a car. Crash safety is a function of frame toughness and vehicle mass-- the heavier the car, the less G's it pulls when decelerating suddenly (when running into a wall, or being hit by a semi)

Two-wheeled vehicles have a party piece - they keep moving when traffic stops.

That's primarily due to their width, not their wheel count. This vehicle is a two-seater, so in terms of congestion it probably has a lot more in common with city cars than with motorcycles.

As a city car I'm impressed by the Renault Twizy (it's a 4 wheel bike). Okay, so the power output and range are much lower but for shorter commutes when you can charge overnight it seems to make a lot of sense. Relatively cheap too, although you do have to factor in the cost of leasing the battery pack. http://www.renault.co.uk/cars/model/twizy/product.aspx

There is a better solution for that. My neighboor created the Monotracer, also available as electro vehicle. http://www.monotracer.com/ The electronic version also got the XPrice for the most efficient motorvehicle. http://www.progressiveautoxprize.org/teams/xtracer?carId=138

That sounds familiar; electric car

How much force would it take to knock the C1 on its side? According to Lit, a small elephant would have to hit it broadside to put the C1 on the ground.

So… a car hitting the side then?

What I really like about this is that because it's like a motor bike, you actually have time for the airbags to deploy, when it's being tipped over, shoved along, skidding on its side or flying through the air.

Having seen the end result of a low speed collision last night between motorbike and car, with said dude on motorbike tail between legs, and one very raw burnt calf, very much agree there is a lot of merit in this.

For all the arguments of a motorbike, even at low speeds, no matter which way you slice or dice it, you still get the wrong end of the stick if you get hit/drop it.

I myself would make the leap to one of these in a heartbeat when they're production ready. Huge win for small commutes in and around the city, just myself.

To be fair, the big issue with current two-wheeled vehicles is hardly their bad safety against side collisions.

There's a (different) reason medical personnel refer to them as "donorcycles"...

The gyro-stabilized, two-wheeled future of transportation is the bicycle, people. Seriously.

If you're really into it, you can throw an electric assist motor on.

They already have them on kids bikes. Now they just need to upgrade to adult size, lower the weight, strap on an electric motor...


And they should build the batteries into the wheel rims for extra stability.

Reminds me of a recumbent bicycle, which I was always bewildered by - I live in nyc and can never imagine riding around on one because I wouldn't be able to see anything except the backs of vehicles. I feel very comfortable bicycling and motorcycling around the city precisely because I can see very far ahead by being higher up than most cage drivers. I could see this gyro bike suffering from the same problem in the city, which is probably where it was designed for?

The first one was commissioned in 1912? Sounds like it would have been a great opportunity for Lit to actually release it this year... They won't miss the mark by much, though.

No wait, scratch that, just looked up the word "commissioned"... So if they release it in 1914, they'll have hit the nail straight on. Good on them!

Not sure what you're trying to say. Can you please explain?

I think he's referring to the 100 year anniversary of the initial commission.

Thanks! Sorry for the confusion.

Awesome, I hope this gets off the ground.

It would be ideal to become an autonomous vehicle. Most people drive to work by themselves and use a car instead of a motorbike for protection from the elements and collisions.

Imagine how much more efficient the road network would be if it was filled with autonomous gyro-stabilized motorbikes/whatever this is.

IIRC, two and three-wheeled vehicles dodge a lot of the safety and licensing regulations of four-wheeled automobiles. Partly why there are so many more custom motorcycle builders than custom car builders. I don't know what two-wheels gets you over a three-wheel version except the expense of cool gyros.

Motorcycles don't have "amazing fuel economy": small cars do <100 g/km and sadly few motorcycles beat that.

This. Admittedly, the aerodynamics of this thing should be better than most motorcycles.

Reminds me of the BMW C1:


And will be killed for the same reason.

Country A will insist that it's a motorbike, require you to wear a helmet and have an enhanced heavy bike licence (because of it's top speed)

Country B will insist that it's a car and require seatbelts, airbags etc.

Country C will only allow electric bikes that have a top speed of 15m/h

Country C will only allow electric bikes that have a top speed of 15m/h

You certainly mean km/h.

or m as in miles

Not to mention looking distinctly dorky.

I see them around Antwerp fairly often. Especially estate agents (wearing a suit) seem to like them. It's no different than seeing a Smart car the first time - the novelty wears off rather quickly.

Reminds me of the Sinclair C5... and looks equally dangerous on a road which also features real cars.

While gyros are way cool, adding them for stability reeks of overengineering when simply adding another wheel could achieve the same effect. This reminds me of the urban myth of the Russians using a pencil instead of spending money to develop a zero-gravity pen.

Why do you need another wheel? I don't see a lot of tipped-over motorcycles lining the sides of roads, after all...

For half a century, especially in America, we've been hearing about the "future of transportation" in the form of some car, or car-like non-mass transit device.

The numbers don't work out, the logistics don't work out, and the infrastructure doesn't work out. The future of transit is obviously not cars: not normal 4 wheeled cars, not flying cars, not fancy gyro stabilized two wheeled cars.

Ideas otherwise are quaint turn of the century throwbacks that ceased making sense anywhere in non-rural a very long time ago.

The problem is that we've poured so much money into roads that any technology that doesn't use them is at a multi-billion-dollar disadvantage.

How much power do the gyros consume?

And, of course, if you're using them for regenerative breaking, then they'll have less headroom to counter tilting forces. If you saturate them with regen load then they won't provide any stabilizing force at all. I hope it has a couple of really beefy power resistors in case the ECU suddenly has to bleed off gyro load in a way that won't cause an uncommanded acceleration.

I bet the future of transportation will remember that many people have children they want to transport with them.

In southern Europe, motor scooters and light motorcycles are a substantial part of the transport mix. Scooters are a fast, economical, traffic-beating option. With fuel at over $8 per US gallon, a 100mpg scooter has tremendous appeal. It's quite common for dad to ride a scooter to work, while mum takes the kids to school in the car. A young adult is just as likely to start motoring on a scooter as in a car; Towns and cities in Spain and Italy are overflowing with scooters on weekend nights. Most of those towns were never designed for cars and have a desperate shortage of parking - you can get five or six scooters into one parking space.

A vehicle like this has most of the advantages of a scooter, without the obvious shortcomings. It could fill the same role in the vehicle mix in countries where weather, safety concerns or cultural factors make motor scooters unpopular.

Most car journeys involve a single occupant. That's a luxury we've been able to afford until now, but lugging around four empty seats is seeming ever more wasteful.

If it were much, much cheaper, a one-seater plus room for groceries would make a fine commuting vehicle.

The problem, as always, is cost. My family manages with one vehicle plus public transit, but that vehicle has to be big (people and cargo and distance). Most of the time we could use something smaller, but the minority use case is enough to require the behemoth.

If it were cheap enough, we could really use three vehicles: a commuter, an efficient four-seater, and a seldom used cargo/distance vehicle. That's not how the economics work out, though, so one vehicle has to serve all the purposes.

Will this need redundant gyros? Otherwise isn't it too risky if one blows out while you are driving?

The article says it has 2 gyros. In the test run one wasn't working so they had to test it on just one, and it seemed to work.

I thought it needed both to stay upright, like one on each side that would cancel each other out, my mistake.

It'll be very bad at going around corners with one gone though (which is why the journalist wasn't allowed to).

I would hope that in case of a gyro failure the computer would stop listening to the gyros, display a warning light on the dashboard, and you'd be able to bring it to a stop based on the same principles that keep a normal bike upright. You might have to dump it on its side when it comes to a stop, but you shouldn't have to spin off.

The dangers of that are roughly similar to a blowout in a normal car, momentary but nearly complete loss of control.

It's a gyro-wheel not a gyro-sensor.

The angular momentum of the wheels is what keeps it upright (laterally). This is different to the Segway which used the motors to control the forward-backward tilt with position input from a gyro (actually an accelerometer)

That can't be the (only) reason bikes stay upright. The gyroscopic effect is way too weak to keep it upright. Here is an article explaining why bikes do stay upright: http://ruina.tam.cornell.edu/research/topics/bicycle_mechani...

This isn't an ordinary cycle - it has a pair of reaction wheels running at some fantastic number of RPM below the seat.

"In final production form, the combined force of the pair of gyros will max out at around 1,300 pound-feet, enough to keep the C1 vertical while stopped"

I see, because of reading the above thread about normal bikes I thought I was still in that subthread and I thought you were talking about the ordinary wheels at ordinary wheel speeds. My bad.

[BTW, the article I linked to mentions that the gyroscopic effect is not solely responsible for stability in ordinary bicycles. There is a site of a guy easily riding a bicycle with an opposite turning plate next to the front wheel to cancel out the gyroscopic effect demonstrating this, although I can't find it.

Edit. Here: http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~hemh/gyrobike.htm ]

Looks not that far removed from http://outcaststudios.com/forums/uploads/monthly_04_2011/pos... which makes me very excited.

I'm sure they've considered this, but being able to tilt while cornering at speed is vital for 2-wheeled vehicles. I guess there will be some flexibility to allow the vehicle to tilt without falling over.

According to the article, the gyros will allow up to 45 degrees of tilt during turns.

I always liked the Velomobile concept.


I may have missed something, but how does it stay upright when parked? Is there a kick-stand of some sort?

There was a brief moment in the video where they pulled a support out from under it to demo the gyro-stabilization. Clearly, the rolling prototype doesn't have a kick-stand, but I would suspect some kind of auto-deploying twin-leg kickstand would be added for production. Something that deploys when you turn the ignition off, for example, since you wouldn't want those gyros running all the time just to keep it upright in storage.

They had one of these in Maker Faire

I talked to one of the guys in the Lit tent, and I remember him saying that they were aiming for the mid teens as a price point, and that they were planning for a higher capacity vehicle that was closer to the price listed in the article. I wonder what changed in the last 10 days.

Why do they need gyros to balance the bike? I can do that myself.

No, it isn't!

To be honest, I wasn't sure about the whole gyros thing and thought that it was unneeded complexity, until I realised they were also using them for regenerative braking/power. Then I went ooooo...

If they are really smart with this, and if the gyros are up to the task, they could use them for ultra fast charging as well.

The gyroscope keeps the vehicle from falling over when stopped. Even without regenerative braking, thats pretty necessary complexity when you can't stick your foot out to add a third point of contact.

A lever attached to a hinged stand is all the necessary complexity required to stop it falling over when stopped.

Are you talking about an automatic kickstand? What if you stop next to a pothole?

I'm thinking about some metal tubing welded a bit like a splayed out capital 'H', that is the width of the bike and hinged along the middle bar of the 'H', which you can push forward with your foot and has a spring on it. Attach rubber ends if you want to make it fancy.

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