Nothing makes us green geeks giddy like the emergence of a vehicle with revolutionary potential. The C1 from Lit Motors is one such mode of transport. Looking at the original mock-up, we can easily imagine a future with streets full of these enclosed motorcycles, some autonomous and networked, efficiently taking their owners from A to B in a tidy, space-saving fashion.

That dream is still a ways off, but the San Francisco-based company behind this brilliant idea has just taken its first giant step forward with the completion of a proof-of-concept prototype. Though it resembles something sent back in time from a future slightly more dystopian than the one we were musing about earlier, the raw metal shell contains the basic bits that fulfill the promise of a self-balancing two-wheeler: it drives forward – and in reverse – and doesn't fall over.

True, it can only safely be driven up to ten miles per hour and, for now, just the rear wheel contains a motor (from EnerTrac). Also, the flywheels used in this version put out 266 pound feet of torque instead of the 1,300 lb-ft that the final specifications call for, so the vehicle gently sways when stopped. Still, considering that the Lit team accomplished this on a $200,000 budget, we can't help but be enthusiastic about the vehicle and look forward eagerly to the next, more functional, iteration.

While we go to the fridge for another glass of kool-aid, scroll down for video from Wired going over the machine and taking it for a bit of a test drive. Scroll a bit further and you'll also find footage of Lit's founder Daniel Kim tentatively trying it out himself.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 65 Comments
      Doug Danzeisen Sr
      • 3 Years Ago
      You know, I suspect at some point we will reach a convergence. The future will likely be much more austere and energy prices are not likely to lower at any time on the horizon. Current motorcycles tend to be heavy, with some Goldwing type bikes pushing close to 1,000lbs. Would it not be logical to see a Goldwing of the future with an enclosure, creature comforts and similar weight with far greater efficiency than the current 30-40mpg? Not sure if automated outriggers, gyro stabilizers or manual outriggers would offer the best option if two wheels were desired. I suspect some type of auto control with manual over ride would be best- what would happen if one suffered a catastrophic gyro failure during a critical maneuver? Something to think about , and should times get really tough, as I suspect they will, Honda and BMW would be in unique positions to offer a true cross over vehicle as they both have extensive history in both two and four wheeled worlds. Just my two cents!!
      PeterScott
      • 3 Years Ago
      Obviously a Niche vehicle, if it ever makes it to market, but I like the out of the box thinking. Clearly it still needs a lot of work to make it to market. Things like Gyro stability will need to be tested to the nth degree in search of cases that might cause issues. It also sounds like the Gyros do dual duty as kinetic flywheel energy storage. That would be a cool idea. If I read it wrong, and they aren't doing this, they should. It helps them make up for their weight penalty of including them, and take some load off the batteries.
      Anderlan
      • 3 Years Ago
      Seems like a lot of work, when I'm perfectly fine with a trike or something like the Twizy. But hey, it's a challenge, more power to them.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      and btw, why on earth is it shaped with metal...
      Ugo Sugo
      • 3 Years Ago
      call me skeptic, but if with 200k they have achieved just that, I see another Aptera in the making. Despite possibly being a good idea ....
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Ugo Sugo
        Better than Aptera, and I am an Aptera fanatic saying that. Imagine what carbon-fiber could do to drop the weight and increase the shell strength? Hell, if they would just sell us the drivetrain as a modular unit we could build our own duos. (I'd like a rear window, please). A two-wheeled Aptera... better, faster, more efficient. Pity you couldn't make a four-seater for legal reasons - you think the three-wheeled Aptera had problems getting classified, try a five-seater balanced on two wheels calling itself a motorcycle - they will never let us do it. And the thing is, the principle invention was thought up in 1907. Heinlein used them in his stories (Methuselah's Children, 1941 or so: Mary Sperling's gyro-stabilized duo roadster). Brennan couldn't sell the idea to British rail because they thought people would never accept the weirdness and the possibility of gyro failure (so use redundant sets of independent gyro units, then).
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Ugo Sugo
        The Aptera company was destroyed John-Sculley style when the founders were kicked out by the auto executive they hired. He delayed production by "redesigning" the Aptera to be fatter, taller, front-wheel driven, with cupholders and roll-down windows. When he was done, the opportunity window had passed, and the Aptera was so fat and over designed that it practically flipped over during the X-Prize competition. Then the idiot tried to get it reclassified as a car to get funds from the gov. And he's STILL attached to the new Aptera Company in China, so it's still full of fail. We gots us a new aptera now, and former auto executives with Napoleonic leanings can get bent.
        fly by wireless
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Ugo Sugo
        No matter what, the horse is out of the barn. I'm working on a prototype of a similar gyro system. There's another lower profile startup that's already got a prototype up and running (http://www.thrustcycle.com/). Other students/universities are also looking into the tech. No matter what happens, you're looking at the future, buddy.
          DarylMc
          • 6 Months Ago
          @fly by wireless
          The universe really is missing something. Not world peace. Not advanced technology. But an edit post feature on ABG.
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 6 Months Ago
          @fly by wireless
          : ) I have seen the future and this isn't it. you have no idea what the future will bring : ) where we are going we don't neeed... roads there are 100000000000000000000000 star systems in the visible universe. you pick up one grain of sand and there are more star systems than grains of sand on all the beaches of earth. each one a star with planets. hundreds of millions of people see ET ships. millions of people are being abducted all over the world. they have been here for millions of years and their ships have no combustion engines nor rubber wheels. apparently if you sing just the right song the physics dances to the tune. truly fantastic motion is surprisingly easy to achieve. they can zip around in our atmosphere at tens of thousands of kilometers an hour with explosive acceleration and they can traverse the vastness of space at tens of thousands of times the speed of light. the truth has been kept from us by our own people for at least 71 years but because we are now an information society that secrecy is threatened, a powder keg only waiting for you the sheep to wake up and demand the truth from the wicked men who have stolen power. exactly like it happened in the arab spring. and from what I gather, most of these ETs are punks just like us. some of them are even down right stupid and in need of an ass whooping. I'm of course talking about the little grey bastards. their major malfunction might be that they are a beehive race with worker bees that have no good self governance. they do as they are told without question even though they are quite intelligent otherwise. other races are much more like us but for some reason they are willing to stand idly by and let the greys do their thing. I suppose it was naive to expect they would be as good as me and that all republicans would have been eliminated from their culture in their millions of years although most are gone. and in their defense we here on earth let the worst of us (military) make our decisions by our sheepish inaction. we know they are evil but we do nothing... so it has been. so no your toppler scooter wont be the future, not even a niche near future. if you want to be short term relevant do a sleeker lighter cheaper twizy or a super light and potent EV1/XL1. optimized in every respect, not just mindless status quo engineering.
      • 3 Years Ago
      For all the reasons every poster mentioned ... stability, simplicity, traction, etc... Persu is a better concept: http://www.flytheroad.com/ What's taking them so long to come to market ? Why is the price point so high?
        PeterScott
        • 6 Months Ago
        Persu Simplicity? I don't think so. The Pursu is a hinged, articulated vehicle, that uses computer controled hydraulic, to control the lean angle between the two halves. I like it, but I wouldn't call it simple. A motorcylce with Gyro actually seems simpler to me. High costs/late (never) coming to market is a symptom for any of these kind of extreme niche products. Aptera, Persu, Lit Motors are all in that boat. Fringe vehicles meant for summer commutes. As far as simplicity, the real choice for for summer commutes is E-Bikes, E-scooters. An ex-coworker bought an E-Scooter last year, and loves it. Though she stores it in the winter. It was inexpensive, simple and gets the fair weather commuting job done. These other fringe vehicles really only improve the rain experience, none of them are suitable for a real winter and they cost more than car.
      paulwesterberg
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is another way of creating a MonoTracer E type vehicle without the automated training wheels. This system seems better as it can always be engaged to add stability whereas the MonoTracer's support wheels are only extended at low speeds. It will be interesting to see how much power it takes to keep the gyros spinning and whether that impacts vehicle range. Vehicles like this which can probably offer 300mpge could allow people to dramatically reduce the amount of energy they use for commuting. You can do this today by riding a bicycle, I have logged 72 miles this week. E-Bikes are also a great alternative. But most consumers are too weak to make the effort or mus their hair. My personal favorite lightweight city electric is the audi e-tron city prototype with offset tandem seating which offers a little extra room in case you need to shlep a kid, dog or groceries.
        Kei Jidosha
        • 6 Months Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Monotracer E with KERS driven gyros could put me on two wheels
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      it's a cool concept but there is something to be said for keeping it simple. I sort of think it's too complicated compared to what you gain but I want to leave room for a high tech future. I would guess though that 4 small wheels with much the same body on would be a more viable design. I personally wouldn't go down that road but I suppose the world is richer for the addition even if it fails. Going down that road and failing does however mean that a more viable product isn't made by them so is it worth it.. I don't think so. do a sleek twizy instead. but nobody ever listens... :) so they come and they go and they all fail and never even wonder if listening would have been better. it's like watching a dumb movie. you can scream at the characters all you want they will just keep on doing their thing. like voting me down..
        mycommentemail
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        And with 4 wheels it would be wider... more likely to tip over unless you make them stick out further on either side of the vehicle. Also: more aerodynamic drag, harder to park, has to be registered as a car, etc. This is intended to be a replacement for motorcycles. Safer, more comfortable. Oh, and I do listen. I listen and laugh my arse off. Only then do I vote you down :)
      • 6 Months Ago
      Clicked around and saw that the price will be $104,000. Just what the world needs, another yuppie toy.
      David Dunn
      • 3 Years Ago
      "... efficiently taking their owners from A to B in a tidy, space-saving fashion". Hmm. What about when you park it? That door swing makes it pretty wide. And when it's parked I assume it has some sort of outriggers (kickstands) for keeping it up. How much wind do you think it would take to flip it over?
      Ian Bruce 伊恩·布鲁斯
      How would a gyroscopically-stabilized 800lb two-wheeler, sitting at a stop-light, translate into an accellerating, leaning turn in a matter of seconds? That is, without blowing up the gyros... gyro that are spinning at 12,000 rpm, and have more than enough angular momentum to keep an 800lb mass upright in a rest state. I guess you'd have to gimbal the gyros... because quickly removing RPM's from something that'll spin on it's own for half an hour would be rather a big problem. But you'll still have a left, or right-hand turn bias depending on how their counter-rotating... I don't know is how they expect to maneuver this at speeds above a quick trot. Isn't this an old idea...? I think it's been tried before.
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Ian Bruce 伊恩·布鲁斯
        It has been tried before, and very successfully. The two-gyro design provides a magical ability to *self-lean* and afterwards *self-correct* back to upright. Louis Brennan came up with this genius insight back in 1907. He built backyard mules and an actual *locomotive* using the principle. It has to be seen to be believed. The Google has the info. Lit has astonished me by reapplying that design. This is beyond amazing, and I don't gush as a rule.
        Doug Danzeisen Sr
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Ian Bruce 伊恩·布鲁斯
        The wired video shows the gyros are mounted gimbally. My question is what would happen if a gyro suffers failure in a mode which was dependant upon the gyro, such as backing from a parking space into a traveled road.
          Ian Bruce 伊恩·布鲁斯
          @Doug Danzeisen Sr
          I can sum up a gyro failure in one word, "ka-BOOOOOOOOMMM!!!" That's assuming the bearings fail and the damn thing seizes. With a motor failure (less likely), it would take 20-30 minutes for the gyro to coast to a stop. Plenty of time to pull back into your driveway, or stop on the highway. I now see in the pictures that the gyros are gimbaled along their pitch axis. If that's being used to lean steer the vehicle, they're using some property of precession that I'm unfamiliar with. The dual gyro's must be counter-rotating to cancel out the torque, but there'll still be a left or a right-hand steering bias. Since the video shows it either traveling in a straight line, or simple wheel steering, I have no way to judge what it's high-speed maneuvering characteristics might be like, since wheel steering won't be involved. Maybe they've got it all figured out. In any case, I wish them all the best.
      sdn
      • 3 Years Ago
      why not just add a third wheel in the front and make it tilt? that would give it more traction for turning. might be cheaper too - seems like it would be a simpler way to go about the stability issue. anyone from Lit Motors care to comment?
        fred schumacher
        • 6 Months Ago
        @sdn
        That was exactly my thought. Something like a larger, enclosed Piaggio MP3 scooter would be the simpler solution. They gyros need electrical input to maintain stability. Leave it parked for a long time with no battery recharging and it would fall over. The video is correct in noting that 80% of the time we drive alone, and thus a single or two-seater is sufficient most of the time. However, $24,000, or even $16,000 is too high to get people away from their attachment to multi-purpose vehicles. The price point has to be under $10,000 to get massive movement and change the commuting paradigm. Narrow vehicles have the potential for greatly decreasing traffic congestion since they would take up only half a lane, allowing for more lanes without widening roads. Look at all the motorcycle groups riding side--by-side down the highways.
        • 6 Months Ago
        @sdn
        It self tilts.
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