We live in a skeptical world. When it comes to upstart green vehicle manufacturers, there is no end to the people who will line up to say "That's cool, but it just ain't going to happen." And for good reason: the shoulder of the road to viability is a parking lot of electric this and hybrid that. Remember Aptera? How about Coda? Oh yeah, where's my Zap! Alias?

It's not surprising then that on the heels of Lit Motor's recent modest funding announcement – $1 million from the eclectic likes of internet-gaming kings Zynga's Mark Pincus and Nexon's Kim Jung-Ju, along with angel investor Scott Belsky and legendary pro surfer Kelly Slater – the San Francisco start-up has received some doubtful digital ink from an unlikely source.

Writing for GigaOM, the well-respected Katie Fehrenbacher has penned a piece that points out potential problems Lit faces in getting its signature product, a car-like motorcycle called the C-1 that relies on gyroscopic magic to stay vertical, into the impatient hands of waiting customers. Her main contention is mostly about money.

Including this recent funding round, the company has raised $2 million and is still in the process of putting together its first fully-functioning prototype. Lit's recent Kubo cargo scooter Kickstarter campaign was less than successful (production of that vehicle is said to be going forward, despite the financial shortfall) and could be said to underline the difficulties the company could face in attracting money and interest for its main project. Using a benchmark of $100 million to get the venture producing vehicles, Fehrenbacher makes the case that success may not be a realistic outcome. She has a point and you can read more about it here.

A modestly-priced, super-efficient commuter vehicle with mind-bending dynamics will be a money magnet.

For us, though, the biggest challenge isn't about the cash. If the C-1 prototype provides as awesome a driving experience as our imaginations have conjured, the necessary investment will come. A modestly-priced, super-efficient commuter vehicle with mind-bending dynamics and an attractive design will be a money magnet. The difficult bit, we believe, has more to do with the labyrinthine logistics involved with putting together an equipped factory, lining up dependable suppliers, and then orchestrating the symphony that is mass production. A lot can go wrong in that process, which could push the cost past a profitable price point or cause delays that try the patience of backers and buyers.

We remain hopeful, however. The world needs innovative transportation solutions and if this self-balancing enclosed motorcycle works, it has the potential to change the face of traffic around the world. No, it won't completely erase the five-passenger vehicle, but it could keep a good many of them at home, reducing pollution and congestion in the process. While agreeing with Miss Fehrenbacher that the timeline is, perhaps, too tight, we think the concept should be strong enough to surmount financial obstacles. Basically, if the C-1 drives, the company thrives.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 38 Comments
      tump
      • 1 Year Ago
      I patiently wait with my early reservation number safely tucked away for the proper time. I can wait for them to get it right.
      new isetta
      • 6 Months Ago
      Lit Motors is not exceptional in the sense of being strapped for cash, it is Tesla that forms the remarkable exception to the rule. Musk managed to set in motion an ongoing process of publicity, finding people interested in investing in the company and building cars that appeal to a discerning clientele. What started out as wishful thinking to a lot of people became a self-fulfilling vision. Let me put it this way: if Musk had launched Lit Motors, it would have been the stock markets' darling too.
      Nicholas Littlejohn
      • 1 Year Ago
      Another polluting motorcycle would not be exciting, an electric one would be.
      usugo
      • 1 Year Ago
      In this specific case, the problem is that there is not yet even a real functioning prototype delivering the promised dynamic marvel
        Jesse Gurr
        • 1 Year Ago
        @usugo
        They did show off a working prototype at the TechCrunch Disprupt competition in 2012. http://green.autoblog.com/2012/09/13/lit-motors-shows-off-latest-prototype-at-techcrunch-disrupt-nam/ Looks pretty cool. I'm excited to see the final product. I want one, but I doubt my wife would like me after that. :P
          Jesse Gurr
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Jesse Gurr
          Well the main thing that they need working is the balancing system. That looks to be working pretty good. And you can move it, so it looks like a working prototype to me. "Working prototype" and "street legal" are two different things.
          Jeff
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Jesse Gurr
          If your definition of a "working prototype" is one that can stand in one place without falling over, or drive in a straight line a
      Levine Levine
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is another scam similar to Fisker. Suckers will of course eagerly line up to lose their money.
        tump
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Levine Levine
        It's not a scam. A scam is an intentional ripoff, like Exxon. Putting a lot of hard work into an honest venture with the best intentions with the risk of failure is what we call American ingenuity.
      • 1 Year Ago
      My understanding is that the $24K price is only for the initial run. With economies of scale the price should come down. I commute over 120 miles a day in a car that gets 28 mpg. That is about 4.3 gallons of gas I use a day. My car takes premium fuel - in NJ that is around $3.80/gal. I am the only one in my vehicle during my commute. My commute costs me $16.34 (approximately) every day. $81 dollars a week, or $4200 a year (approximately). After I get home from work I might need to take my kids places, and for that I'll have my old used car for light duty. But in a little less than 6 years the C-1 will pay for itself. And I will be the coolest dude in the NY/NJ area. Until my ugly fat body gets out of the vehicle... But I'll take it. ;) Now, if you run it for the average person at 15,000 miles a year. That is 535 gallons of gas a year. Or $2,033 a year in gas savings alone. So, for the average person, this vehicle would only make sense for about $8K for a 6 year return on investment. However, gas prices change and the ROI can change completely, should gas hit $5 or $6 a gallon. Those numbers are not so improbable. @ $5/gal - ROI in 6 years = $16K (which I believe may be the destination price for the vehicle once volume is acheived) @ $6/gal - ROI in 6 years = $19K. For me, if gas goes up to $5 a gallon, it would save me $5590 a year - which means if the vehicle cost $33K it would still be a ROI in 6 years. But, I think we're all forgetting that when we buy vehicles - we rarely think about ROI. If we did, we'd just smack our heads and say - "wow, this is all just expense." So, the idea that there is any ROI at all on a vehicle, regardless of timeframe - is a refreshing idea.
      SublimeKnight
      • 1 Year Ago
      I don't care about LIT motors, its founder, or its employees, I care about the C-1. If the engineering is worked out and a fully functional prototype is produced it will be produced. Maybe not by LIT, I have no clue if they have the manufacturing know-how to produce a hubcap in quantity, much less a whole vehicle... but there are many companies that do know manufacturing. The final product has appeal, if the science works, someone will buy the company and make it. Tesla Model B?
      Tigertoo
      • 1 Year Ago
      This company's product is great. It is truly a realistic personal transport option for the future... But are these the guys to pull it off?? I have been reading about this self stabilizing 2 wheeled wonder for too long. They need to get a working prototype ready asap or they will miss out. Really hope it works out for LIT motors. My money is ready once you have the product described on the market..
      Dan
      • 1 Year Ago
      I fully support all the true innovators such as LIT taking the hard road to develop reasonable priced efficient transportation solutions. None of us need another mfg building a hyper priced, hyper performance vehicle that will do 200+ mph to be used in a real world of 38 mph average mph driving speeds. These guys are doing the right things for everyone. Go get em Lit and bring one more like you, we all need you for the future.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sigh, they're blinded by their own ingenuity! Adding a third wheel does the same thing, in a less costly, more proven and, most importantly, homologated way. My favourite is newcomer the Quadro 350S from Ticino, Switzerland, contract manufactured by Aeon Motors of Taiwan. The most established of course is the Piaggio MP3 series. The nearest to C-1 is Adiva AD3, just add two pieces of PVC sheets to seal up the sides, swap out the petrol engine for electric drive (Google NUS e-bike) and you achieve what the C-1 set out to do, at 1/2 the cost. Even China has one on the streets already, the Suzhou Eagle EV, which is an electric version of the BMW C1. How does Lit Motors think they can outdo all these much more established and mature competitors?
      • 1 Year Ago
      Thanks for the article, Domenick. We welcome skepticism, even the ground-breaking revelation that startups are risky (as noted in Katie's piece). The EV and small vehicle spaces are seeing quite a bit of innovation these days, which is bound to lead to the shakedown and folding of many companies. We think the best approach to success is to make a compelling, amazing product that addresses real needs in the marketplace. Those who have made such a product, like the Tesla Model S, are doing quite well. Those who have failed to make such a product are no longer with us. The process of product development is messy—vehicle development even more so. This is particularly acute in the current Lean landscape of constant, early market feedback and a more transparent development cycle. Expectations (and sometimes demands) are made to debut a product before many details have been nailed down, though of course the public wants answers about those details. And so we give best estimates based on the available information at the time. Through the process of development, we determine which of those estimates we're committed to and which can give a little. We're committed to our range estimate of 200 miles per charge, less so to our battery pack size. When it became clear that one needed to change, we happily made room for a slightly larger battery pack (~10 kWh) to maintain the estimated range. We're committed to our ~$24,000 MSRP estimate, and thankfully we haven't had to change that (aside from more consistent messaging, with apologies for confusion about potential future pricing or potential EV incentives). And of course our strongest commitment is to produce an amazing vehicle. Will we be able to maintain our estimated timeline to begin production at the end of this year? That's currently unclear, but it's still our goal. It's unclear because a number of variables remain, some of which are out of our control. As we're able to lock down more of those variables and refine our timeline, we'll release more accurate, refined estimates; but until we have more clear numbers, we don't see a point in releasing potentially confusing new estimates. As mentioned in this article, "if the C-1 drives, the company thrives". We agree! And we're that much more excited to unveil the new prototype we're building right now. We'll have some exciting things to share in the coming months! - Ryan James Lit Motors CMO
        dan.frederiksen
        • 1 Year Ago
        I have one question that you wont answer but if you did would tell you a lot. What is the longest drive you have done in a prototype so far? In actual traffic. In all the videos I have seen from the shop there has either been no movement or several people walk around the vehicle to support it and at best it runs 100 meters in a straight line with no other traffic around. And you have been at it full time for how many years? Build a couple of mules that work. Give it to a couple of people. See how many survive the first month using it. The ask how many would want to drive it daily. At 24k$ Then maybe make enclosed Twizys instead.
          dan.frederiksen
          • 1 Year Ago
          @dan.frederiksen
          Or better yet, 25k$ 600kg Tesla Roadsters. Like this www.zev.dk/design/Speedster.jpg
          tump
          • 1 Year Ago
          @dan.frederiksen
          dan.f that "enclosed speedster" is $25,000 ON TOP OF THE COST OF THE TESLA DONER. You're buying a body conversion only. Another way to put it is that that's not intended to be a real product and is a design study only. As for the C-1, there has been no misrepresentation by the company if that's what you're implying (and from your prior comments here, I believe that's what you're implying). We [potential] customers that have been following the company's updates know full well what the state of their prototypes are and the current limitations of them. We are not under the impression that Lit will be dancing out some high speed prototype for demo rides or tech showoffs. We know it's still early. This is the hazard of modern idea launching: In order to be successful, you have to show your goods early and drum up support and MONEY. The risk of that is that limited attention spans and ulterior motives mean that people will accuse you of misrepresenting your situation or even deception when you're really doing the part of the job that is paying the bills - so that you can make the product in the first place. Ideas are cheap - everybody has some, but real innovation takes funding.
          tump
          • 1 Year Ago
          @dan.frederiksen
          And just as a disclaimer, I have ZERO business link or vested interest in the company other than I'm a reservation holder.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @dan.frederiksen
          The answer to your question is irrelevant—we've made no attempts at a long-range prototype of the C-1 yet, as that's not a challenge we're currently addressing. And yes, we absolutely protect our prototypes when they're the only ones we have. It would be silly to spend thousands of man-hours on a prototype and trash it during testing because of a small glitch. That is not capital efficiency. As noted elsewhere: the typical car takes about five years to go from concept to production—by large manufacturers with extensive resources and budgets. Even as a startup, we're beating that schedule; it will be less than five years from our first incorporation as a company in 2010 to production in late 2014. We're developing the C-1 as quickly as possible, and we feel our timeline so far is justified. Toyota took $1B and five years to develop to develop the Prius. We're several orders of magnitude below that, and approximately the same timeline. -Ryan James Lit Motors CMO
          dan.frederiksen
          • 1 Year Ago
          @dan.frederiksen
          Convenient that my question is irrelevant. And typically cars take 4 years and that's including testing production ready models for over a year. The Volt intent was announced in january 2007 when they had nothing. It was delivered late 2010. I wasn't talking about making a long range version of the C1. I'm talking about just driving it at all. That you use the fact that you only have one as an excuse not to actually test it just shows how clueless you are. You make a rugged tumbler version first. A mule. You fall down a lot. You make it work. Then you make a prettier one. A production ready one. You don't have to adhere to a 4 year schedule and you most certainly don't and you don't have automaker funding. But you do have to know what you are doing. If you want any chance of success at all, at least make a functioning mule.
          dan.frederiksen
          • 1 Year Ago
          @dan.frederiksen
          tump, wow :) how did you so confidently arrive at the conclusion that my speedster concept has to be a converted tesla?? I'm amazed at such stupidity. And that 4 people voted you up for saying something that stupid. And donor is spelled like that. Not doner. It of course requires no Tesla Roadster. I wouldn't want such poor engineering in it. 100watt constant drain. 450kg battery pack. kills itself if left for 2 months. I think not.
      Jeff
      • 1 Year Ago
      Show us a prototype that actually works, and THEN we can start scrutinizing business plans. Until then, it's all just meaningless conjecture.
    • Load More Comments