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VIDEO – Lit Motors unveils functioning prototype of its C-1 self-balancing electric motorcycle

By

June 4, 2012

The C-1 prototype on the road (Photo: Lit Motors)

The C-1 prototype on the road (Photo: Lit Motors)

Image Gallery (27 images)

There are definitely a lot of daydreamers and big thinkers out there, showing off their 3D renderings of inventions that “ought to work” – if they were to actually exist. It’s understandable, therefore, that many readers reacted with skepticism when we first reported on Lit Motors’ C-1. The designers of the fully-enclosed electric motorcycle claimed that it would be able to stand up on its own, thanks to electronically-controlled onboard gyroscopes. Well, while there may not be a C-1 in a showroom near you just yet, the folks at Lit have indeed succeeded in building a functioning prototype of their vehicle. We made the trip to their San Francisco workspace, to have a look for ourselves.

The rather steampunk-looking proof-of-concept prototype is electronically limited to a speed of about 10 mph (16 km/h), and its two scaled-down gyros generate only half of the approximately 1,300 foot-pounds (1,763 Nm) of torque planned for the production version. It turns out that that’s still enough, however, to keep it upright while being piloted around the local streets – or when being yanked sideways by a Land Rover, as you’ll see in our video.

While the vehicle that we saw is still very much a work in progress, Lit Motors president Daniel Kim says that they have learned a lot from making it, particularly when it comes to keeping the weight down on the final version. “I have a couple of ideas for our next revision,” he told us. “I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve for what the real potential of this vehicle will be.”

Daniel Kim (left) and Gizmag's Ben Coxworth, with the prototype (Photo: Randolph Jonsson/G...

Daniel Kim (left) and Gizmag's Ben Coxworth, with the prototype (Photo: Randolph Jonsson/Gizmag)

Kim hopes to be selling C-1’s by 2014. By that time, they should reportedly have a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h), a battery range of up to 200 miles (322 km) per charge, and space for a second passenger – all for US$16,000.

In the meantime, however, take a look at our visit with Daniel, and check out the prototype in action.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
42 Comments

Considering the Segway has been out for years, this seems like a realistic product.

Since I live in Connecticut, this would make an excellent all year round commuter vehicle.

I was behind a motorcycle today in pouring rain:)

But lets be realistic. This is still not a "safe" vehicle. When the old man who can only see out one eye pulls out on front of you in his 6000 pound 1986 Chevy you are still leaving in an ambulance.

PrometheusGoneWild.com
4th June, 2012 @ 05:38 pm PDT

"they should reportedly have a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h)"

Why do designers and manufacturers always make vehicles that have top speeds that you can't legally use? If you want snappy acceleration, that's fine. But nobody other than law enforcement needs a top speed over 75 mph.

Good luck to them, but I still think this is a problem with a simpler solution. A narrow track tilting three-wheeler (basically an enclosed Piaggio MP3) can be just as stable at speed or stopped using a fraction of the complexity or power. There's no real advantage to insisting on two wheels.

Gadgeteer
4th June, 2012 @ 08:03 pm PDT

get the range up to 300 miles at 70 mph I would be a buyer

Bill Bennett
4th June, 2012 @ 08:29 pm PDT

At last a machine that meets the market with speed and range. I commute 240km per day and petrol is a killer. The sped limits are slow andmost traffic complies. All it needs is an AUTO PILOT.

pointyup
4th June, 2012 @ 11:19 pm PDT

I notice that in the video one of the guys had his head sticking through where the glass roof should be, if we ever get these in Australia I suspect it would require a helmet, so there could be problem in regards to head room there.

Womp
4th June, 2012 @ 11:39 pm PDT

Looking at video it appears the turning circle just doesn't cut it.

A safety cell concept and airbags for rider a must.

Half roof removal option would be great for those perfect days.

I would prefer blistering acceleration up to a 70mph top speed.

A 200 mile range is reassuring for most long distance commuting.

Cheaper inner city parking and heavy traffic advantages.

Add the newer LED blue tinted lighting for night and the very bright

white for day.

Obviously Daniel and his team are very mindful of affordability.

All electric cars even with great technology built in where I live,

won't be had for less than $45,000. A price difficult to justify when

many of the super efficient diesel fully imported cars can be bought

for $35,000 or less.

The Stav
5th June, 2012 @ 02:44 am PDT

Great work guys! Could be relevant to many European cities and towns with very narrow roads unsuited to cars, low weight increases range and has the cool factor too. 125mph not a problem in Germany.....;)

Brendan Dunphy
5th June, 2012 @ 03:15 am PDT

Three wheelers are more stable and won't fall if the power is interrupted. Good development never the less.

Ziad N. Dibsi
5th June, 2012 @ 04:43 am PDT

It's great to see it actually working, especially in reverse, but there's still a hell of a long way to go before this thing can 'flip flop' through a chicane, with precision, like a motorcycle, or indeed a Peraves Monotracer, which I will remind you, has been in production for many years now and whose electric version is much closer to sale, with 5 machines already on the road with full legality and a proven 200 mile range cruising at 75mph (and I've driven two of them). I'm still very skeptical about the price and timescales predicted here, and whether there's really going to be room enough for two normal-sized human beings in the current cabin size (I doubt it!).

Personally, if I were Lit Motors, I would be doing a KISS* version in parallel with the gyro-balanced one, either with 'Fred Flintstone' holes for the feet or Peraves-type outriggers for true full enclosure. PNB (*KISS = Keep It Simple, Stupid)

paulblez
5th June, 2012 @ 04:46 am PDT

@thestav: There are a million armchair designers. I'm not one of them. A removable top would decrease the range by upsetting the aerodynamics.

Stan Ubeki
5th June, 2012 @ 06:12 am PDT

Well done...don't listen to the shallow thinkers.

One item that may help is a map that takes into account the skill of the rider/driver in self balancing the vehicle. As well, the cornering lean angle should be adjustable for more experienced riders. This might save battery power since the gyros would not be called upon as often.

Mirmillion
5th June, 2012 @ 07:37 am PDT

Problem with the KISS version you suggest would remove integral parts to the drive system the gyros act as charge capacitors for regen braking and acceleration boosting. Part of the cost saving you suggest would also cut into range and acceleration. I personally love that someone is finally integrating gyros to their full potential.

Ben Dorman
5th June, 2012 @ 07:48 am PDT

re; Ziad Naim Dibsi

Before WWII there was a gyro-stabilized car and its gyroscope would stabilize the car for half an hour without power.

Slowburn
5th June, 2012 @ 07:56 am PDT

I think the gyros are an expensive gimmick. How do you turn corners? I guess the gyro tilts. Or does it? Why not just have small wheels which pop out when you come to a halt?

This vehicle costs as much as a car. I know what I prefer.

windykites1
5th June, 2012 @ 09:00 am PDT

@Gadgeteer

Why can't you go 201km/h legaly?

Why would you limit a vehicle to a pathetic 75mph? Only because it is not legal in your country?

Marcus Heavyweather
5th June, 2012 @ 09:02 am PDT

In Italy limit are 80mph

Francesco Ferrara
5th June, 2012 @ 09:26 am PDT

"Not trying to shake the boat too much," says Mr. Kim, tongue firmly planted in cheek. Well said!

Floyd Vergara
5th June, 2012 @ 09:38 am PDT

I can dig it. Every once in a while a great invention comes along. This is one. It will lean on turns for stability like a car won't. It should fare well in an accident from the pod protection, plus the whole bike will "give", or be pushed away if impacted instead of having to absorb most of the impact energy. It will save lots of fuel. It will go off road where cars can't go. Combined with an auto tracking system, this promises to be the most common future land transportation

ezeflyer
5th June, 2012 @ 11:47 am PDT

@Gadgeteer on a closed course one can legally drive this speed.

They may want to sell the C-1 in Germany, too.

Facebook User
5th June, 2012 @ 12:21 pm PDT

Thanks,Ben,

for keeping an open mind.

The key here to me is,

as you said,

that they are doing this and not just rendering pretty pictures,

like so many others on Gizmag and throughout the science community have done for decades.

It used to be an "artist's rendering"-

now it's just computer generated,

instead.

My only criticism of their development so far is that their control system appears to be too complicated.

If it is incapable of functioning without it,

then they need to develop a contingency plan.

I don't mind computer-enhanced but I am no fan of computer-dependent when

safety and essential operation is at stake.

The aerodynamics of their design is not as efficient as it could be,

either.

Having worked around Gyro vehicles elsewhere,

I appreciate what they have done but there is always room for improvement-

even in us all,as well!

Moving right along,

I can tell from the comments that people are not grasping

the power&the potential of the Gyroscope.

If you hook a Land Rover to a comparable 3 wheeler or a Monotracer with training wheels and jerk it sideways,

what's going to happen?

It's going to fall over!

The stability that Gyros provide is obviously far greater than most people are grasping.

On wet&icy roads,

this is no small thing-

but that's really just the

"tip of the iceberg".

Porsche and F1 have definitely gone in for KERS in a big way-

this is even better.

Think about why that would be.

Thank you for trying to present these developments in a level-headed fashion

and allowing room for improvement and development-

it is sad that so many of your readers that are supposed to be science-minded futurists can be so cynical and backwards-thinking.

I appreciate those who can see beyond the present to what this represents.

The potential combination that the aerodynamic efficiency of an enclosed two-wheel vehicle

PLUS the dynamic combination of power AND stability that Gyroscopes provide is far greater than most people seem to realize.

There is far more to this than meets the eye-

or other superficial observations.

When the the common man first encounters a powerful Gyroscope,

it is as

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke said,

"...indisguishable from magic."

Those who are interested should

look up Eric Laithwaite on YouTube(and elsewhere).

He never said it was magic but yet he was vilified as a heretic by his peers for simply observing that the Gyroscope sometimes "APPEARS to defy conventional physics" and

"it makes you question the validity of Newton's Third Law."

(his actual words)

"In 1974,

Eric Laithwaite was invited by the Royal Institution to give a talk on a subject of his own choosing.

He decided to lecture about gyroscopes,

a subject in which he had only recently become interested.

His interest had been aroused by an amateur inventor named Alex Jones,who contacted Laithwaite about a reactionless propulsion drive he (Jones) had invented.

After seeing a demonstration of Jones's small prototype

(a small wagon with a swinging pendulum which advanced intermittently along a table top), Laithwaite became convinced that "he had seen something impossible".

In his lecture before the

Royal Institution he claimed that gyroscopes weigh less when spinning and,

to demonstrate this,

he showed that he could lift a spinning gyroscope mounted on the end of a rod easily with one hand but could not do so when the gyroscope was not spinning.

At this time,

Laithwaite SUGGESTED that Newton's Laws of Motion could not account for the behaviour of gyroscopes and that they could be used as a means of reactionless propulsion.

The members of the Royal Institution rejected his ideas and his lecture was not published.

This was the first and only time an invited lecture to the Royal Institution has not been published.

They were subsequently published independently.

Despite this rejection

and

despite the fact that Laithwaite later acknowledged that gyroscopes actually behave fully in accord with Newtonian mechanics,

he continued to explore gyroscopic behaviour,

maintaining the belief that some form of reactionless propulsion could be derived from them. "

-Wikipedia

My point being:

if imagination and inquisitiveness

are attacked as trivial,irrelevant or even unscientific,

where does that leave ingenuity and creativity?

Are there no major frontiers left to be crossed in mechanical engineering?

Have all elemental discoveries been made?

I say NO-

I say that there are many revolutionary(yet elementary&foundational) discoveries

AND applications yet to be made!

Many discoveries,applications&observations are yet to be fully developed.

Rediscovery can sometimes be just as crucial to development as discovery itself.

How many undeveloped discoveries (or combinations/applications thereof)

lie languishing,forgotten,awaiting

resurrection?

Far more than we know or admit.

As for this application-

Imagine the possiblities.

As we all know,

most people,even "scientific people"

ridiculed the Wright Brothers and other early aviation pioneers.

Yet,

even after human flight was proven,

it was STILL mocked as trivial and essentially perceived by most as

a dangerous,eccentric and essentially irrelevant novelty.

Some,

however,

could see far beyond the present.

Let us look to the future and build realistic bridges to get there.

Griffin
5th June, 2012 @ 01:16 pm PDT

Regardless what is said, I think what you are doing is a good idea. In addition, the cargo scooter has huge potential for Post Company delivering in a busy city. This lad has proved himself, pity someone with cash to spare would not invest to get this on the market quicker. There a huge population in China and India that would use the scooter cargo machine alone. People like this are my heroes.

Gerard

Gerard58
5th June, 2012 @ 02:46 pm PDT

@ Griffin,

I agree totally

People seem to get illogical when here taken out o there comfort zone.

Billy Brooks
5th June, 2012 @ 10:02 pm PDT

The video where the thing gets yanked is misleading. OF COURSE it wouldn't topple right away if the thing was yanked at the wheels near the ground, and it looks like the thing wouldn't go faster than walking speed.

It has the turningcircle of a moon and it's electric so it has a very limited range and will take a billion years to recharge. Worse even, after charging it a couple of times the batterylife will deteriorate.

Also the gyrothingamajigs are powered by electric, and WHEN the thing runs out of juice, lol it WILL falls sideways like a bowling pin.

Let's stop this battery powered electric nonsense and try to find other alternatives. Use thorium instead and you and can even drive oversized SUVS just for the hel of it without worrying about don't refuelling for more than 20 years instead of riding with your heads poking out in miniature death traps slower than a walking cow.

They've developed thorium powered nuclear intercontinental bombers in the 50s for pete's sake. With today's technology it's even possible to make hover cars using thorium power source.

SpaceBagels
5th June, 2012 @ 10:27 pm PDT

Russian Count Peter Schilovski, designed a gyro car.

He got Wolseley Motors in England to build in 1912.

2640-3690
5th June, 2012 @ 11:44 pm PDT

@Gadgeteer: I'd have to upgrade your number significantly. I'm not sure where you are from but here in the southern USA we have roads with posted speed limits of 80mph so I'd say they need 90mph top to meet the demands of driving in these locations.

VirtualGathis
6th June, 2012 @ 05:08 am PDT

SpaceBagels,

This forum obvious is way out of your field of understanding. It is very easy to find faults, bear in mind it is a prototype in development. He is an engineer not a salesperson, and on that front, he could do with a little help and investment. To dedicate your life to an idea is something I admire a lot in a person. He is living the life of a engineer just like an artist who paints. By the way, he is a qualified engineer, are you?

Gerard58
6th June, 2012 @ 05:14 am PDT

All this work and effort - very nice, but for simple and ready technology to solve the overcrowding on raods, just look no further than Nick Shotter's 4 wheel bike, as shown on Gizmag 3 years ago..... put a canopy over it.

http://www.4-mc.co.uk/

JPAR
6th June, 2012 @ 06:56 am PDT

Now if he can figure out a way to make it visible to all the distracted mini van/SUV drivers who rarely look beyond their own windshield. Maybe a holographic projector to make it appear to be a firetruck.

gizmaggot
6th June, 2012 @ 07:02 am PDT

re; gizmaggot

Every accident I have been involved in was not caused by a mini van/SUV driver.

Slowburn
6th June, 2012 @ 11:20 am PDT

Google has been making great progress on driver-less cars. That technology applied to two- and three-wheelers is the real future. Most roads are filled with single-passenger cars. Computerized two-wheelers will double, perhaps even triple the amount of traffic going in both directions, dramatically reduce fuel/electric-charge costs, be more environmentally friendly, and will cause less wear and tear on roads. When people are free to no longer be overly-concerned about their and other drivers' ability to drive two-wheelers safely, you'll see the purchase of them take off as they will be more convenient and economical than cars for almost all solitary commute purposes.

kalqlate
6th June, 2012 @ 04:17 pm PDT

Jpar, the problem with a four wheel motorcycle is government. That's the real reason most three wheelers even came out. All four wheelers are seen as cars by most countries, thus they get taxed at a higher car rate. Two and three wheels are considered motorcycles and thus have much different regulations and tax structures attached to them.

Nothing unstable about a three wheeler when designed correctly. Morgan was building them in 1910.

VoiceofReason
7th June, 2012 @ 08:21 am PDT

I have one problem with gyros and (Griffin if you know better maybe you will comment) that is if they will allow the C-1 to bank into turns. If so will this be naturally or gyro aided ? If gyro aided and they are used for regen on braking how will the speed variance of the gyros affect the banking?

@voice of reason your key word is government, that means there is no reason new regulations couldn't be created for a new type vehicle, do we just accept todays regs as the final chapter in a changing world!

dgate
7th June, 2012 @ 09:55 am PDT

This is just great. Not only this thing have Range Anxiety™ built into it, now we have Topple Anxiety™

We now can't have fast, cool hover cars for the whole family complete with smiling faces like in the Popular Mechanics that can travel for hundreds of miles non-stop and only needs refueling after 20 years.

Instead now it's uncomfortable claustraphobic go karts made of tin cans that you can barely fit into (sorry if you're not of asiatic stature you have drive with your head sticking out), takes a whole night to recharge, pathetic range and have exploding batteries.

The future looks pathetic.

SpaceBagels
7th June, 2012 @ 01:56 pm PDT

re; dgate

With gyro stabilization banking for the turns is no more necessary than with in regular cars. After meeting the minimum rotational velocity for stabilization additional energy has no effect on banking or the lack there of.

Slowburn
7th June, 2012 @ 02:03 pm PDT

One thing that I'm not clear about is the gyros themselves. I'm just going to assume that the gyros turn off once moving. Gyros are only necessary at speeds below 10mph or when stopped, so extra energy usage would not be that much, unless stuck in traffic--which sucks no matter what one drives.

AnOld BlackMarble
11th June, 2012 @ 06:37 pm PDT

What is the point of this over a motorcycle? I'm sure it will cost way more and the only benefit I see is staying dry in the rain. If it was at least a two seater I can see some point in it, but quite frankly just a overly complicated motorcycle. Might as well make a trike...

Philip Wong
13th June, 2012 @ 11:20 am PDT

Self balancing takes the fun out of motorcycling. But I guess the idea is not to have fun but to reduce traffic congestion.

The name C1 has to change. There was once a covered scooter called bmw C1.

MrGadget
15th June, 2012 @ 08:08 am PDT

super cool ,when i ll be having money and this will be with more advanced interiors.. ..........

please make it a bit more performance based though you can take price a bit higher ...

anticipating a even better interior,front looks(though rear looks are cool), performance like pick up.

if possible make it a petrol bike

Facebook User
4th August, 2012 @ 02:52 am PDT

I'm all for the advance of the cycles since I'm a disabled vet it helps to know that someone cares to still put a vet on top of two wheels so as to get away from the same rut of four wheels ,when you can't hold a cycle up at a stop then you'll know what I mean....

Joe Garcia
4th September, 2012 @ 05:01 pm PDT

He's trying to control the gyro's with software and high speed motors.I would guess the gyro's in the finished product will only be active at speeds under 10 mph and proportional to your lean angle,allowing for normal motorcycle turns.In the case of a impact,I'm guessing, inertia switches,like used for air bag sensors in cars,would tell the computer to give the motors full speed to keep the bike from rolling or sliding down the road.I cannot see it being done any other way.If the gyro's were always on,it would make the motorcycle feel like it was attached to a rail,not something you would enjoy driving.But I do agree with Paul,some type of out rigger is preferred over non delivery and sale and while the Peraves vehicle does it very well,their is room for improvement in the event the outrigger hits something or on uneven roadway.just my 2 cents

Thomas Lewis
25th October, 2012 @ 12:31 pm PDT

Anyone who even remotely likes this should go and throw their leg over a "real motorcycle".

You know, a frame with 2 wheels, an internal combustion engine and you sit "on" it instead of in it.

This looks like a friggin coffin on wheels to me.

It's all about the fresh air, the sound of the engine and leaning into corners people.

Try it. Once you do you'll be converted.

BP
27th February, 2013 @ 05:25 pm PST

I like the concept of enclosed motorcycles,and would like to think any and all manufactures are at least talking about the concept.I like open motorcycles,but let's get real for a second,they are not efficient aerodynamically,they are extremely dangerous,if you fall or hit something,it's your body not the bike that takes a beating[trust me on that one].Enclosed motorcycles on average double the fuel economy,the body's extra weight does nothing to hurt both fuel consumption and performance.The only problem with enclosed motorcycles is when you stop,they fall over, there is no way to put your feet down..So what to do,the Peraves Monotracer uses out rigger's,almost like training wheels,which deploy at low speeds to keep the bike ,the C-1 by Lit Motor's is going to use gyros which offset the natural forces which want to make it fall.They both have there ups and downs with design problems.Well now there is a solution,the 4MC chassis,which is just like a regular motorcycle,just as narrow but has four wheels.Put this chassis under a enclosed body and you have it all,it stands up by itself,handles like a regular motorcycle but better,why?it has for wheels[more contact patch area] 2 extra brakes,it is difficult to get it to slide out.So I think we now have a chassis which truly will give you it all when you wrap a body around it.Now we need someone who see's the incredible potential of the 4MC concept and build us the ultimate ride and what a ride it will be,depending on engines,fuel,electric,you could see from 100mpg -200 plus mpg usa 100Km per 1-2 liters of fuel,with the comfort of a full size sedan.

Thomas Lewis
22nd April, 2013 @ 06:28 am PDT
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