It is no secret that personal transportation form factors are beginning to diverge and a new one caught our attention this week that is almost certain to carve itself a niche in this intensely interesting and competitive space. It's not as sexy as a Yikebike, Honda U3-X or Toyota Winglet, but it is easy to use, has a range of 12 miles (20 km), a top speed of 15 mph and a price under US$1000.
At 90 pounds, the Personal Rover is not exactly small, but it folds up so it can be rolled on castor wheels inside a building, and will easily fit inside a car boot to fulfill secondary transport duties. At first glance, the rather industrial design of the Personal Rover did not appeal to me, but when I did take a look, it's one of the most logically laid out bits of kit I can imagine.
The body of the Personal Rover tilts, so steering, with the tilt proportional to the turning circle, is easily mastered, and the balance offered by the two ski poles gives novices the confidence to take it off-road quite quickly after first stepping onto the machine.
The Personal Rover's 800 watt rear-wheel drive motor is controlled by a trigger on the right ski-pole - squeeze to go, release to brake, with directional change by body movement.
The biggest problem any form of personal transport faces is ease of use and the riding experience is easy to assimilate as it is very similar to slalom skiing. Given that there will be many different solutions to the personal transportation market, the Personal Rover unquestionably offers yet another viable alternative for the masses to consider.
One of the reasons the Personal Rover is cheap, is that it uses lead acid battery technology - older, less-energy-dense battery technology, that is much cheaper.
The positioning of the batteries in the Personal Rover means that the little extra weight the Personal Rover carries through its choice of batteries is least noticeable just a few inches off the ground. Indeed, the stability of the Personal Rover is greatly enhanced by this considerably weight being located at the low center of gravity, between the rider's ankles.
The pneumatic off-road wheels are just big enough to make light work of grass and gravel and mild off-road terrain, though it certainly won't go where a mountain bike can. The basic maths of the device are the appealing part. It has a range of 12 miles, can cover 15 miles in an hour, and takes three to four hours to charge.
My guess is that those basic specs will meet most secondary transportation needs, and when the introductory price of the machine is only US$800 (first 50 buyers), that makes for a very cost-effective solution.
Last but not least is the way the company has addressed the shortcomings of the Personal Rover. At 90 pounds (40 kg), the Personal Rover is bloody heavy, but thanks to an ingenious removable platform with castor wheels, when the Rover is folded and the plate attached, it can be rolled easily inside a building, and stands vertically for compact storage in a corner of your home or office.