SAN FRANCISCO: Zipping around on a motorcycle can be fun, but being in a downpour or an accident on one is not. Driving a car is safer and more comfortable, but traffic and parking can be annoying.
What if you got rid of the bad parts of both?
You might end up with something like the C-1 , an electric motorcycle that looks as if it came out of the movie “Tron.” For protection, the bike is encased in a metal shell, and it is controlled like a car, with a steering wheel and foot pedals. Two big gyroscopes under the floor are designed to keep it from tipping over, even when a car hits it from the side. The C-1 ‘s top speed is 120 miles an hour, and it can travel 200 miles on a full charge.
A small start-up called Lit Motors is developing the C-1 in a three-story warehouse here. Its 33-year-old chief executive , Daniel Kim, was tinkering with a biodiesel sport utility vehicle eight years ago when a 500-pound chassis nearly crushed him. The experience got him thinking about cutting out the bulk.
“Most people drive alone,” Mr. Kim said in an interview. “Why not cut the car in half ? I was really into bicycles at that time and I thought, Why can’t we have the efficiency of a bicycle and motorcycle but all the amenities of a car?”
The C-1 ‘s secret weapons are the gyroscopes that allow it to balance itself. In a video, the company shows the bike remaining upright as a car yanks it from the side. Only one gyroscope is needed to maintain balance, but there are always two running; each gyroscope has redundant computer chips, controllers and sensors, so if any one of those fails, there are extras to back it up.
The bike is made up of 2,200 parts, or one-tenth the number in the average car, which should make it easier to mass-produce , Mr. Kim said. He plans to start manufacturing the motorcycle in the United States.
There are two main target markets for the vehicle, said Ryan James, chief marketing officer for Lit Motors: motorcyclists between 45 and 60 years old who are concerned about safety but don’t want to give up their two-wheeler and younger commuters who live
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