Lit Motors is changing the world by making sustainable transportation affordable. Their first vehicle is the C-1—a Batmobile-meets-the-Jetsons two-wheeled all-electric vehicle that won’t tip over. It’s an enclosed, single-passenger, gyroscope-powered pod that is perfect for city driving. It has a 200-mile-range machine capable of hitting 120 mph and zipping off from 0 to 60 mph in about 6 seconds.
It’s not a car, nor a cycle. It’s a C-1.
It has the romance and adrenaline rush of a motorcycle, and the practicality of an automobile.
How cool is that?
“There is a need for motorized transportation, which is currently fulfilled by gas-powered vehicles,” says Danny Kim, Founder/President/CEO of the San Francisco-based startup, “Electric vehicles have remained a niche market, because they are either limited in range or wildly expensive. Even the lower-cost models aren't cheap, often selling for $10K more than similar gas-powered versions.”
Lit Motors plans to change all of that. What they’ve done is created an automobile/cycle hybrid that strips away the unnecessary parts of a traditional car, slimming it down to what's needed for the core functionality of transportation. And, they’ve stayed away from the issue that keep people from bikes, scooters and motorcycles—with an enclose that keeps you away from the elements, and two computer-controlled gyroscopes that keep the vehicle constantly upright, whether it is stopped or in motion.
“Over 70% of car trips in the US are a solo driver and little/no cargo, so we're designing a vehicle for just that,” says Danny. Think of it, how often are your seats and trunk filled? Even when you don’t have passengers and cargo, you’re still pushing around a couple of tons of metal just to get you from point A to point B. It’s a waste of space and fuel.
The story of Lit Motors starts with founder, Danny Kim. A lifelong maker, Danny was uninspired by his studies in biology and physics at Reed College and dropped out to pursue other projects. You may have heard of another Reed dropout who had a similar motivation—Steve Jobs.
After leaving Reed, Danny began training as a Land Rover mechanic and traveling the world. In 2003, he began an ambitious project to completely redesign, re-engineer, and rebuild two Land Rover Defenders—a classic British SUV who’s sale has been banned in the U.S. since 1997. During this process, a 500 lbs chassis nearly crushed him while Danny was welding underneath it. This near-death experience caused him to reassess the project: why make a huge truck no one needs? Why not make a vehicle for everyday driving? Why not cut the car in half? This "a-ha" moment began a flurry of research and a degree in Industrial Design and Sustainable Transportation from RISD, and then the forming of Lit Motors in early 2010.
The company is run by a scrappy, innovative 15-member team with a DIY approach to business. From prototypes to market research clinics to capital improvement projects, if it needs to be done, the team will do it ourselves. If they don't know how to do something, they learn. They say this approach may be more difficult at times, but it leads to a much greater understanding of everything they do. And the results are amazing. They’ve just released their initial production run of the C-1 and are already about 3/4 sold out of the first 1,000 vehicles, scheduled for release in 2014. The initial price point is $24,000 (around $20,000 after tax credits).
The folks at Lit Motors are already thinking about other vehicles to produce beyond the C-1. They’re currently working on an electric cargo scooter--with room for packages. “We're still nailing down the exact specs and price, but what would you think of an electric scooter with a top speed of 50 mph, range of 50-70 miles per charge, cargo capacity of 100-200 lbs., and around $5,000?”
As we look around and see the success of the Mini Cooper, Fiat, and the electronic car and scooter industry, the idea of smaller, cheaper and more fuel-efficient vehicles is here to stay. And for the looks of things, so is Lit Motors.
For more on our love of the C-1, check out Nick Baber's article from a couple of months ago.
Lit Motor's Cargo Scooter Prototype