The LIT C1 bets the future of driving on a gyro-balanced two-wheeler
In a nondescript building on the grittier side of downtown San Francisco, the future of personal transportation is being born — at least according to this baby's Dr. Frankenstein, an affable 33-year-old named Daniel Kim. Sitting in the glare of a few spotlights is the LIT Motors C1, an enclosed two-wheeler that combines the flexibility and fuel efficiency of an electric motorcycle with the safety, comfort and storage space of a small automobile.
But there's a true innovation at work: the C1 has two powerful on-board gyroscopes generating 1,300 ft-lbs of torque that keep the two-wheeler upright even when struck by a larger vehicle. "It would take an elephant to knock this thing over," says Kim.
To prove the point, Kim has lashed the C1 to the bumper of his completely rebuilt Land Rover (a pet project of the Portland, Ore., native the preceded a degree at Rhode Island School of Design) and stepped on the gas. The C1 got slightly airborne, but never fell over.
"I think (LIT has) a chance of making it for two reasons," says Kim. "One, after traveling the world I saw that a huge percentage of motorists travel alone, and in the developing world most of them are on two wheels. And two, I don't have to hire anyone to design, because I do it all myself. I like to think I'm de-risking the company that way."
In fact, Kim's high-tech titanium glasses, ring and overcoat were all whimsical projects of this inveterate tinkerer who, like Steve Jobs, attended but then dropped out of Reed College before going on to RISD. "I should have graduated from Reed just so people would stop making that comparison," Kim says with a smile.
The C1 was born out of Kim's desire to become the next big deal in transportation, a moment that's still more than a year away. The dozen-staffer start-up company currently has one mock-up (a sleek white bubble sitting on massive tires) to show prospective customers and investors, and one raw but functioning prototype. LIT wants to raise $5 million to $10 million to develop its proprietary software and create a true beta version of the C1 that would then lead to a production run of 1,000 units in 2014. Kim says Silicon Valley venture capital firms and auto industry players have made overtures.
And he may try a new Kickstarter campaign.