A Motorcycle Car That Makes Commuting Easier

Daniel Kim was trying to build a drivable truck from scratch. While lying on his back one day in the shop, the 500-pound chassis hung above him. It started to teeter, then fell, barely missing Kim’s face. His life spared, Kim had his “aha” moment. Just over three-quarters of commuters drive alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, so why are cars so big and bulky?

Kim’s idea was to cut the traditional car in half, the concept behind the fully electric vehicle dubbed the C-1 that his San Francisco-based company Lit Motors is developing for the next decade. It resembles a motorcycle but with with an exterior around a single driver, with space for an occasional passenger. Two wheels keep the vehicle agile, and two gyroscopes keep it upright, even in an accident. Top speed? Over 100 miles per hour. And the most stunning part is the price. Kim believes that at full scale, Lit can sell the C-1 for $12,500 in developing countries like India and China, slightly more in the U.S.

Other companies have picked up similar goals to steer the future. Myers Motors in Tallmadge, Ohio, has developed a three-wheel car for one person. Now engineers are working on a two-person model, essentially cutting out all the extra space you’d find in a traditional coup. People who commute fewer than 30 miles to work don’t need expansive trunk space, so the smaller frame is designed to make roads and parking lots less congested and more efficient.

Ryan James, Lit Motors' chief marketing officer, demonstrates the company's low-cost cargo scooter.

I visited Lit’s San Francisco offices just south of Market Street, an area teeming with new start-ups, to see some transportation ideas of the future. The C-1 isn’t all that Lit has cooking. A cargo scooter that can hold a 22-inch cube is Lit’s answer to needs in developing regions in Africa or the Middle East where people spend large amounts of time hauling this like water or food. “We even developed it to hold nine extra large pizzas and a few liters of soda,” Lit’s chief marketing officer Ryan James said. People all around the world could use it.

Sitting in the vehicles gives an idea of what commuting through a city or delivering pizzas might one day be like. “We’re trying to build a future transportation,” Kim told me. For now, the challenge is to raise more money and scale the technology for wider production. Whether or not you’ll soon see Lit’s vehicles on a road near you, Kim says that the company has already taken pre-orders for 500 C1s. They’re expected for delivery in just over a year.

Changing Planet