SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Anyone who’s ridden on a California freeway can sympathize with the occasional feeling like you’d be better off riding with a suit of armor, but it was a shop accident that inspired Daniel Kim’s new enclosed motorcycle design.
Kim, 33, started on his design eight years ago, after a car he was working on fell off the stands and nearly crushed him. Kim stuck his arm up as the chassis fell, and on contact the force pushed him and his creeper out from under the car.
“I thought, does the world need another SUV? No,” he told Businessweek. So he set out to build a safer motorcycle and started Lit Motors. Now he has developed a working prototype of a self-balancing motorcycle, which he hopes to bring to market in 2014. He says the goal is for it to remain upright when struck by a Ford F-150 truck traveling at 35 miles per hour. Lit’s bike uses two stabilizing gyroscopes, 40-pound disks 12 inches in diameter. They spin in opposite directions at up to 12,000 revolutions per minute to counter tipping forces, guided by seven sensors.
Lit’s plan also calls for the bike, the C-1, to be enclosed, with steel-reinforced doors, seat belts, and an airbag. “Danny describes it as driving your helmet,” quipped angel investor Dick James. The result is a two-wheeler that looks like a cross between a Smarte car and a luxury suitcase.
Lit has raised about $1 million from investors and is looking for an additional $5 million to $10 million.
Kim hopes to start selling the motorcycle for as little as $24,000 — less with tax rebates — and says he is in talks with four manufacturers to license the balancing technology for use in cars and trucks.
Posted by Holly Wagner