Can this one-wheeled wonder change the way you commute to work?

Despite its obvious advantages — there’s less rubber on the road, there are fewer moving parts and both your hands are free for carrying the shopping — one-wheeled transport has had a patchy history.

From the impressive and futuristic “dynasphere” prototype of the 1930s to the circus unicycle, mono-wheeled transport has suffered a fatal design flaw: it’s difficult to steer.

Typically in a two-wheeled vehicle, one wheel provides the motor force while the other does the steering. In a mono-wheel or unicycle, the wheel has to do both jobs.

Now, thanks to more advanced, cheaper and smaller gyroscopes, all that is about to change.

Companies such as Ryno Motors in the United States and Airwheel in the UK are producing unicycles with internal stabilizers that will scoot a passenger along at 12mph.

Portable, cheap to run and fun to ride, Airwheel is now the supplier of the Chinese-made unicycles for the English postal service Whistl which is trialing a fleet for its mailmen in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

But it’s not just mailmen that are giving the futuristic transport the thumbs up. City commuters are now using them to get that final leg from the Tube station to home.

“They immediately put people in mind of the hoverboard in ‘Back to the Future,'” said Simon Parham, CEO of the London-based company. “In many ways, it feels like technology and science is headed in that direction; towards that mode of transport.”

The electric unicycle has an effective range of 28 miles, can recharge its batteries when it goes downhill and is rugged enough to gutter jump and even take off road.

“It really feels like you’re gliding on nothing,” said Parham, a former stuntman in James Bond films. “You could relate it to something like snowboarding or skiing but obviously you’re doing it on concrete and gliding around at your leisure rather than requiring mountains and snow.”

He said that he could see the efficacy of and market for the devices immediately and hadn’t even ridden one before he decided to become a distributor for the gadgets.

“We were aware that people might want them just for fun but we’ve been somewhat overwhelmed by how interested business commuters have been in using them to drive into the center of cities or to get to the train station.”

Some customers, he said, had found uses for the electric unicycle that his company had not even imagined.

“We got an email from a disabled user who had mobility problems who was now able to go on nature walks with her partner — they would hold hands and actually go quite some distance off-road with these which really opened up a new lease of life for her,” Parham said.

Already designers are looking at unicycles that can go further, faster and are even more lightweight and easier to ride.

“Compared with a Segway for example they’re already so lightweight,” he said, referring to the electric two-wheeled personal transporter. “I can’t imagine picking up a Segway, whereas with an Airwheel, you can scoot to your station, stick it on the overhead compartment, get to your destination, take it down and scoot to work.

“It’s a fun alternative means of transport and there’s a market for it.”

The company sells a twin-wheeled version, which is easier to learn to ride, and a smaller one-wheeled version that Parham says everyone has been able to negotiate after a sometimes shaky start.

Like a Segway, the driver must shift their weight forward to make the unicycle accelerate and lean backwards to slow down and brake.

But the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating and Airwheel say that “posties” — as mailmen are called in Britain — have taken to its ease of use and rugged go-anywhere design.

The chief executive officer of Whistl, Nick Wells, said in a statement that the postal company had a long track record of innovation.

“This radical new delivery device grabbed our attention,” Wells said. “Our teman have had fun getting to grips with the gadget and it’s gone down well with customers too.

“We are committed to ongoing efficiency and if the trial proves successful then the Airwheel will be adopted by Whistl posties across the United Kingdom.”

Concept car turns into a party pad for chill millennials

 

 

 

 

 

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The Deep Orange 5 is part car, part party venue. The concept vehicle has double-hinged doors that open out like nightclub doors, allowing easy access to seats that can be reversed, turning it from car into social space. It’s the creation of Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research, developed in partnership with General Motors, and was designed for young adults who the university says will “live in mega-cities in 2020.” It is, essentially, a car for millennials.

Paul Venhovens, who leads the Deep Orange program, said the concept vehicle was “about creating a better value proposition for young adults that have little money to spare, less interest in vehicle ownership than previous generations, yet need a personal mobility solution that aligns with their complex lifestyle.” In service of that “complex” lifestyle, the Deep Orange 5 can be turned into something of a lounge, with its four chairs flipped to face each other, and the door swung open to let the chill vibes in. The concept vehicle also features digital displays that let driver and passenger watch separate outputs and post messages, opening up the possibility of watching Netflix or posting Twitter updates while on the road.

THE CONCEPT WAS DEVELOPED BY STUDENTS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GENERAL MOTORS

Rather than adhering to a General Motors-mandated design, the millennial concept car design was developed by members of the much-maligned generational group themselves. Stewart Reed, the chair of California’s Art Center College of Design Transportation Design, said the CU-ICAR students had “really immersed themselves into the personas of youth living in urban settings while designing this vehicle.” The result is light, using a carbon fiber body to make getting around a city easier, and more ecologically considerate than most cars — the students projected that a final model would use a natural gas engine, and built space into the chassis to contain it.

Deep Orange 5 is — as the name suggests — the CU-ICAR’s fifth-generation concept car. Previous entries in the series were developed in partnership with other car manufacturers, including BMW and Mazda, while future entries are already in the works with companies such as Toyota. The Deep Orange 5 might not ever see active production, but General Motors might take some of its lessons on board — give it a few years and we might see groups of hypebeasts chilling on roadsides in their swag new millennial-mobiles.

ZBoard 2: The Most Advanced Electric Skateboard

Scroll to the bottom of the page for reviews of the ZBoard 2…

Lean Forward to Go. Lean Back to Stop.

After your first ride, you’ll realize that there is nothing else in the world quite like it! Even if you’ve never ridden a skateboard before, the ZBoard’s intuitive control will have you carving in no time with its weight-sensing foot pads. Speed control is completely variable – cruise at walking speed or race to its top speed of 20 miles per hour.

Leaning back kicks in regenerative braking, meaning you can safely descend hills while also recharging the battery.

ZBoard 2: Blue and Pearl Editions

This campaign is the result of customer feedback and dozens of hardware and software iterations.

The ZBoard 2 comes in two models: the Blue Edition (16 miles/charge, 16 lbs.) and Pearl Edition (24 miles/charge, 18 lbs.). With a range that is two, three, or even four times the range of other electric skateboards on the market, the ZBoard 2 will have you riding without any concern of running out of juice.

Brushless Motor, Natural Coasting

Our new 500W brushless motor is faster, more powerful, and more efficient than previous ZBoard motors. The brushless design allows for more natural coasting, allowing you to push the ZBoard when the battery expires or is turned off.

 

Grab and Go Anywhere: Lightweight and Splashproof

By using waterproof connectors the ZBoard can be ridden on wet surfaces without fear of damage to the electronics. Though the board mechanically can handle water exposure, we do not recommend riding in the rain due to potential rusting of components and loss of traction.

Featuring a lightweight 16 lb design and two integrated handles, ZBoard 2’s ergonomic design makes it easy to pick up, carry, and store. Speed up your commute, forget about parking, & enjoy running errands with the most portable electric vehicle on the market!


See and Be Seen

The ZBoard’s LED headlights and taillights are the brightest integrated lights of any personal electric vehicle. These hi-power LEDs have three modes – on, off and blinking – which the rider can choose depending on the situation.  You’ll turn heads as these LEDs make it easier for you to see the road and for the road to see you.

Battery Meter and Speed Charger

The ZBoard’s power button is surrounded by a multi-color LED ring that changes colors as the battery diminishes.

ZBoard 2’s charger recharges from 0-100% in approximately 90 minutes. It is 110v – 240v ready and will work in the US, Asia, Europe, Australia, and more.

 

About Us

Based in Northern California, our team is made up of electrical, mechanical, and manufacturing engineers who share a love for extreme sports. We introduced the original ZBoard in 2012 and have listened to the feedback from our riders all over the world.  We are incredibly excited to implement that feedback into the ZBoard 2. Funds from this project will go towards finalizing design, tooling, testing, and more. We are excited to have you as a customer and we can’t wait to get you riding theZBoard 2: The Most Advanced Electric Skateboard ever!

Feel free to reach out with any questions to [email protected]

The Onewheel self-balancing, single-wheeled skateboard comes to CES

The Onewheel self-balancing, single-wheeled skateboard comes to CES, we take it for a spin (video)

It’s hard not to do a double-take when first laying eyes on the Onewheel. After all, it is a single-wheeled skateboard that uses an electric motor, accelerometers, gyros and a microcontroller to give riders a smooth, self-balancing ride. The contraption’s creator, Kyle Doerksen, brought a prototype by the Engadget trailer here at CES, and we couldn’t resist putting it through its paces. Although the unit we played with was a pre-production model that still needs refining, you can color us very impressed.

If the sight of a metal frame, wooden deck and a chunky go-kart wheel didn’t convey a sense of great build quality, laying hands on (and picking up) the 25-pound package drives home its heavy-duty nature. When it comes to speed, the deck can go as fast as 12 MPH, but Doerksen tells us its acceleration is software-limited to allow for better self-balancing (and maybe even to protect users from overdoing it). As for range, Onewheel can go from four to six miles on a single charge thanks to a lithium battery, and it can be juiced up in two hours — or 20 minutes with an “ultra” charger. What’s more, the gadget sports regenerative braking to recoup roughly 30 percent of expended energy. Unfortunately, the device only has about 20 minutes worth of ride time in its battery, though that changes with terrain and personal driving style.

Riding the board for the first time feels a lot like learning how to use a bicycle. The first few tries weren’t much more than attempting to maintain balance while stationary, but I managed to stay planted and mobile much longer with each try. It might sound strange to have trouble keeping your balance on a self-balancing skateboard, but the board’s chops truly shine once you get going. Tilt forward or backward ever so slightly (while holding down a silver button with your foot) to start moving in one direction, and lean even further to pick up speed. Turning is also a matter of throwing a bit of weight in the direction you wish to go. The hefty tire gives the board a smooth ride — which Doerksen likens more to snowboarding than skateboarding — even making for a fluid cruise on cracked and uneven asphalt.

Aptera 2e three-wheeler deemed a car by the DoE, eligible for funding

For a time, it looked Aptera might be missing out on the US Department of Energy’s funding bonanza for energy-efficient vehicles due to its car’s three-wheeled nature, but it looks like President Obama has now had the final say on the matter, and signed legislation that makes both two-wheeled and three-wheeled vehicles eligible for the same funding as their four-wheeled counterparts. Of course, that doesn’t yet mean that Aptera will actually receive any funding, and the legislation doesn’t have anything to do with safety regulations, where the 2e is still classified as a motorcycle by the Department of Transportation. For its part, however, Aptera says that it’ll be filing another application to meet the updated requirements, and it still insists that it’ll hit “volume production” of the car sometime in 2010, and get it on the road for between $25,000 and $40,000.

Antistatic E-3POD concept wins Citroen design award, job for its student creator

Who says dreaming doesn’t pay? A young designer by the name of Heikki Juvonen recently won himself a six-month job placement at Citroen’s PSA Design Centre in Paris after producing the most compelling response to the company’s Double Challenge set to students at London’s Royal College of Art. The premise was simple — put together an aesthetic for an ultra-compact urban vehicle that Citroen could call its own, and judging by the imagery above, we can all probably agree that Heikki achieved a very distinctive look with his E-3POD. We’re not yet certain how we feel about being inside the largest of the three wheels for the duration of our electrically powered journeys, but the young gent has half a year on his hands to tweak and refine his eye-catching design. We’ll be ready to test-drive the prototype as soon as Citroen becomes mad enough to build one.

Ryno Motors self-balancing, single-wheeled scooter test ride

We’ve had the opportunity to ride some crazy contraptions over the years here at Engadget, like the skateboard-cum-tank Shredder and the self-balancing two-seater from GM called the EN-V. Today we carry on that tradition with another thing that can keep itself — and its occupant — perched upright. It’s called the Ryno, an all-electric single-wheeled scooter that looks like something Judge Dredd would throw a leg over before bringing justice to some nefarious evil-doers. It’s the pet product of mechanical engineer Chris Hoffmann and, after five years of tinkering and development, it could be finally making its way into peoples’ garages by next year. Join us for a wobbly first ride.

The first rendition of the Ryno was a simple thing with no steering and primitive balancing. It could go straight — barely — and not much else. Too hard to ride, it was replaced with the version you see above, a newer test mule offering an interesting handlebar arrangement that works to help shift the weight of the rider. With only one wheel on the ground obviously you can’t turn on a dime, but when pressing on the left bar the thing pivots and turns right — a little disorienting for a motorcycle rider used to counter-steering, but intuitive enough after a few moments.

On the right there’s a thumb-throttle and a brake lever, but riding this is more about feel than manual controls. Like a Segway it balances on its own, but with only a single wheel down there it’s up to you to keep it from falling to the left or right. Come to a stop and you need to put at least one foot down, but even at low speeds it’s reasonably well balanced. We never quite toppled over, but that’s thanks at least in part to Chris running behind us the whole time — just in case something went wrong.

He was able to keep up thanks to an unintimidating top speed of 15MPH in this version, which we never quite achieved. At first carving feels uncertain — we found ourselves over-correcting with the mechanical shifting of the body, but were quickly motoring around on a busy side-street and dodging traffic. Still, making tight turns can be a bit of a challenge thanks in part to the gigantic 250 width tire that’d look comical on many cruisers, but the Ryno is light enough (125 pounds) for you to simply stop and pivot should you need. That weight also means transporting a Ryno should be a reasonably simple affair, either in the back of a truck or even on oversized bike racks that will mount to a tow hitch.

Our test ride was unfortunately cut short thanks to aging, tired batteries that petered out just as we were getting the hang of things, but our time in the saddle left us smiling. It also left any passers-by staring. This is definitely a curious looking thing and everybody wants to stop and take a picture of it. This perhaps helps to drive part of its curious appeal, though designer Chris points out a few practical advantages to this over a Segway.

The primary application right now is security guards and the like, hired guns who spend long hours patrolling areas again and again. In many cases cars are too big and, while a Segway works, standing on one of those for a full shift isn’t exactly easy on the ‘ol feet, especially if you’re working injured. On the Ryno you are at least sitting down, and its tiny size means you can easily maneuver through the middle of crowds — making sure those dastardly Angel Gang perps don’t get away.

But there is a consumer version planned that might sell for as little as $4,000. This third edition will have more power, up to 18 miles in range and a removable battery that can be easily charged and swapped in. It’ll also feature a disk brake (the current model relies purely on regenerative braking), enabling higher top speeds and, in theory, more insanity.

Will it capture the hearts and wallets of thrill-seekers? We’ll wait for a longer test ride of a production model before we make any pronouncements there, but Chris already has five people lined up to pay a whopping $25,000 for hand-built machines. That’s certainly an encouraging sign for a production model that’ll cost just one fifth of that.

Focus Design’s SBU self-balancing unicycle

And here you were thinking Focus Design had thrown in the towel after producing just one self-balancing unicycle. Silly you, huh? Nearly two years to the day after the aforesaid company cranked out the goofiest transporter since the Segway, along comes the SBU v2.0 to rekindle our hope in humanity. According to the outfit, this newfangled edition is sleeker, safer and more powerful, and better still, it should be “much easier to learn.” Focus is also tossing out a somewhat ambiguous guarantee, noting that it’ll most certainly be “an instant crowd-pleaser.” The newly designed motor packs 1,000 watts of power (compared to 350 watts on v1.0), and the more powerful battery will keep you cruising on Ventura Boulevard for at least a few more minutes than before. Control freaks will appreciate the addition of three gyro sensors (to monitor pitch, roll and yaw), lowered foot pegs and a regenerative braking system. This marvel of modern engineering is expected to start shipping next month, with just $1,499 and a willingness to try something your mother wouldn’t recommend standing between you and… well, something that your mother would never recommend. Vid’s after the break.

Copenhagen Wheel turns any bike into an electric hybrid

We can’t fault you for dismissing the Copenhagen Wheel as vaporware — it’s been nearly four years since the pedal-assist bicycle accessory made its debut at the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference. But, we finally have pricing and availability to share, and if all goes to plan, the MIT-backed project could make its way to your doorstep in Q1 2014. Superpedestrian, a Boston-based start-up, is making the Copenhagen Wheel available for pre-orders beginning today. The $699 device snaps onto a standard 26-inch bicycle wheel, converting your ordinary bike into a powerful hybrid electric version that can cruise along at 20 miles per hour.

The Wheel, which sports a range of 30 miles, is powered by a 48-volt rechargeable battery. It’s designed as an entirely self-contained unit — instead of adjusting your speed using a throttle or button, you’ll simply pedal faster, just as you would while riding a lesser-equipped bike. The device will compensate with additional power whenever needed, and it locks when you walk away, providing a bit of additional security (though with a $699 sticker price, you’ll probably want to yank the removable battery, too). It can also communicate with the Superpedestrian mobile app, which tracks distance and calories burned. If you have the cash to spare, cruise on down to the pre-order link just below.