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."