Splitting Lanes Soon: Electric Cycle With Roof

A new motor vehicle is on the way for consumers envious of motorcycles zipping by them in traffic crawls but a little fearful of tipping over on a turn and a lot fearful of getting caught in a downpour. Plus, it will park where even Smart Cars dare not squeeze. Did we mention that it has a range of about 200 miles on an electric charge, which will cost about a buck, gets up to 60 mph in about six seconds and can get as high as 120 mph, for wherever that will get you (besides traffic court).

Lit Motors C-1, which “looks as if it came out of the movie ‘Tron,’” as Bruce X. Chen writes in the New York Times this morning, will cost $24,000 for the first run of 1,000 vehicles in 2014, but Chief Tinkerer and founder/president/CEO Daniel Kim hopes to have a sticker price of about $14,000 when mass production ramps up around 2016. 

The two primary targets, according to CMO Ryan James, are “motorcyclists between 45 and 60 years old who are concerned about safety but don’t want to give up their two-wheeler and younger commuters who live in urban or suburban areas where driving a car can be a bother or feel wasteful,” Chen reports. Its “secret weapons are the gyroscopes that allow it to balance itself, similar to the approach used in the Segway scooter.” 

Lux research analyst Kevin See is skeptical about the C-1, believing its niche is too tiny and price too high in a marketplace where there are  “plenty of more affordable vehicles … that perform well and already have a trusted brand,” according to Chen. But although he sees some challenges for Lit, Dan Sperling, a professor of civil engineering and environmental science and policy at the University of California, Davis, is a bit more optimistic about the product’s appeal to “people who want to do something to save the world.”

Indeed, that will be a major part of its pitch. 

“We aim to be the future of personal transportation,” Kim toldTechCrunch’s Peter Ha last month. “By taking our vehicles to the mass market quickly and internationally, we will ease traffic congestion, decrease fuel use, reduce CO2 emissions, create 2,000 to 10,000 green jobs, and allow people to get around quickly and efficiently.”

Despite the heavy shade of green, the prototype boasts all the amenities of standard vehicles such as air conditioning, power windows, airbags and compatibility with all things digital. In fact it’s being billed as “Your ‘Rolling Smart Phone.’” 

“You can program certain maneuvers or start the vehicle from your smartphone and then initiate said maneuver (like a u-turn) by tapping on the steering wheel,” writes Ha.

Wondering “what will they think of next?” or, at least “what will they think of at the same time?” Well, the C-1 was only one of seven finalists in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield grand finale at its Disrupt San Francisco conference last month, and it was not the winner. That distinction goes to YourMechanic, “a peer-to-peer car repair marketplace that enables mechanics to fix users’ cars at their home or office.”

Among the other losers was Expect Labs’ MindMeld app, which “analyzes your conversations in real time and pulls pertinent information so you’re always in the know.” (Man, I sure could use that right about this time every morning.) All of the presentations can be viewed here

Speaking about that TechCrunch competition, New York magazine this week is running a profile of one of the judges, new Yahoo CEO and newer mom Marissa Mayer. Lisa Miller delves into how Mayer cultivated her “geek queen” self-branding in the male-centric Silicon Valley as Google Employee No. 20 and the long-time “quality-control” maven for its home page. (She “famously tested 41 shades of blue” at one point, driving the chief designer bonkers). Mayer is, the subhed to the piece tells us, an “altogether contradictory icon of modern womanhood.” 

Can Mayer save Yahoo? Well, Miller shares a story about her momentarily forgetting that Yahoo even existed as a competitor when Google was itself abirthing in 1999 as an illustration of how far its brand recognition has fallen. In fact, Miller writes, “at this moment, Mayer’s personal brand is hotter than her employer’s.” The web version of the story carries the hed, “Can Marissa Mayer Really Have It All?” 

Get that geek-queen a Lit C-1 and she’ll certainly be further along on her way.

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