Machine Design

World’s smallest electric vehicle could be a powered unicycle


The Solowheel, an electric unicycle, can carry a rider at up to 10 mph, for up to 20 miles on a single charge of the battery. The 26-lb device handles riders weighing up to 250 lb, letting them stand on a pair of floorboards that jut out from the wheel covering. There is no seat. But riders can squeeze against a central pad. Starting and stopping takes place by leaning forward or back, respectively, much like the two-wheeled Segway.

The vehicle is powered by a 1-kW motor supplied with electricity from a lithium-ion battery. Like other electric vehicles, the Solowheel uses regenerative braking, which recharges the battery when the driver slows it down or the unicycle is traveling downhill. The battery can be totally recharged in 2 hr and is good for about 1,000 charging cycles.

The vehicle is said to be safe on surfaces such as streets and sidewalks, as well as on rough pavement. But riders are warned to avoid slippery, wet surfaces and steep slopes.

Solowheel is sold by Inventist LLC, Camas, Wash., for about $1,800 and was invented by Shane Chen, the man who also came up with the AquaSkipper, a human-powered hydrofoil.

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.

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