Welcome to the first edition of the Whee! List, a compilation of all the weird and wonderful transportation devices being devised by clever people around the world. There seems to be an endless variety of amazing, innovative devices to get us around these days, and I think everyone needs to know about them!
The vehicle that’s blowing my mind right now is the Solowheel, an electric unicycle you stand on that can fit in a handbag (a heavy-duty handbag, given its 24 lb. weight).
This would have to be the simplest form of powered transportation in existence; one person, one wheel, one motor. The rider stands a few inches taller than normal but takes up no more floor space as the device fits between his legs. According to the manufacturer, it can run on slopes and uneven surfaces, up to 16km/h, and has a range of 16 km. Recharging takes two hours from a regular wall outlet, and it will also recharge itself when braking or descending a slope.
It sure looks like a blast, but a more interesting topic is its potential practical applications. When and where would it be likely to be useful, or not? The most obvious answer is that it fills the role of a so-called “last mile” solution quite nicely. This is the name given to a device that helps people bridge the distance between a transportation hub and their final destination. For example, taking them from a subway station to the office, or zipping around a shopping mall. As such, the handle on top of the Solowheel may be its most significant design element!
As a powered vehicle, the Solowheel may be the premier device for its purpose, given that it can carry you anywhere that you can walk, except for stairs, where it can easily be carried. However, if you line it up against some unpowered options like rollerblades or skateboards, it gets a good run for its money. Reason being, the Solowheel is listed for a healthy $1800 despite being such a minimalist concept. Of course that price will buy you exclusivity, attention, effortless mobility, and probably a ton of fun once you get past the learning curve.
As I haven’t been able to try one, some questions remain unanswered such as whether it could handle riding on an escalator, or the eternal question for all vehicles; where can I race it! I also question its battery management and behaviour during extreme manoeuvers. Is there a reader out there who has one who can comment on these issues, or better yet – lend it to me!