Though the name Inventist may not be a household name, readers may be familiar with some of its inventions. Shane Chen's design house is responsible for an electric unicycle known as the Solowheel from 2011 and the much copied Hovertrax "hoverboard" from 2013. Now the team has hit Kickstarter with a new smaller and lighter version of the Solowheel called the Iota, which despite its moniker sports two wheels instead of one.
With the Iota, the Solowheel is "solo" in name only, as it now has two wheels, both reduced from bicycle wheel size down to about the same diameter as the Hovertrax at 8 inches. The design is said to have been born from detailed examination of different standing positions and wheel arrangements, resulting in a ride that's promised easier to pick up than the Hovertrax, while offering more versatility.
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Currently at the prototype phase of development, the production version is expected to have an 8 mile (12.8 km) range per 40 minute charge of its 100 Wh Li-ion battery. As with the original Solowheel, riders lean forward to move off and accelerate – though there's no mention of the kind of top speeds on offer from its 1,000 W electric motor – and pull back to stop or reverse.
Turning is also achieved by leaning, though there will be a turning assist mechanism to help with maneuverability and self-balancing technology to keep riders on the up. The Inventist team is working on a suspension system prior to launch which should help smooth out the inevitable bumps in the road more than the inflatable tires on the Iota can do by themselves.
We tried out the original Solowheel for a few weeks back in 2013 and found it pretty tough, and even quite painful, to master. We eventually found our balance sweet spot for zipping along in a straight line at up to 12 mph, but turning took a lot more practice.
Like the original, the Iota's rider platforms fold up for storage and transport ease, and the new last mile personal transport solution will also have an integrated carry handle. It's expected to tip the scales at around 8 lb (3.6 kg) and be able to carry a rider weighing up to 250 lb (133.4 kg), and it measures 7 inches wide with the foot rests up.
As with its more powerful Xtreme flavor of the Solowheel, Inventist also intends to cook in Bluetooth wireless tech to cater for pairing with mobile devices running a companion app (which will likely display such things as remaining battery charge and speed).
As of writing, the project is reported to be at the final stages of testing and fine-tuning. To drum up interest and help fund production, Inventist has taken the Solowheel Iota to Kickstarter. The company is aiming for a suggested retail price of US$600, but pledges start at $395 for an estimated September delivery, if all goes to plan.
You can watch Chen introduce the Iota in the pitch video below.