7 strange vehicles to get you from A to B
The rise of the internet and sites like Kickstarter has facilitated a spread of ideas like never before – some fun, some world-changing and a whole lot that can only be described as weird. The realm of transport is a particularly good place to see oddball creations in action, and while the seven presented here might not be the most effective in getting you where you need to go, they would certainly turn some heads along the way.
Why bother with regular old roller skates when you can effortlessly glide along on electric versions? Better yet, a pair that can folded flat so you can stow them away in a drawer when you get to the office? From the outside, the Blizwheel ESkates look like a set of dinner plates strapped to your ankles, but on the inside are some nifty mechanics, including a motorized wheel with solid rubber treads, a fold-out platform for your feet and another set of stability wheels to even it all out.
With a top speed of 15 mph (24 km/h) and a range of 15 miles (24 km) per charge, these electric roller skates can be controlled via a finger-worn device that triggers acceleration as the user bends the digit and deceleration when they straighten it out. At US$569 a pop, they fell short of their Kickstarter goal, but the success of rivals like the RocketSkates tells us we haven't seen the last of this kind of design.
A single, spinning ball
The more you reduce the amount of wheels on a scooter, the more balancing skill you ask of your rider. To offset this, creators have come up with various self-balancing mechanisms to prevent meetings with the pavement, but none quite like the handiwork of German electrical engineer Olaf Winkler.
His Üo scooter does away with wheels entirely in favor of a single rubber ball, which keeps the rider on the move thanks to a set of motorized omni wheels that send it spinning in the desired direction. Acceleration, braking and turns can initiated by leaning, and a small joystick on top of a telescoping stick can be used to pivot. Like the Blizwheel ESkates, the Üo failed to meet its funding goal on Kickstarter, although this approach is one we're not all that confident of seeing again.
Back in 2012, pro skateboarder Tony Hawk caused quite a stir by taking his then four-year-old, helmet-less daughter for a spin around his backyard bowl. It is unclear whether the team at Quinny drew inspiration from The Birdman's antics, but they probably weren't among his critics, having since launched a stroller that doubles as a skateboard to bring some extra adrenaline to your afternoon amble.
During its development, the team received its fair share of feedback from potential customers about the safety of the Longboardstroller. They responded with "multiple safety innovations," including a padded bumper bar and a handbrake. That might still not be enough for some, but those interested in giving it a whirl can order a Longboardstroller through Quinny's website for $745 (European customers only).
Scooters go tubular
Folding electric scooters have proven particularly fertile ground for innovative ideas, and the GoTube is certainly one of the smoother solutions we've come across. It can have you zipping across campus at up to 10 mph (16 km/h) one minute, and then strolling between classes with what looks like a tube of architectural blueprints the next.
With a range of 7.5 mi (12 km) and an ability to tackle inclines of 10 degrees, the GoTube obliterated its Kickstarter goal after launching in December 2016, although a cursory glance at the comments there suggests that there is quite a bit of discontent among backers. So buyer beware.
The so-called Bird of Prey bike takes a form typically limited to one-off rides for speed record attempts and tries to make it more appealing to the mainstream cyclist. Its creators bill a few advantages over the traditional upright cycling position, including better aerodynamics, better handling and even better safety.
"On a standard bicycle if you put on the brakes in a panic stop you will fly over the handle bars face first," Aldrige told us when it launched back in 2015. "In a panic stop on a Bird of Prey Bicycle it is impossible to go over the handle bars ... The rider's body mass is low, which is the reason it is impossible."
If you're convinced and these features are ticking your boxes, the Bird of Prey can be ordered through the website for the rather serious sum of $4,800.
Step onto this laptop-sized panel and glide away
The WalkCar from Japan's Cocoa Motors is basically a small platform that you stand on and shift your weight to start moving along, thanks to four tiny wheels underneath, an electric motor and battery. Each charge is claimed to provide an hour of use, and offers a top speed of 16 km (10 mph).
When announced in 2015, the WalkCar seemed like another audacious transport concept that would never see the commercial light of day. But in 2016 Cocoa Motors opened up preorders for the vehicle. As it stands, the preorder button is still the closest thing you'll find to a purchase option, but if you've got some patience and US$1,280 to spare, then you can take your place in the line.
A brush with danger?
Solowheel first arrived on the scene in 2011 with an electric unicycle that uses a self-balancing gyro system to keep riders upright. Fast-forward to 2018 and the company is turning to a decidedly low-tech solution for wonky first-timers, deploying large brushes on either side of the wheel exactly where you might find training wheels on a bicycle.
These vertical bristled matrices – ok, brushes – are intended to make hopping aboard a Solowheel less intimidating. Beyond adding to the vehicle's stability, the brushes also turn riders into inadvertent street sweepers, and any effort to clean up city sidewalks deserves a high-five from us. Currently on Kickstarter, Solowheel owners can add a stabilizing brush to their setup for an early pledge of US$69, with shipping slated for May 2018.