Thursday, May 14, 2015

Innovative Self-Balancing Electric Vehicles

There are some very novel electric vehicles being developed some of which are incorporating some creative innovations. Two examples of such innovative technologies are Toyota's i-Road and the Future Motion's Onewheel both of which use gyros to be self-balancing.

The Toyota i-Road is a cross between a car and a motorcycle. What makes this two seater vehicle truly innovative is the way it leans into corners.

The vehicle was on display at the September 2014 Paris Auto Show. This front wheel drive vehicle is powered by two 2-kW electric motors juice is supplied by 5.5-kWh lithium-ion battery that give it a range of about 30 miles. However it is steered with the rear wheels and has an articulated front end that allows it to lean. The vehicle maintains its balance with the help of gyro inputs that power a separate motor to which adjusts the amount of lean depending on the speed and the angle of the corner. The faster you go the more it leans and it has a super-tight turning radius of only 10 feet.

The best way to describe the "active lean performance" would be to compare it to a skier. Rather than a cushy suspension the I-Road has an articulating seat.

Another even more interesting self-balancing vehicle is the electric skateboard by Future Motion called Onewheel. This self-balancing electric board lets the rider feel as though they are gliding over fresh mountain powder or a glassy ocean wave. The simple appearance conceals some complex engineering including a gyro, accelerometer sensors and a computer processor to determine speed and steering. All of this engineering make it very easy to operate.

The wooden board is perched atop an aluminum wheel. Onewheel is powered by a 48V Lithium Ion battery takes as little as 20 minutes to charge and it can reach speeds of up to 12mph. It even uses regenerative breaking to conserve energy just like electric cars. However, the current generation can only operate for 20 minutes before it needs to be recharged.

Onewheel is currently raising funds through a Kickstarter campaign. It can be pre-ordered for a donation of $1,299 and the first units are scheduled to be shipped at the end of this summer.

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