Big cars for the big city?

The sale of vehicles classed as “light trucks” — pickup trucks, SUVs, minivans and crossover vehicles — began climbing dramatically in the United States during the 1980s. Light truck market share passed 50% in 2000, with sales of truck-like vehicles remaining the majority of auto sales in spite of a dip during the 2008 recession.

These vehicles take up 25% more space than an average car. Doubling the numbers of these larger vehicles over the past 30 years is equivalent to removing a full lane from an eight lane freeway.


Willow Road morning traffic

Larger vehicles take up all kinds of space. They need more room in the lane, more parking space, more garage space, and more maneuvering room. But these vehicles sell because we like them.

Like some of you, like me, and like many other young Americans, a younger Danny Kim loved big things with engines. He loved them so much he became an ASE certified Land Rover mechanic. As a side project, he took a pair of Land Rover Defender utility vehicles and stripped them to the frame to rebuild them into his perfect SUV.

While welding beneath the quarter-ton chassis of his perfect truck, Danny was nearly crushed to death when a stand failed and the truck frame fell to the ground. This accident led Danny to reflect on why he needed to build such a large vehicle when most people drive alone.

His solution: cut the car in half and balance it to create the perfect city vehicle, the Lit Motors C-1!

Lit Motors C1

This electrically powered, street-legal two wheeled vehicle comes in at under 10 feet long and 40 inches wide. It can carry two people and a small amount of cargo. You get a full charge within about six hours from a standard wall outlet.

But will it sell?

This might look like an enclosed electric motorcycle. This helps mitigate the problem of space, but to many people, “two wheels” sounds a lot like “danger.” Consumers are often motivated to buy larger vehicles because of their perceived safety benefits.

Kim wanted to solve the space problem, but his solution doesn’t help if nobody buys the smaller vehicle. Kim specifically designed the C-1 to address safety concerns in the larger automotive market. The C-1 is designed with a steel unibody chassis with reinforced doors, seat belts, and multiple airbags.

The really amazing feature of the C-1, however, is its gyroscopic stability system. This is the feature that allows a driver who knows nothing about countersteer and lean to control the C-1. Not only that, this gyroscope keeps the C-1 upright even when it’s slammed by a space-hogging truck. How cool is that?



The C-1 is not available for sale just yet, but late last year Lit Motors announced another cool project — the Kubo Electric Cargo Scooter. 45 MPH top speed, 50 mile range, onboard charger, to be available Real Soon Now for about $6,000 plus shipping.

Lit Motors Kubo Cargo Scooter

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This post was written as part of the Progressive Apron Project, helping tell the story of people and their initiatives making progress towards a greater good. I have been compensated as a contributor to this project, but the thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.

3 Comments

  • Andy
    August 13, 2014 - 8:39 am | Permalink

    I’ve been following the C1 for a while, but they are following the worrying trend of all other vehicles that turned out to be vaporware. I believe they originally claimed a 2013 launch, but from their more recent posts, they clearly have a few years to go still. Aptera was another favorite of mine that disappeared. Elio is another interesting one to watch, especially since their claimed price of <$9000 has remained constant, even though it seems very unfeasible to actually sell at that price. I'll be excited when one of these companies finally makes it off the internet and starts selling though.

  • Ralph
    August 16, 2014 - 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps one way to work on decreasing the vehicle sizes would involve greater taxation for larger vehicles, size, GVW, parking space sizes and increasing gas taxes. We need to convince people that they don’t need more than a Fiat 500 size for everyday use. Perhaps changing delivery truck hours in cities could do that by getting them off the road during commute hours. People in small cars would feel much safer when not dodging large trucks.

  • Anonymous
    August 21, 2014 - 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Have a Mazda 2 love my little car fits 4 easy with room for groceries came form a mini van I did not need as big but though I did because I was having a child. Plus was my first car decent price. Very happy with my switch and my total amount it take to fill my tank ^.^ good car for the 16000 spent.

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