Then a person on an electric unicycle bounces past at 54km/h. Jumping off rocks and over cracks in the earth, a bright headlight points their way as they whizz past. They disappear as swiftly as they appeared, the slight noise of the electric motor quickly fading away.
Such a scenario would have seemed like science fiction less than five years ago, but it is now possible thanks to the InMotion V11. Billed as the first-ever electric unicycle with built-in adjustable suspension, it promises to open up vast swathes of new terrain to users of the growing, yet still undoubtedly futuristic, form of transport.
Novel forms of personal electric transport such as scooters, e-bikes, unicycles and other one-wheel devices are increasingly common sights in cities around the world, and are likely to play an even bigger part in future as local governments encourage people to ditch their cars and use more sustainable forms of transport. But could they also transform off-road travel?
Built by Californian firm InMotion USA, the V11 houses a nominal 2,200W motor and a 1,500Wh battery, offering a top speed of 50-54km/h and a maximum range of 120km. Like other electric unicycles, it is steered by the rider leaning their weight from side to side, and acceleration and braking are controlled by leaning forwards and backwards.
The device weighs 27kg and can climb slopes up to 35º. It has two charging slots, letting users cut charge time from 10 hours to five. The headlight shines at 7,800 lux – reportedly the brightest of any electric unicycle – and the brake light is responsive. The batteries are embedded in the motor for a low centre of gravity, and a three-way heat dissipation system uses convection, conduction and a fan to keep cool.
The real thing that sets it apart, however, is the suspension. “Built for professional riders, V11 has the world’s first built-in air-spring pedal suspension design, with up to 3.3 inches (8.4cm) of vertical travel to absorb any bumps or dips,” says the InMotion website. A three-inch wide 18-inch tyre also offers better grip than other unicycles, boosting its off-road credentials.
A promotional video shows the V11 living up to the hype, with a rider speeding through the dusty and uneven terrain of a desert in the southern US. The device appears to handle jumps with ease, either off craggy rocks or down small flights of stairs in the city. “It’s the smoothest experience you can have on unpaved ground,” claims the InMotion website.
A new way forward
If you are less than enthusiastic about the prospect of fleets of electric unicycles bouncing around your favourite walking spot, one thing might allay those fears – the price. The V11 is listed at $1,999, a significant investment for a vehicle without fancy mod-cons like a seat or protection from the elements.
With such a high price and ongoing concerns about the safe introduction of fast electric vehicles alongside pedestrians and other road traffic, the V11 is unlikely to become a common sight in the UK any time soon – either on- or off-road.
As we move towards ‘net zero’ and lower air pollution, however, bold new alternatives are needed to the standard transport model. Perhaps, as the V11 bounces off rocks and over obstacles, it can show a new way forward.
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