Aiming to reconceptualize the minibike, the team at Lit Motors has developed kubo, a new electric scooter with enough room to carry your cargo.
With a goal to raise $300,000 the company turned to Kickstarter for the funds to purchase tooling and an expanded production space. Although the campaign was unsuccessful, Lit Motors plans to move forward with a solid team including a production advisor with 25 years of experience at BMW and the Rover Group.
The project leader is Lit Motors' Founder Danny Kim, but the project has included several designers and engineers over the past few years.
“The original concept for kubo was a school project by Elliot Ortiz,” explains Ryan James, chief marketing officer. “The aim was to design something that would make carrying cargo easy and safe.”
The most innovative aspect of the design is the cargo area, as a cargo-specific electric scooter has never existed before. “You can think of the scooter as a pickup truck on two wheels,” adds James. “You put your cargo in, secure it as needed using the various attachment points, and you're good to go.”
Although the engineering behind the scooter was relatively simple, the design process posed its own set of challenges. “Kubo's iconic design is an exercise in dichotomies,” says James. “Unique but familiar, modern but retro, utilitarian but beautiful. Addressing such dichotomies is necessary, but much care must be taken to create a unified, cohesive design.”
- A top speed of 45 mph, up to 50 miles per charge.
- A 3 kW high-torque rear hub motor with regenerative braking, front disc brake.
- An on-board charger.
- 22″ square cargo area with rails, hooks, and loops.
- A weight capacity of 300 lbs.
- An adjustable seat height to accommodate riders from 5’ to 6’5″
- A small lockable stow compartment and under-seat storage.
- An integrated digital speedometer, odometer, and voltmeter.
- LED headlight and tail light.
The team used a variety of CAD programs through the prototyping process, but primarily relied on physical models that they could build and test drive. “That's the only way to really know how a vehicle will handle,” explains James.
The first prototype was made with Vespa parts and a couple of BMX bikes, with a body hand-carved from pink foam. Subsequent prototypes were made with waterjet-cut aluminum frame pieces and 3D-printed body panels.
The company’s ultimate goal is to reach mass production and to offer the kubo at a competitive price point in emerging markets like India, China, and South East Asia.
“Most transport in those markets already takes place on two wheels,” says James. “Kubo will bring a tremendous increase in safety by providing a vehicle purpose-built for carrying cargo.”
They also plan to pursue fleet sales for delivery companies and campuses, encouraging a switch to a system that they believe will be quicker and more efficient.
“[Lit Motors] is a big fan of electric and alternative vehicles in general, and there are a lot of really interesting concepts being developed right now. We're excited to see electric vehicles (EVs) start to reach a critical mass in the market. We're a bit nervous about public perception and adoption of EVs, but signs are pointing in good directions for that.”
After some minor engineering and design modifications, the kubo will be ready for production in spring 2014.