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Lit Motors Builds a Car that Breaks the Rules

In a large garage in San Francisco’s SOMA District, a company called Lit Motors is building a car unlike any other.

The company’s C-1 is half the size of a Smartcar and designed for a driver with one passenger in the back seat. But despite its small size, the vehicle is capable of driving in all weather, with gyroscopically stabilized wheel technology that prevents it from tipping over. The C-1 is fully electric, and can drive up to 200 miles on a single charge.

In fact, the C-1 isn’t really a car at all: It’s officially classified as a motorcycle, but CEO Daniel Kim says that the vehicle resists classification.

“It’s disrupting the automotive space,” says Kim.

According to Kim, it’s a concept whose time has come. Today’s youths are less interested in buying cars than they are in buying iPhones and other gadgets: Car ownership among people between ages 18 and 34 is down by 30 percent in the last five years.

“Younger people don’t look forward to buying a car,” says Kim. “The cost of ownership of a car is really expensive, so a lot of people are veering away from owning a vehicle, and moving towards ridesharing services and public transportation.”

While motorcycle and scooter sales are up, “that’s limited because a lot of people have safety concerns about these types of vehicles,” says Kim.

Lit Motors’ C-1 bridges the gap between a car and a motorcycle, providing the safety of a car without the high ongoing costs of ownership. Because the vehicle is electric, commuting costs are negligible: “You can get to work and back for less than 50 cents a day,” says Kim.

As for the vehicle’s purchase cost, the ticket price is estimated to be close to $20,000 for early adopters, but that cost will go down significantly–to around $16,000–once the product gains sufficient market share to enable bulk manufacturing. The C-1 is slated for initial release in May 2014, and more than 250 people have already put down a deposit to buy one as soon as it’s available.
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