John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Hungary's MOVEO scooter looks like something baggage handlers might lose at the airport.
Finally, somebody made a scooter for the die-hard Transformers fans.
That is, for 12-year-old boys. Yet regular commuters who value lightweight, ecofriendly forms of transportation that are not bicycles might appreciate the MOVEO, too. Conceived by Antro Group, a Hungarian nonprofit that designs alternative vehicles, the sleek scooter folds up into what looks like a hard-shell suitcase; riders can carry the personal-transportation device/adult toy onto the bus, lug it up to their third-floor apartments or let baggage handlers misroute it on cross-country flights, just like a real piece of luggage.
The MOVEO is as of yet just a promising prototype. It has a lightweight build (55 pounds) due to a carbon-fiber body, electric motors in the wheels that propel it through the city at nearly 30 mph and a battery that lasts for about 22 miles before the rider needs to charge it again (perhaps using the pedal generators). But the company anticipates soon putting consumer models on the road, where they could compete with Portland's BOXX scooter for the iPhone generation's ultimate designer ride. Reports Gizmag:
There are two scenarios for initial production of the scooter, which is hoped to begin at the start of next year at a plant in West Hungary. If sufficient funds are available, mass production will ensue, with 15,000 MOVEOs being produced annually. Should less money be forthcoming, a medium-scale production run of 4,000 scooters a year will be more likely.
"In the first case, the end user net price of MOVEO would be US$3,100, in the second case this net price would be $4,600," said Tamás Slezák, CEO of the MOVEO company, which was established to develop the scooter. "Most probably we will begin with medium scale production and after about a year ramp up for the bigger scale production."
While the MOVEO is a treat for people who hate finding parking spaces – or worse, finding a space but then having a careless driver knock over your scooter – its success probably hinges on whether or not the company can perfect that folding mechanism. Look at this footage of a 2011 product demonstration, beginning at 5:00. It takes the rider two full minutes to unravel the thing, a process that goes something like this: unfold the front wheel, click it into place, look confused for a minute, undo the back wheel, sit athwart the vehicle and raise the handlebars, fiddle with the front frame, take the seat component that you've been wearing over your shoulders like a backpack and mount it on the frame, have somebody help raise the front-wheel fairing, start the scooter and ride off to applause:
YouTube commenters have pointed out a couple other possible market vulnerabilities, such as perceived "safety hazards" that could injure fingers during folding and the lack of a wonderful-sounding button that, when pressed, automatically assembles the moped. Carps one viewer: "it is alredy [sic] 2013 guys."
Some more images of the MOVEO in its natural habitat of yachts and comely models:
Images courtesy of Antro Group.