Traffic congestion is the scourge of road transport – plaguing operators and motorists alike. But, with a unique single-person mobility concept form Hyundai, the future of transport might be relieved of this rotten egg.
Thanks to a few bad eggs, running substandard vehicles that are prone to breakdowns, there is a common misconception that trucks and buses are the culprits behind traffic congestion … However, truth be told, it is the thousands of people commuting (often alone) in their own vehicles that are clogging up the road networks.
But all is not lost, as the Hyundai Motor Company’s engineers have come up with some innovative and unique ideas for single-person mobility in an internal competition – dubbed the “IDEA festival” – in South Korea.
The event aims to encourage creativity and new thinking among those working in the company’s research and development centre – two qualities desperately needed to solve the congestion problems of cities globally.
Enter the E4U concept vehicle – standing for egg, evolution, electric and eco-friendly – one of the quirkiest, winning ideas presented at the festival. As the name suggests, it’s an electric egg-shaped vehicle – designed to be driven by one person, at low speeds, on narrow roads in urban areas (somewhat resembling an angry bird, from Angry Birds, a puzzle video game where you fling flightless birds towards green pigs that have stolen your eggs).
The pintsized mover weighs only 80 kg (including its 24 V battery), is 1 230 mm high and 920 mm wide and can travel at almost 25 km/h thanks to its 500 W electric motor. Its two rear legs, which stop the egg from toppling over and function like the tail rotor of a helicopter, can be folded in and its side parts can be detached – minimising the already small space required for parking.
According to Motoramic (the Yahoo! Auto blog) journalist Alex Lloyd, the steering appears to be controlled in a way somewhat akin to the Segway – with an abundance of tilting, pivoting and other unnatural behaviours required to induce motion.
A journalist at tech site Nikkei Tech-On, who witnessed a demonstration of the E4U at the Seoul Motor Show in Korea, states that, instead of tyres, the yellow “angry bird” uses a rotating semi-spherical part – like the lower half of a ball. “When the part is vertical to the ground with the apex of the semi-sphere touching the ground and rotating in a horizontal direction – a force is generated to spin the vehicle,” he notes.
Movement is obtained by tilting the half ball, which spins counter clockwise, with your feet, transferring the rotating force to the ground. Lloyd notes that this leads to a rather counterintuitive way of steering. “You move forward by putting weight on your left foot, backwards by transferring the weight to your right foot and left and right by tilting backwards and forwards respectively.”
Nikkei Tech-On mentions that the motor show driver stated: “Without some practice, it does not move in the desired direction.”
However, it isn’t only the steering of the E4U that’s on the quirky side … Its accessories look like something out of Star Wars as well (a bit poetic as Angry Birds’ Star Wars 2 will be launched next month).
Its helmet, resembling your regular bicycle variety, has a plastic screen draped over the driver’s face – presumably to prevent bug splatter – that, as Lloyd says, maximises the operator’s shame.
But, if these wingless birds do catch on, urban road users might be a lot calmer as they zoom through the hustle and bustle of life in their oversized eggs – making road congestion a thing of the past … .