Cut the car in half!

This year we will meet a new type of electric “car” that cuts the regular car in half. It uses 1/20th of the energy (you read that right), will be much cheaper and it’s going to be fun!

During my daily commute, I often wonder at all those empty seats we drive around. Have you ever tried counting how many cars that pass you by during you daily commute have more hand one person in them? They are easy to count because on average less than one in 25 cars has a passenger.

022614_1839_Cutthecarin1It’s an incredible waste of energy, money, precious oil and other raw materials: the average person weighs just 75 kilos but moves around in a metal box that weights 20x as much! Did you know that driving your car uses about as much energy as your entire home? That’s right: dumping your car saves the same amount of energy as making your home completely energy neutral!

So I’ve often wondered: why don’t we cut the car in half? Fortunately I’m not the only one. We already had the beautiful but expensive Monotracer and now a brilliant young man has just begun to offer that option to the masses.

The many advantages of the motorcycle

If you want to improve the car, a good place to start is the motorcycle. A motorcycle is much more economic than the large four wheeled metal box that we call a car.

An average motorcycle weights around 225 kilo’s: it is at least five times lighter than a car. Furthermore its frontal area is about one third that of a car. Other advantages are that you can drive by traffic jams and can find parking spaces everywhere: in most cities you may simply park them on the curb. The biggest draw of a motorcycle might be the sheer fun. Leaning into turns at high speeds feels simply exhilarating!

The many advantages of the car

The biggest advantage the car offers over the motorcycle is protection. Protection from cold and rainy weather, but mostly protection from accidents. Even though I personally think motorcycle drivers are more careful in traffic than car drivers, chances that they get a lethal accident are 35 times higher. This easily makes driving a motorcycle one of the un-safest legal activities.

Another advantage of the car is aerodynamics. Even though a motorcycle has one third of the frontal area, its form is so un-aerodynamic that it stills needs more force than an average car to “plow through the air”.

The Lit Motors C-1: the best of both worlds!

The C-1 is a car for one person. Two if need be. So for a trip with the whole family you need an alternative. You could use your second car, hire a car, use a car sharing service or try out public transportation.

But for all those times when you drive with one or maybe two people the solution is as logical as it is simple: give the motorcycle a safe and aerodynamic enclosure.

That leaves just one tiny little problem: how do you keep this enclosed “car on two wheels” from keeling over? Litmotors has solved this problem by including two counter rotating gyroscopes. This also has the advantage that you stay upright if you get hit by a car or slip on a slippery piece of road.

The rest of this post explains why and how this new vehicle is so much more energy efficient and cost effective. And of course what this has to do with Spark City.

Only 1/20 the energy of a regular car

A regular car uses an internal combustion engine that throws away most energy as heat. Even very efficient cars like the VW Golf Blue Motion throw away more than 75%. An electric car is much more energy efficient. The electric motorcycle is more efficient still because it is so much lighter. But the real kicker is the enclosed electric motorcycle. Imagine what this would do for our energy use and CO2 exhaust!

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Vehicle type: Regular car Electric car E-motorcycle Enclosed e-motorcycle
Exemplified by: Golf Blue Motion Nissan Leaf Zero S ZF11.4 Lit Motors C-1
Energy use (kWh/km): 0,7 0,2 0,07 0,03


For the gasoline car we are used to liters per 100 km but the conversion to kWh per km is very simple: one liter of average gasoline equals about 10 kWh. So you take the number of liters per 100 km and divide by 10. (Liters times 10 because that is the number of kWh per liter. This should then be divided by 100 because that is the number of km that the gasoline use is given in.) An average energy efficient car like the VW Golf Blue Motion uses about 6,6 liter per 100 km. That translates to 0,66 kWh per km.

As you can see an electric car is more than three times as energy efficient. The reason is the electric motor that wastes less than 10% of its energy while the Golf Blue Motions wastes more than 75%.

The electric motorcycle is about three times as efficient as the electric car. That is because it weights five times less than a car. The aerodynamics are about the same: the motorcycle has a frontal area that is about three times smaller but a shape that is about three times less aerodynamic than the average car.

The enclosure of the electric motorcycle remedies the aerodynamic problem of the regular motorcycle and is actually more aerodynamic than a car because of its more elongated (more fish-like) shape. So even though the enclosure and safety measures make the C-1 heavier than a motorcycle (about 350 kg curb weight instead of 225 kg), it is still much more energy efficient.

The result is that the C-1 saves energy by more than a factor of twenty compared to the regular car.

If you really wanted to, you could make the C-1 about twice as aerodynamic still. And if you used carbon fiber and other lightweight components, following the lead of cars like the VLC and a Formula 1 car chassis, you could probably halve the weight. So there is still room for improvement by a factor of four or so and I would love to work together with the college and technical university that would take on this challenge!

Cheaper, much cheaper

If the Dutch are good at something, it is at finding a bargain. You can build your brand all you want, if Dutch customers find your competitor is slightly cheaper you will find they will switch brands in a heartbeat. This makes for a market that is very quick to respond to tax incentives and energy efficiency. It is the reason why at one point ¼ of all Priuses in Europe where sold in Holland, it is why Tesla has its European headquarters in Amsterdam and it is why last year half of the world production of Mitsubishi Outlanders was delivered to this tiny country. All this makes Holland an excellent testing ground and potential early adopter for vehicles like the C-1. Let’s start with what it would cost to drive the C-1 for five years or over its lifetime (leaving out interest, repairs and insurance that scale roughly proportionately).

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Situation in 2014 Regular car Electric car Enclosed e-motorcycle
Consumer price NL incl VAT € 25.000 € 35.000 € 21.000
Value loss first 5 jr 75% € 18.750 € 26.250 € 15.750
Taxes first 5 yr (lease drivers and SME’s) € 13.440 € 1.260 € 780
Energy cost first 5 yr (17.500km/yr) € 10.395 € 3.828 € 598
Total € 42.585 € 31.338 € 17.128
TCO per month first five years € 710 € 522 € 285
TCO per month over lifetime € 571 € 328 € 169


As we can see the enclosed e-motorcycle costs about one third of a regular car. But is this sustainable in the long run when government subsidies run out? For that we look at the predictions regarding battery costs and of manufacturers, based on our conversations, literature study and should cost analysis.

In the table below we see what the costs would be if taxes where completely comparable (based on list price) for regular and electric vehicles. If predictions about pricing come to pass the electric car will be only a few thousand euro’s more expensive than a regular car, which is easily compensated because of the lower energy costs. The enclosed e-motorcycle that will only cost €10.000 (estimate of Lit Motors and the author) will be much cheaper still, even though it no longer gets any extra tax break.

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Situation in 2020 Regular car Electric car Enclosed e-motorcycle
Consumer price NL incl. VAT € 25.000 € 28.000 € 10.000
Value loss first 5 jr 75% € 18.750 € 21.000 € 7.500
Taxes first 5 yr (lease drivers and SME’s) € 13.440 € 15.053 € 8.400
Energy cost first 5 yr (17.500km/yr) € 10.395 € 3.828 € 598
Total € 42.585 € 39.880 € 16.498
TCO per month first five years € 710 € 665 € 275
TCO per month over lifetime € 571 € 509 € 219


The fun factor

But will this car be “fun” you might ask? Well according to Top Gear (the notoriously conservative and fossil fuel minded car magazine) a comparable vehicle was “the most fun I ever had in a car, hand on my heart and that’s no joke” (see the video for yourself). Tilting into a corner in something that steers as a car and keeps you warm, dry and safe is simply an inspiring combination.

The fact that such a light vehicle reacts like a sports car also helps of course: 0-100 in under 6 seconds is slow for a racemotor but firmly into sportscar territory for a car. (And you can expect new models that will do 0-100 in under 3 seconds is my estimate.)

And what about range anxiety? Well, even with a super small battery a car like this will easily drive more than 300 km.

What’s not to like!

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The relevance for Spark City

But what does all this have to do with Spark City? Easy: if cars like this take off, energy consumption, CO2 production and electricity grids will be severely impacted for the best.

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