We live in a skeptical world. When it comes to upstart green vehicle manufacturers, there is no end to the people who will line up to say "That's cool, but it just ain't going to happen." And for good reason: the shoulder of the road to viability is a parking lot of electric this and hybrid that. Remember Aptera? How about Coda? Oh yeah, where's my Zap! Alias?
It's not surprising then that on the heels of Lit Motor's recent modest funding announcement – $1 million from the eclectic likes of internet-gaming kings Zynga's Mark Pincus and Nexon's Kim Jung-Ju, along with angel investor Scott Belsky and legendary pro surfer Kelly Slater – the San Francisco start-up has received some doubtful digital ink from an unlikely source.
Writing for GigaOM, the well-respected Katie Fehrenbacher has penned a piece that points out potential problems Lit faces in getting its signature product, a car-like motorcycle called the C-1 that relies on gyroscopic magic to stay vertical, into the impatient hands of waiting customers. Her main contention is mostly about money.
Including this recent funding round, the company has raised $2 million and is still in the process of putting together its first fully-functioning prototype. Lit's recent Kubo cargo scooter Kickstarter campaign was less than successful (production of that vehicle is said to be going forward, despite the financial shortfall) and could be said to underline the difficulties the company could face in attracting money and interest for its main project. Using a benchmark of $100 million to get the venture producing vehicles, Fehrenbacher makes the case that success may not be a realistic outcome. She has a point and you can read more about it here.
For us, though, the biggest challenge isn't about the cash. If the C-1 prototype provides as awesome a driving experience as our imaginations have conjured, the necessary investment will come. A modestly-priced, super-efficient commuter vehicle with mind-bending dynamics and an attractive design will be a money magnet. The difficult bit, we believe, has more to do with the labyrinthine logistics involved with putting together an equipped factory, lining up dependable suppliers, and then orchestrating the symphony that is mass production. A lot can go wrong in that process, which could push the cost past a profitable price point or cause delays that try the patience of backers and buyers.
A modestly-priced, super-efficient commuter vehicle with mind-bending dynamics will be a money magnet.
We remain hopeful, however. The world needs innovative transportation solutions and if this self-balancing enclosed motorcycle works, it has the potential to change the face of traffic around the world. No, it won't completely erase the five-passenger vehicle, but it could keep a good many of them at home, reducing pollution and congestion in the process. While agreeing with Miss Fehrenbacher that the timeline is, perhaps, too tight, we think the concept should be strong enough to surmount financial obstacles. Basically, if the C-1 drives, the company thrives.