Saturday, February 21, 2015

Airwheel of the future - here - today



Airwheel is automatically balanced wheel, like the Segway. Difference is that Airwheel is unicycle and the whole device is practically only wheel with motor, foot rests, batteries, and a little bit of electronics. The whole package is a minimalist's dream.



When I saw videos of Airwheel the first time, I was sold immediately. This will revolutionize the least my commute.

The invention has been done a couple of years ago, by an American company Solowheel. Solowheel sells its own unicycle for over 1000e price so it is no wonder that it did not change the world. Now, however, there has become a Chinese competitor Airwheel that has halved the price of the vehicle, widening
potential customer base for a considerable amount.

Airwheel is a unicycle which means that more balancing skills are needed than with a bicycle
For the "adults" that have learned how to ride a bike in childhood the biggest problem will be the humble oneself and to understand that learning the ride a bike was not hard because you were a child but because it is not easy to ride a bike. Learning to ride a unicycle might be a little bit harder and I don't think it will be for everyone. On the other hand how few people will never learn to ride a bike? I kitesurf so I knew finding the right balance will only be a matter of time and bruises. My riding is not yet anywhere as fluent as the riding that can be found in these my favorite Youtube videos. 
 




The maximum speed is 18 km/h but if you go faster than 12km/h it will give you a warning beeps so that 12km/h will be your normal driving speed. Still it is more than double the walking speed. This will change the "geography" of cities when all
exchanges between buses can be done with this or even you don't need a bus at all. 

However, there are also faster unicycles. This has a top speed of approx. 30 km / h, but falling in those speeds is really quite dangerous. Difference between the bicycles and unicycles in collisions is the unicycle rider will take the hit harder ie self-preservation instinct will make the unicyclist (hopefully) to drive more carefully.



Airwheel weights approx. 10kg so very long distances it cannot be carried even on online videos it seems so light when carried by girls (but for short distances). The motor is 90% of the whole weight so even the progress of battery technology won't bring the weight down.
Www.wheelgo.com : Component weights

However, there are already users self-made "carrying handles" so Airwheel can be pulled or pushed from behind in front like suitcases. The development is just beginning.

My Airwheel has a 170Wh  battery (should have. There was an error in delivery and I now have 130Wh model and waiting for a replacement) which should reach approx. 23 km of distance. When a cruising speed of 12 km / h, so that means two-hour running time and 90W of consumption (estimate). When the electric car takes approx. 23kW then this with it's 90W energy consumption is probably the most energy-efficient motorized vehicle.

That 23km coverage is possible on flat hard surface, warm conditions and light driver. I can get about 4,5km with 130Wh battery in cold +-0C conditions and soft surfaces. In this video, however, Airwheel has a range of 19 km obtained under optimal conditions and it's with an adult driver's weight:





The battery pack is not replaceable ie. replacement batteries are not for sale but hopefully the batteries can be changed later using a screwdriver. The batteries should last 1,800 cycles so with  a daily use the dilemma will arise only after five years. In kilometers that makes 40 000 km.

Of course, this has not yet been approved for road use in Finland. Finnish lawmakers with these matters are so fast-moving and safety conscious that even a Segway is not legal here. Be noted here that, for example, in Barcelona and Berlin there are Segway tours around the city for turists ie. a small training first and then they drive in queue in normal city traffic. And meanwhile Finland, even the police are not allowed to drive their own Segways in public roads because it is illegal ...


Luckily there should be a change of laws at January 2016 that would allow more diverse means of transportation. At end of year 2014the law changed also so that your bike no longer needs to have fixed lamp. Apparently, the law does not specifically require that the "bike" has to have two wheels, but the handlebars should be. Last year the police decided to stop a school boy because he was driving an unicycle:

     "According to the police, unicycles should have the brakes and handlebars, as well as the lamp."

In England TNT couriers have a pilot project of using the Airwheel in delivery:

Posties trial delivery by electric unicycle


Here's me driving in Hanko Tulliniemi in Finnish "hard winter" :) Driving in forests is a good practice because the road is not flat easy surface and you have to go around obstacles like rocks and trees.




Let's hope that Finland will soon adapt new legislation in order to remain competitive modern society.

Edit:
The maximun range so far 10km. I pumped my tire to 35PSI and air was +6C. I'm quite sure a can get at least 15km with hard surface, +20C temperatures and 170kWh battery. The >20km maximum ranges were driven in 8km/h speeds. I don't see a point of trying more range by slowing doing.


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