Bikes, News

Lit Motors


The story of Lit Motors is best told as the story of its founder, Danny Kim. Danny grew up outside Portland, Oregon. A lifelong builder, his early Lego creations gave way to intricate musical instruments and rock-solid mountain bikes by high school. After a couple of years studying biology and physics at Reed College, Danny decided to take the Steve Jobs Career Path and dropped out. He spent the next year and a half working as a Land Rover mechanic, earning ASE certification to rebuild automatic transmissions. That job disappeared in the post-9/11 recession, so Danny took his savings and spent a year traveling the world solo, visiting 106 cities in 28 countries on 4 continents. This trip opened Danny’s eyes in many ways, including the observation that the rest of the world largely traveled the way Danny prefers to, on two wheels.


Upon returning to the US, Danny combined his love of off-road vehicles with his mechanic experience to embark on an unheard-of DIY project: creating “the perfect SUV”. Over the next year, he stripped two Land Rover Defenders to the frame, completely redesigning, re-engineering, and rebuilding the trucks to optimize their efficiency and off-road capabilities. Danny more than doubled the trucks’ efficiency from 15 to 32 mpg, with extensive custom work throughout. The project literally almost killed him; Danny was welding beneath a 500 lbs chassis when one of the stands failed, nearly crushing him. This near-death experience led Danny to reflect on why he was building such a large vehicle, when most people drive alone. He reached his “a-ha moment”: cut the car in half, balance it, and make the best vehicle for getting around the city. Thus the concept for the C-1 was born.


Danny pursued this concept at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), earning a degree in Industrial Design and Sustainable Transportation while working with teams of engineers from Olin, Brown, and MIT. After graduation, he relocated to San Francisco, California, and founded Lit Motors in February 2010. Over the past few years, we’ve hand-built five prototypes, including a fullscale driving prototype. We’ve presented at many conferences and trade shows, including VERGE DC, EG6, Fortune Brainstorm Green, Maker Faire, the TTXGP, TechCrunch Disrupt SF (and Startup Battlefield, 2nd place), SXSW Eco, GigaOm RoadMap, VERGE SF, Lean Startup Conference, and EG7. We’re on track to begin production of the C-1 by the end of 2014.



Currently code-named “C-1”, the vehicle is the future of transportation. It combines the romance and efficiency of a motorcycle with the safety and convenience of a car, creating the ultimate urban vehicle. Fully-enclosed and selfbalancing, it protects the driver and passenger from the elements and provides car-like safety with an intuitive, car-like interface. The rear area is large enough to accommodate a passenger, or about as much cargo as you can carry on a plane. The C-1 is considered a motorcycle, allowing the driver to split lanes and easily slip through traffic, cutting up to 50% off commute times. And once at their destination, the driver can park in the tiniest spaces—even motorcycle-specific parking.


The C-1 is 100% electric, with a top speed of 100+ mph and a range of up to 200 miles per charge. It uses high torque in-hub motors to accelerate from 0-60 mph in about six seconds. Charge times depend on voltage, from six hours on 110/120V to four hours on 220/240V to less than a half hour (to 80%) at a 400-500V quick charge station. The “secret sauce” of the C-1 is their patented gyroscopic stability system. Using a pair of flywheels spinning at 10,000+ rpm, the gyro system exerts 1300 ft-lbs of torque to control the tilt and lean of the vehicle. This allows the C-1 to lean itself into and out of turns, and is powerful enough to keep the C-1 upright even in a collision.

Check out the video and gallery below.