Saturday, March 11, 2006

This sure looks a lot more interesting than the Segway

Hot Wheel
Dan Lienert at Forbes says: We love reading about new products and designs from Bombardier, mostly because besides building things like airplanes and subway cars, the privately held, Quebec-based company also builds fun stuff like Rotax karts, Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles, Bombardier ATVs, Sea-Doo sport boats and Johnson and Evinrude outboard engines.

No wonder, then, that they have produced an exciting answer to the Segway Human Transporter. Like the Segway, Bombardier's Embrio concept--a prototype that may or may not make production--uses gyroscope technology to balance riders but adds a dash of flair absent in the Segway, which we as car nuts find slightly nerdy.

The Embrio concept also uses one less wheel than the Segway and will attract, Bombardier hopes, a younger demographic. The vehicle is designed as a guess at what transportation in the year 2025 might look like.

It is a fascinating idea because it combines the simplicity and alternative-fuel technology of forward-thinking commuting vehicles with the excitement of "recreational" products like ATVs. Indeed, the Embrio could attract people who drive a more fun sort of vehicle, what with its motorcycle-derived styling cues and, like an ATV, the fact that you have to lean in order to turn.

The Embrio is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, a technology that creates power by mixing hydrogen and oxygen, ideally resulting in water as the only exhaust. Carmakers are also developing this technology for automobiles, and General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people ) stands by its plan to sell hydrogen cars by 2010.

The Embrio also borrows several other advanced technologies from cars, like infrared night vision and an active suspension, which can vary its damping rates based on road conditions. Its riding position resembles that of a motorcycle, and it balances one or more passengers with a network of sensors and gyroscopes. To move the Embrio, you use an accelerator trigger on the left handlebar and a brake trigger on the right.

The vehicle is made of lightweight materials, like aluminum, magnesium and nylon. It weighs only 360 pounds.

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