It has four wheels. It recharges like an electric vehicle. It can transport one person for 10 km (6.2 miles) on a single charge for an hour. It fits in a briefcase or a laptop bag. Does that make it the world’s tiniest electric car, the world’s coolest skateboard, the world’s most expensive furniture dolly or something else?
Cocoa Motors wants you to call it the “Walkcar” and is billing it as "the world’s smallest car." Based in Japan (where else?), the company announced the Walkcar a year ago, recently released a demonstration video and is now taking pre-orders. CEO Kuniaki Sato says he was attending engineering school in Tokyo when he came up with the idea for the Walkcar.
I thought, 'what if we could just carry our transportation in our bags, wouldn't that mean we'd always have our transportation with us to ride on?' and my friend asked me to make one, since I was doing my masters in engineering specifically on electric car motor control systems.
The “transportation” he came up with is made primarily of aluminum, weighs 2.8 kg (6 lb.) and measures 13 inches (33 cm) at its widest, making it the right size and weight to carry in a bag or under your arm. But why carry it when it’s designed to ride? The Walkcar is advertised to run for up to an hour at 10km/hr (6.2 mph) for a distance of 10 km (6.2 miles). However, under certain conditions the company claims it can go further (12 km) and faster (7.4 mph) … depending on how steep the hill is and how long you can stay on without falling down.
That’s where calling it a “car” also falls down. The Walkcar resembles a Segway in that it is steered by how the driver/rider leans. It’s less flashy (and hopefully less flammable) that the hoverboards that were so flash-in-the-pan (pun intended) popular just a year ago. There’s no trunk. Heck, there’s no glove box or cupholder either, unless you count your hand. And there’s no specs telling how much rider the Walkcar can carry and if carrying that large cup of coffee will flatten the tires or break an axle.
If you can get past all of that, there’s the price and availability. The pre-order price tag for one Walkcar is a steep $1280 (US) - up 50% from when it was first announced. While the guy in the video seemed to be cruising nicely down the sidewalk (which would be illegal in the U.S. for something called a ‘car’ – just saying), the Walkcar will not be available to the public until September 2017. It will come in two models – outdoor or indoor - something else for your dog to bark at when you’re not vacuuming.
Cool? Yes. Needed? Questionable. A good value? Not yet. Snob factor? High. Marty McFly might be impressed if you pulled up next to him on a Walkcar but definitely not jealous.