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Innovations

Laptop-Sized People Mover Conquers Last Mile

A portable, automated people mover the size of a laptop developed by cocoa motors in Japan makes extensive use of thermoplastics to combine light weight and durability.

The “last mile” just got a lift, thanks to the WalkCar, a portable, automated people mover (APM) the size of a laptop developed by cocoa motors in Japan. Think a motorized skateboard that doesn’t require user dexterity or a minimalist version of the Segway small and light enough to be carried in a backpack. And for the sake of accuracy, this people mover can actually cover a little over four miles on a single charge. Plastics partly made it possible, as Japan’s Teijin announced today.

The sturdy, lightweight platform is made with Teijin’s thermoplastic carbon-fiber-reinforced laminate Tenax TPCL; thermoplastic woven-fabric Tenax TPWF; and polycarbonate alloy resin Panlite. Compared with steel, Tenax offers 10 times the strength at just one quarter of the weight, said Teijin. The materials supplier added that Panlite polycarbonate resin boasts some 200 times more impact resistance than fiberglass at only half the weight. These impressive characteristics is why the amazing WalkCar is able to combine low weight and high durability, said Teijin.

The WalkCar measures 21.5 by 34.6 cm (8.4 X 13.6 in.), roughly the size of a 13-inch laptop computer, and weighs only 2.9 kg (6.3 lb). It can travel about 7 km (4.6 miles) at a maximum speed of 16 km/h (9 miles/hr) on a single charge. There is neither a handle nor controller — it is operated by shifting the center of gravity — and the APM stops automatically as soon as the operator steps off. To power the device, cocoa motors claims that it has developed the world's smallest in-wheel motor.

The WalkCar went on sale in Japan in June; overseas sales began today, August 11. The list price on the cocoa motors website is $2,280. Watch the video, and then tell me you don’t want one now.

TAGS: Materials
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