Honda's new idea: Battery-powered unicycles for the elderly

Honda (HMC) is a hotbed of creative thinking when it comes to transportation and mechanics. It makes motorcycles, cars and high-end lawn mowers. Its early Civic was one of the first small Japanese cars distributed widely in the U.S. during the mid-1970s, and was one of the first mass-produced fuel-efficient cars.

Now, the Japanese firm is working on a motorized unicycle, according to several media reports. The rider will be able to steer it by simply leaning in the direction he wants it to move. The U3-X weighs only 22 pounds and runs for up to an hour per charge on an ion-lithium battery. The product is still in the early stages of development.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the target market for the U3-X will be the elderly, but it is hard to see why it would not be popular with any age group that wants a low-cost, fuel-efficient vehicle to travel short distances.

In some ways, the new product takes Honda back to its roots. The early Civic models were extremely small and got well over 50 miles per gallon, which made them popular during the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Those vehicles established Honda's reputation as a quality manufacturer of fuel-efficient cars; thirty years later, it is following up with a fuel-efficient unicycle.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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