Skip to comments.Unicycling about to go electric with Ryno
Posted on 06/11/2012 12:34:52 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
In a second-season episode of "Portlandia," Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein play a boring Southeast Portland couple who want to spice up their life. A tough guy and a hot dame pull up on a motorcycle, and Fred and Carrie feel pretty un-cool in their presence. So they get the bright idea of acquiring motorcycles of their own.
The next scene, Fred coasts up on a three-wheeled monstrosity, and Carrie putters around the street on an odd-looking, one-wheeled, motorized transporter that reminds one of the Segway.
Carrie's riding atop the Ryno bike, the second prototype of the fledgling Ryno Motors of Portland. Sitting on the set was a hoot for Chris Hoffmann, the bike's creator, designer and builder, who has high aspirations for the future of his electric vehicle.
"She made it seem totally out of control, but she was totally in control," Hoffmann says of Brownstein. "They were so much fun."
The Ryno also has been in a scene of "Leverage," another series filmed in Portland. In an era where electric vehicles and ideas for EVs seem to be popping up monthly, with a market of consumers wanting to save money on gas and do their part for the environment, Hoffmann believes he might be on to the next big thing.
Hoffmann, who lives part-time in Portland and part-time in San Francisco, has been courting investors -- Oregon Angel Fund, Northwest Energy Angels and Keiretsu Forum, among others -- and plans to be in production mode by early 2013. He hopes to build about 3,000 of the Rynos in the first year, and build up to 12,000 in the third year, when he expects to break even.
Anticipated retail price: $4,500.
The target market will be public agencies -- the Portland Police Bureau has tested it -- and for industrial/warehouse use and urban short-trippers.
Idea from video game
Hoffmann, a 55-year-old Michigan native, says he got the idea from his daughter, Lauren, when they went fishing about five years ago. Lauren told her father about the one-wheeled motorcycle she had seen in a video game. She drew a sketch, and Hoffmann liked the idea.
"I never would have thought of that," he said at the time.
"Once she showed me the sketch, I got on the Internet to figure out what would stop me from doing this," Hoffmann adds. The answer: not much.
Like the Segway, it's meant for short trips and designed to be self-balanced. It also resembles a motorcycle with its 25-inch tire, handlebars, seat, throttle, brakes and electrical parts. And it's like a unicycle in its maneuverability.
The first prototype was "undrivable" because of steering issues, Hoffmann says. The second prototype was better, and Hoffmann has refined the Ryno with a third prototype.
"It's to simulate the experience of a motorcycle, but with one wheel," he says. "Its a personal range extender.
"It feels like riding a motorcycle. You turn your shoulders a bit, lean down and it goes around turns. After a while, you don't pay attention, you just go into the turn."
"It is fun to ride," says James Mast, an electric vehicle consultant in Portland. "You think, 'How's it going to work?' "
It has two gyroscopes that help with self-balance. And you're not in an awkward position when standing up, Mast adds.
Weighing 125 pounds, and designed for riders up to 280 pounds, the Ryno can be built to go a maximum of 12.5 miles per hour on an urban sidewalk or 20 miles per hour on the street or off-road. The battery takes 1 1/2 hours to recharge, usually enough to travel 20 miles.
The Ryno can climb up a 30-percent grade, has been designed to go down hills without the rider tumbling over the handlebars, and it has a turn radius of 0 to 3 feet.
"You go down a hill in San Francisco with a 250-pound guy and it'll stop," Hoffmann says.
Because of its expected speed, like the Segway, the Ryno won't have to be licensed, and riders won't need an endorsement.
Hoffmann has patent protection, and hopes using common components will allow him to keep the expected retail cost down.
"It's designed to be a serious piece of industrial equipment," Hoffmann says. "It's not a toy at all."
Creating its own niche
"It might have a broader appeal than a Segway," Mast says. "From (a cost) standpoint, it'll have a broader appeal."
Mast and Jeff Allen, executive director of electric vehicle advocacy group Drive Oregon, believe that Ryno will have a niche in the EV market.
There's no shortage of electric vehicle niches, Allen points out, including scooters, bicycles, motorcycles, autos, trucks, forklifts, rail cars and three-wheeled vehicles.
"I haven't seen anything quite like it," Allen says of the Ryno. "It's a pretty unique vehicle and product that has got a lot of buzz. It's much more of a getting-around-town thing.
"The reaction I hear is 'That looks really cool, why would I want it?' " he adds. "I picture a lot of his market would live in New York and Los Angeles, where he has people who would buy it because it's cool, and a lot of cyclists. It is a specialized product. But it doesn't have to have a mass-market appeal to be successful. You don't have to be everything to everybody to build a successful company."
Hoffmann worked with Vancouver, Wash., and Portland companies to produce the prototypes, doing fabrication himself. He has an engineering background in the private and military sectors.
Ryno was named the seventh-best of 23 "exotic" vehicles featured in GQ Magazine. The London Transport Museum had a Ryno on display throughout 2011.
Hoffmann has lived in Portland at least part-time since 1996. When his company can start producing Rynos, it'll be based in Portland, Hoffmann says, and then he and his girlfriend plan to move to the city full-time.
Interestingly, Hoffmann says he has already received an offer from a company for exclusive rights in China.
"Portland is almost a launch town for EVs," he says. "It'd be fun to do a collaborative effort with Portland and create U.S.-based jobs."
Adds Mast: "I've known Chris for a couple years, since I worked with the Portland Development Commission, and I've always regarded (Ryno) as a breakout product. It's so unique, it'll create a market for itself."
The Ryno will be on display June 23 and June 24 at the EV Live Festival at Portland International Raceway.
That’s pretty cool. Before I got to the picture at the bottom of the article I was expecting a kid’s style unicycle. That beast kinda looks alright and fun.
Yeah, it looks nice but, you can’t do a wheelie on it.
not a question of if you are going to crash but when....
Look Ma, no hands! Splat!!!
Why do I see a face plant in his future?
It’s kinda cool, but I guess I don’t understand the physics on how this can stop effectively without planting the rider into the pavement.
Maybe it’s solution is to not go very fast in the first place.
Which brings up another little issue - are these things supposed to use the street, when their top speed is 20mph?
So any congestion-alleviating properties this vehicle has by eliminating cars is effectively negated, if not exceeded, but it clogging up the roads putting along at 20mph. Great.
It’s one *continuous wheelie*, isn’t it? LOL.
From the article:
“It’s much more of a getting-around-town thing...”
At 12.5mph/20mph, it’s not an open road vehicle, I’m guessing.
The name, Ryno! lol
Dear Ryno, your premium for you products liability policy will be $10000000000000000000 per year.
Your insurance agent.