Every month seems to see the introduction of new, imaginative approaches to personal electric transportation devices. Indeed, I've had the opportunity to try two of these products from European brand Stigo and startup Immotor. The latter, like many new entrants in the category, launched with a Indiegogo campaign. This week, a pair of new electric transportation devices have also launched on Indiegogo. And while you've likely never heard of the company offering them, there's a good chance you've seen its electric products.
The Dragonfly and Aero have been developed by DGL Group, an electronics company that makes a wide range if gadgets under a small umbrella of brands. These include licenses for everything from Crayola to Call of Duty amidst heavyweights such as Disney and the NFL. It also picked up the Quirky brand from the ill-fated crowdsourced product incubation website. The company weathered the backlash against exploding two-wheeled "hovercraft" devices to become a preferred supplier to Walmart, Target, and Best Buy under its Hover-1 brand.
In what has become a familiar rationale, VP of Product Development Marc Liniado noted that, as a well-established company, it does not need the funds to bring the products to market and is doing the campaign to raise awareness and get some early adopter feedback; the compressed schedule of its campaign isn't optimized for fundraising. That said, as its new Hover-EV products represent a significant price jump from the few hundred dollars of its Hover-1 line, it will be helpful to have some pre-orders for the first production run.
The electric transporters are nothing like the unimposing kid-friendly products it sells today. The Dragonfly resembles a motorcycle, while the Aero looks like a Smart car that has been through a vise and had its front wheels replaced by a single one. It is small enough to park at a perpendicular angle to other vehicles on a street. Similar products have found their way into campus and surveillance teams, but this may be the first sold directly to the public.
While I have never ridden anything like the Dragonfly and can't muster the balance for a hovercraft or scooter, I find I can easily get going and operate it confidently. It provides a fun ride around the company's parking lot while definitely feeling like something that could be taken on a more public road. The larger Aero, surprisingly, turns in a rougher ride. Liniado noted that the final version will have its suspension tuned like the Dragonfly. But that's not its most prominent paradox. Like the Dragonfly, the Aero is legally classified as a scooter. It can't exceed 40 miles per hour, can't be driven on highways, and doesn't require a motorcycle license. (DGL says it is looking into whether it will have to be registered and require a Vehicle Identification Number.) Nonetheless, it has many trappings of a car -- headlights, a windshield wiper, a sound system, heating controls, and even a rear-view camera.
But another thing that separates the Aero from an electric car that would start at at least five times its price is the near complete lack of safety protection. With its plastic frame, there's no doubt that its driver would be seriously injured or killed if it collided with an obstacle or particularly another vehicle with significant force. The Smart car, with its steel interior frame, is practically a tank compared to the Aero.
Liniado acknowledged the vehicle's vulnerability and said that -- despite its shelter from the elements -- its drivers must think about their exposure as if they were riding a motorcycle or other open-air ride. That might be helped by the Aero's motorcycle-like acceleration and braking via its handlebars.
As with its other products, DGL intends to sell the Hyper-EV products at retail. Aero's future might bring app-based monitoring or a removable roof. But clearly, a good deal of marketplace education will be required for consumers to evaluate the benefits and limitations of the wide range of transportation devices that can fall between the scooter and car. Proper use could lead to a new class of clean transportation that is more affordable and approachable than a motorcycle or e-bike for neighborhood errands. On the other hand, those taking a careless approach to their roadworthiness could create far worse dangerous scenarios than those that led to a hoverboard backlash.