From the “This is a real thing, we think” file comes the curious case of the Chinese farmer turned inventor of motorized suitcases.
He Liang, a farmer from China’s Hunan region, has invented and patented the ultimate rollaboard, or what he apparently calls the “multi-functional suitcase.” Photographed this week in Changsha, the motorized suitcase is said to weigh about 15-16 lbs. and is able to carry two people (or one well-fed American, maybe). With the help of a wheel hub electric motor in the single front wheel, the little three-wheeler can travel 50 to 60 kilometers—or 31 to 37 miles—on a full charge.
Maximum speed is 20 km per hour, which is somewhat faster than we would ever feel comfortable traveling on a three-wheeled box, and about as fast as a fleet-footed TSA agent could give chase in an airport concourse until he runs out of breath, or the rider runs into a stunned tourist who swears he just saw some loser coming toward him riding a suitcase.
The starter is a rotary switch on the tiny handlebar, and there appears to be a brake handle as well, and the three wheels are fixed in place. The farmer, according to local Chinese media, never finished primary school but spent 10 years building his self-propelled carry-on, which supposedly also sports some undetermined amount of cargo space and a nav system.
There are myriad reasons that riding a motorized suitcase is a terrible idea, beyond the sheer humiliation factor of riding a freakin’ motorized suitcase in public. For one thing, with no suspension and a rather ergonomically, um, flat seating situation, the motorized suitcase doesn’t look too comfortable, especially from what we remember about the quality of Chinese roads. Next, China’s chaotic roadways and sidewalks—sometimes one and the same—are treacherous enough in an armored military transport, let alone a rolling suitcase. And safety is, well, not.
If this idea takes off — and apparently He Liang has patented the idea, just in case — look for this “world’s lightest car” to make him a rich man. Suitcase racing series? Open a string of drive-through suitcase washes? Other variants like motorized guitar cases? If it can happen anywhere, it can happen there.