Watch This Crazy One-Wheeler Move, Spinning Wildly toward 70+ MPH

Photo credit: James Stevens Photography/Duke
Photo credit: James Stevens Photography/Duke

From Car and Driver

  • Engineering students from Duke University have developed the EV360, a monowheel project that's very challenging to operate.

  • The student team aims to get the EV360 to at least 73 mph, as that would give them the new land-speed record from Guinness.

  • One experienced monowheel builder and driver calls them "crazy machines," which is a warning to some and an invitation to others.

The name EV360 can be seen as descriptive. In this case, since we're basically talking about an electric-powered circle, it's like an electric vehicle that wraps itself around you in 360 degrees. So far, so good since the EV360 is the name of a monowheel project conducted by a group of students at Duke University.

But if you picture a monowheel by thinking of the more straightforward description of a huge wheel a person can ride inside of, then it's a good idea to listen to Hunter Howell, who has built and driven a monowheel out of a giant truck tire. As cool as it looks, Howell's experiment is not exactly easy to pilot. "The monowheel is one crazy machine," he told Business Insider. "You give it too much gas, it's going to ride up on you. You give it too much brake, it's going to want to dive. You lock the brake up completely, and you'll start spinning inside of it. You'll go upside down." That warning gives the EV360 name a new and more worrisome meaning.

But the risk of what some call "the gerbil incident" is not stopping the Duke students, who want to take their fanciful idea to the record books. Monowheels have been tried by a number of ambitious engineers, but the EV360 team thinks that it can get the device over 73 mph, even if they admit that their efforts are "primarily an activity to improve our engineering and design skills." According to Electrek, the team had been approved to attempt a Guinness land-speed record this spring, but like so much else about 2020, that was changed by COVID-19.

Photo credit: Anuj Thakkar/Duke
Photo credit: Anuj Thakkar/Duke

In online videos like the one above, the EV360 looks like it has stability issues as it gets moving, which is not surprising (there's no self-balancing gyro mechanism) or unique to this monowheel. The construction team at Make it Extreme said that their home-brew monowheel ended up being quite unstable at speeds under around 17 mph but improved as it sped up. The EV360 uses a wheel that's much skinnier than Howell's gas-powered monowheel, but many of the other technical details are still being worked on. So far, the Duke students have decided that the EV360 will use a 15-hp (31-hp peak) DC motor and an Alltrax 500A programmable motor controller. Since the goal here is speed, not range, the energy source is a tiny 1.6-kWh lithium-polymer battery. There's no steering to speak of—at low speeds you just drag your foot on the ground—but, again, that's not why the EV360 exists.

No, the point is to take away the Guinness World Record for fastest monowheel motorcycle, which is currently held by Mark Foster and the U.K. Monowheel Team at 72.9 mph (117.3 km/h). The record was set in September 2019 in a monowheel called Trojan.

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