The Segway gets a makeover

Segway is ushering in a new age in personal transportation today. The machine that was once billed to revolutionize the way we travel from place to place was expected to sell between 50,000 to 100,000 units per year -- total sales of Segway HT have instead totaled in the tens of thousands since it first went on sale in 2003. Despite lower the originally forecasted sales of the original device, the company says that its revenues have been increasing by 50% each year and today launched two new models to its lineup of personal, automatic up-right transporters. The first of the two new models is the i2, which is a simplified version of the first Segway design and the second version, called the x2, is designed for "cross-terrain" or off-payment transporting duties.

The i2 does away with the original's "steer via handlebars" control scheme in favor of "LeanSteer." LeanSteer, as its name implies, allows the rider to lean his or whole body along with the device to turn left or right.  Riders can still proceed forward and backwards by leaning in the appropriate direction. Power comes via Saphion lithium-ion batteries which give the i2 a 24 mile range on a charge (dependent on terrain). The 105 pound device has a top speed of 12.5 MPH and can carry up to 260 pounds.

The other more interesting addition to the Segway family is the x2. This model brings a touch of HUMMER to the lineup with all-terrain tires, heavy duty fenders and revised software programming to allow the device to traverse trails, hilly terrain or beach sand. The x2 also has 1.5" greater ground clearance and an increased track for greater stability. The increased functionality comes at a price as weight increases to 120 pounds and the operational range drops from 24 miles to 12 miles.

Both the i2 and the x2 use a Bluetooth wireless “InfoKey” that monitors, speed, distance traveled and battery life. The InfoKey also incorporates a security system to keep thieves at bay. It remains to be seen whether the new generation will retain the slow selling pace of its forbearer or see a significant boost in popularity. The sales success of the i2 and x2 will be largely depended on pricing and while pricing for the x2 has not yet been announced, the i2 will start at $4,995.

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