Sir Clive resurrects the C5

November 5, 2010 // 2:20 p.m.

Tags: #c5 #electric-bicycle #electric-bike #hybrid #hybrid-vehicle #lithium-polymer #sinclair-c5 #sinclair-x-1 #x-1

Sinclair is a name long associated with the birth of modern computing technology, at the forefront of the 8-bit computing revolution, but perhaps better remembered for the C5 electric bike. Those who remember the gadget may be surprised to hear that Sir Clive hasn't given up on his dream - and is launching its successor, the X-1, next year.

Sir Clive's C5 was an electrically-assisted recumbent tricycle - a 'hybrid' in the days before such things existed. It was a dream of Sinclair's to revolutionise the transportation industry with his hybrid electric trike, with his obsession often blamed for the failure of his company to secure the rights to produce the BBC microcomputer - which went to rival Tim Curry's Acorn Computers.

While technologically innovative, the C5 was never a commercial success: a slow top speed made it unsuitable for longer journeys, while its low profile left many believing it to be unsafe on public roads, and at the very least putting the exhausts of traditional cars at head-height.

Now, however, Sinclair believes he has finally developed the revolutionary transportation system that he imagined all those years ago.

The Sinclair Research X-1 is a very different beast to the C5, taking a partially enclosed 'monocoque' design with integral roll-cage to address safety concerns with the original. An upright seat provides a more traditional 'driving' experience, although the steering column leaves you in no doubt that you're 'in' a bike rather than a car.

That marks the second divergence in design for the X-1: unlike the C5, which was a trike and capable of staying upright when stopped, the X-1 is a traditional bicycle with just two 16in wheels.

The impetus is provided by either human pedal power or an included MCR pancake motor, rated at 190W and powered by a 24v lithium polymer power pack. Assuming that the vehicle is driven using 'pedal assistance,' where the engine's power is supplemented with some half-hearted pedalling, Sir Clive believes that it can travel ten miles for just 10p in electricity.

The main selling point for the X-1, as with the C5, is its accessibility to all. Classified as a bicycle, there's no need to pay insurance, road tax, or to have a driving licence - and can be ridden on cycle paths and roads by anyone above the age of 14.

With the launch price estimated at just short of £600, the X-1 would become one of the cheapest electric bikes on the market when it launches in July, and could finally spell success for Sir Clive in the one market sector he truly cares about.

Do you think that Sir Clive realises where he went wrong with the C5, or is the X-1 destined to languish in the same way as its predecessor? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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