It took many years and many tens of millions of dollars to develop the Segway Personal Transporter (PT). A detailed account appears in the book Code Name Ginger: The Story Behind SEGWAY and Dean Kamen’s Quest To Invent a New World by Steve Kemper (available from Fishpond and Amazon, amongst others).
This book has been republished several times since 2003, each time with a new cover. One reprint is renamed ‘Reinventing the Wheel’ (not to be confused with TIME Magazine’s original 5 page feature about the development of the Segway PT also called Reinventing the Wheel).
Absent from the book are illustrations of the various early prototypes. The author does describe how they look, and refers to each them by their code names, but there is nothing quite like a photograph to really show what these early attempts looked like.
Here is a banner that was displayed on the wall at SegFest 2004 (photo taken by Stuart Bloom, and sourced from this MSU page).
It all started with “Ginger” – a prototype powered by dot matrix printer motors. Apparently, Ginger relied on a large, military ‘inertial measurement unit’ to obtain pitch rate. The feedback from this unit was directed into an analogue control system to maintain Ginger’s self-balancing function (i.e. it did not use software).
The second prototype was “C0” (Concept #0), and was nicknamed Sybil on account of her multiple personalities and unpredictability. When she felt like it, she could use her belt-driven motors to propel a daring test rider to 32 km/h!
With “C1” (Concept #1) the basic overall shape, design and dimensions of what would become the iconic, original Segway “Human Transporter” (HT) form was taking shape.
The company explored an alternative W-shaped handlebar with D1 (Design #1). An early attempt at “LeanSteer” was also explored around this time, but remained unrefined at the time. LeanSteer was later perfected and incorporated into the renamed, second generation of “Personal Transporters” (PTs) at the end of 2006.
It was only with V1 (Validation #1) that all of the key features and components were combined into a single machine: full redundant sub-systems, iButton security key, smooth and quiet helical gears, and parts designed to be manufacture-ready and suitable for production line assembly.
The process cumulated in the original Segway Human Transporter (HT) range.
As launch day approached the company had readied two platform sizes – Metro and Pro. There was to be one model based on the Metro platform, and two on the Pro platform, and two battery options for each. For example, the Segway HT i-100 had NiCad battery packs, while the Segway HT i-167 had NiMH battery packs that offered 67% more range than the i-100 (hence the model designation i-167).
A Segway HT launch plan was formulated as follows:
- Personal or p-Series: p-80 (NiCad) and p-133 (NiMH), built on the ‘Metro’ platform
- Industrial or i-Series: i-100 (NiCad) and i-167 (NiMH), built on the ‘Pro’ platform. One source claims the meaning of “i” was later revised to “International.”
- Enterprise or e-Series: e-100 (NiCad) and e-167 (NiMH), built on the ‘Pro’ platform and incorporating the unique ‘e-Stand’ feature in conjunction with the Upper and Lower Cargo Systems. Some sources claim the “e” stood for “Expeditor.”
By the time the company was ready to begin selling the Segway HT battery technologies had advanced and costs had fallen to the point where all models would feature NiMH battery packs. The Ni-Cad powered p-80, i-100 and e-100 were never sold, although some of these were deployed during pre-launch trials, and shown at technology demonstrations.
The e-Stand (electronic parking stand) enabled the e-167 model to self-balance in place – even once the rider had dismounted. To function, the e-Stand required the Lower Cargo System to be holding a minimum amount of cargo. The e-Stand was not incorporated into the i-167 and p-133 designs because these did not have side cargo cases.
It was anticipated the e-Stand feature combined with cargo capability would prove a significant value proposition for certain types of customers (e.g. warehouses, mail delivery, certain public safety roles, etc). For example, in New Zealand, security staff at Massey University in Palmerston North began using an e-167 in 2004, and found the e-Stand feature to be particularly useful on campus. The e-167 was discontinued prior to the end of Gen 1 production in 2006, and an e-Stand has not been incorporated into any LeanSteer model.
The e-167’s Upper and Lower Cargo Systems could also be fitted to the i-167, i-170 and i180 models. The i-180 models were available in Sport Red, Solar Yellow and Midnight Blue colour schemes, and fitting the cargo system required swapping off the colourful fenders and replacing them with i-170 fenders.
University of Canterbury began using two i-180’s with Upper and Lower Cargo Systems for mail delivery mid-in 2006, following a successful trial facilitated by Graeme Gordon at Urban Wheels (our Christchurch Segway Dealer). More than 10 years later (late-2016) one of these two original i-180s is still in daily use. The other unit was replaced with a newer Segway i2 model several years ago, and fitted with a modified version of the outgoing i-180’s customised mail cargo system.
From 2005 Lithium battery packs were an option for the newly-launched Segway HT i-180 range, offering more than twice the range of NiMH packs. Specifically, an increased range of 2.2 times was quoted, so perhaps the model designation could have been i-180 for the NiMH configuration and i-380 for the Lithium configuration?
Lithium packs were standard on Segway GT (golf transporter) and Segway XT (cross-terrain) models. A free software upgrade for owners of i-167, e-167 and i-170 models was offered from 2007 that enabled the older models to use Lithium packs as well.
Lithium battery packs were never developed for the p-133 model. In many ways this was a shame because these would have nullified the “range anxiety” objection that was one of the primary reasons for the relatively low sales of this model. Some sources suggest just 10% of units sold between 2003 and 2005 were p-Series.
A p-150 model in Midnight Blue colour scheme with NiMH batteries was scheduled for 15 July 2005 release, but this never eventuated. According to a past CEO a ‘LeanSteer’ evolution of the p-Series platform was considered but never developed. This left a gap in the market that would be exploited in years to come by several Chinese “copy-cat manufacturers” who released p-Series sized devices that infringed ‘Segway’ patents.