Four wheels, one at each corner, make a car a lot less likely to topple over than if it were rolling on just three. But, there's one time when that average car can indeed get away with fewer: when it's parked. What to do with this unfortunate state of parking lot excess? Ford has an idea, uncovered in a recently granted patent.
The patent, called "Self-Propelled Unicycle Engagable with Vehicle" (as spotted by Road & Track and Patent Yogi) describes a system where one of a car's four wheels can be removed and then attached to a trunk-mounted unicycle -- and not the sort of thing favored by acrobats and hipsters in Portland. This would be a fully electric scooter, like the single-wheeled Ryno concept from a few years ago.
Power comes from a hub-mounted electric motor, situated within the wheel itself. This would imply that the car is also electric and driven by those same hub-mounted motors, a departure from Ford's current EV offerings like the.
To use the unicycle, the patent describes a process of parking the car, locking the suspension and deploying a jack to lift the left-rear wheel off the ground. The driver would then need to remove the wheel, unplug its power and data connectors and connect those to the unicycle mechanism itself. That unicycle, which stores in the rear hatch, contains its own battery pack and suspension along with all the sensors and circuits required to ensure the thing doesn't topple over as soon as you have a seat.
The basic concept is that of efficient multi-modal transportation. That is, ensuring you have multiple, optimal modes of transportation to get where you're going. In this case: a car for the highway cruise to the city and then a scooter to cover the last few miles of congestion leading to your office. A good idea? Perhaps in theory, but the reality seems more harsh. As anyone who's had a flat tire can attest, changing a wheel on the side of the road is not the sort of thing you want to add to your daily commute.