There are many examples of Paradigmeers who invented products that have changed the world. Sir Clive Sinclair certainly belongs amongst this esteemed group for his early ground-breaking electronic calculators and the ZX Spectrum home computer.
What interests me is those products that broke the rules and could have transformed the world but didn’t. The legendary Sinclair C5 was decades ahead of its time. A personal, electric powered vehicle that was cheap to make, buy and run would seem to be the Holy Grail in personal transportation. The quirky design was simply a step too far for the time. It was limited to 14 mph and being very close to the ground it was too frightening for most potential users. It could have gone faster but for the legislation affecting electric powered vehicles. Adam Harper, a former C5 salesman turbo charged his machine and reached 150 mph! He says; ‘Up to 100mph, it’s like running on rails, really stable. At 110 – 120 mph, it starts getting tricky. I’ll bet!
The market wasn’t ready, fuel was relatively cheap and at the time roads were getting ever more congested. Perhaps the true ‘nail in the C5 coffin’ was that it wasn’t stylish. It evoked the wrong emotion; the press led its demise by casting derision at the concept and then cut its throat with the ubiquitous health and safety scare. To change the rules and create a revolutionary form of transportation is one thing, but in order for it to fundamentally change our lives there also needs to be a change in mindset. The world has to fall in love with the idea. In 1959 Alec Issigonis designed the Mini. The difference here was that it captured the mood of the times; the car became a style icon to which people eventually became emotionally attached. Importantly, this didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.
Perhaps the C5 was ahead of its time, maybe we will all have our own electric vehicle before too long. All I know is that when this happens I want the one that does 150 mph!