But last year the Segway PT accounted for only 1.5% of Ninebot’s revenue, according to Tony Ho, vice president of global business development at Segway. With a price tag starting at $6,000 and sometimes reaching $10,000, only police departments and tour groups could afford it, he said.
Before the Segway, Kamen made a name for himself as an inventor of medical devices such as a portable insulin pump. The Segway PT project grew out of his work in the 1990s on a self-balancing wheelchair.
The Segway PT was ahead of its time, but not just in a good way. The price tag was a major barrier to adoption, coming in at $4,950 when it was first released. Batteries, which initially cost more than $1,000, were too expensive to make a more affordable version. For years, the company struggled to reduce the price. Prices actually increased, likely due to inflation and new off-roading features, according to Ho. Since 2001, 140,000 PTs have been sold, according to a Segway spokesman.
Rather than being cool and world-changing, the Segway developed a nerdy reputation.
Kamen, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, told CNN Business in 2018 that Segway continues to be the project that most people know him for.
“No matter what else I do in life,” he said, “I’m the Segway guy.”
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