I've been thinking about making a species that uses wheels for locomotion. However, instead of using muscle tissue to spin them (as that would cause damage to said tissue), they would use electricity to produce kinetic energy to spin them.

This would work via the use of two protrusions at the end of the legs and would have two points made of conductive materials pointing inwards from the sides of the protrusions. These points will be connected/hold in place the wheels, which will either have a ball-like shape or a standard wheel-like shape made of a spongy rubber-like biological material that acts as a "tire." The two-points would then emit electricity into the wheel to produce kinetic energy/spin, resulting in movement with these wheels.

However, I'm not certain what problems would arise from a species that uses this method, leading me to ask. What problems would arise if a species that uses wheels via electricity/conductivity instead of muscle tissue too move?

EDIT 9/30/19: It's clear to me now that my idea/concept has some glaring problems with it, and I haven't thought as well about it as I thought, and that it needs some serious reworking or needs to be scrapped. Therefore, I will mark this post as answered and/or delete it (whichever the viewers of this post thinks is best). Sorry for any issues or problems I might've caused with this post.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Apartments with only stairs would be MUCH cheaper. And, being electric, folks couldn't easily use compasses to navigate. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How are the ball bearings created/repaired/replaced over the lifespan of the creature? $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ Also: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/20664/… $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:35
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ How do you propose that electricity produces motion? It'snot clear. Is there an electric motor in there somehow? Coils of wire? Does it eat lodestone to build up magnets? $\endgroup$
    – puppetsock
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat Well, the post is somewhat about wheels and how they would work. However, the post's about the problems that would occur from a specific way of how wheels would work. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:40

2 Answers 2


The primary problem would be "how would this work in the first place"?

Electricity alone does not make a wheel spin; electric motors require electromagnets to function, which do not occur in nature. So even assuming biological electricity generation (totally reasonable), the electricity wouldn't be any good for propulsion.

Secondary (and mentioned in the comments) would be the attachment point. At some point, the wheels would presumably be a contiguous part of the organism, leaving them immobile until the wheels are "fully grown", because the wheels would be unable to rotate without twisting and tearing the connective tissue. So after a long period of immobility, the velvet for the wheels sloughs away, leaving.. what? An exposed ball-and-socket joint? How is damage to the joint dealt with? Is there an axle, or do the wheels rotate independently?

So my answer to "what problems would arise": existential ones, and, even assuming those can be overcome, the issue of tremendous infant vulnerability while waiting for their wheels to grow/ripen.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I mean, I think it would be easier to just depend on other organisms in a symbiotic process, and have the species we're designing roll around on organisms of another species. $\endgroup$
    – Cloudy7
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Cloudy7 - Probably, but you still have the problem of waiting for the wheel to mature/ripen before it could be used, and the connection point is still an issue. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ An electromagnetic field is produced by charged objects/electric charge moving through these objects. So any object can have an electromagnetic field/properties as long as electricity can move through an object with a degree of conductivity. Which is how this system would work by having the charges move through these conductive materials to produce an electromagnetic field to spin/move the wheels. Though, I'll admit that I should have mentioned/said that in my post at first. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 18:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Caveknight32 Induced electromagnetism travelling through uncoiled conductive materials is tremendously weak unless the energy is extremely high-voltage. So now your postulated organism generates a high-voltage electric current, which they have to invert with suitable timing to actually spin the wheels, which somehow doesn't kill/fry whatever allows them to grow the wheels in the first place? The existential questions keep piling up here. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ Think shark teeth. $\endgroup$
    – Spencer
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 18:36

Regardless of how you get the wheels to work. The biggest issue is that natural terrain is not flat and smooth. If you have ever seen a video of a robot walking or a car driving, you notice that more often than not, they are doing it on a street, or in a house. Somewhere with a smooth floor that's relatively flat.

Natural terrain will tear apart anything with wheels. Your talking about pebbles and stones that shift underfoot. Twigs, sticks, logs and fallen trunks that will block your path. Ditches, gaps, hidden terrain which will leave you stuck and unable to move. You also get Uneven terrain, maybe even vertical or upside down (depending on the animal scale).

Basically, wheels only work on smooth and flat terrain. Throwing anything additional into this will require extra muscle groups to help act as suspension and to lift the wheel over obstructions. Muscles which would be more efficient, lifting and moving legs than spinning wheels.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .