Alternative fuel vehicles are showing up more often on the roads these days, as some drivers look for eco-friendly ways to get around. Hybrids and electric cars are fast enough for the highway. But what if you want something simpler? I recently had a chance to test drive an ELF – an electric assisted bicycle made here in North Carolina.
A new wave of electric-powered vehicles—scooters, longboards, unicycles—is ready to whisk you from your mass-transit stop to your final destination. But are cities ready?
The Elf, is it a bike? Or is it a car? Find out how this solar powered machine might be what you use to get around.
You’ve seen them in Durham – those brightly-colored, fully-enclosed, three-wheeled solar-powered car-bike hybrids. At about 150 pounds, Organic Transit’s ELF, the brainchild of Durham transportation entrepreneur Rob Cotter, can park anywhere that’s bike legal in most states. All you need is a cyclist to pedal and steer. But in a few months, Cotter says an autonomous prototype will be unveiled – one that drives itself, no rider required. Regulatory issues and partnerships aside, it could theoretically be ready for the streets in a year, he says.
If you have never seen an elf on wheels take a look at this. “Elf” is short for electric, light, and fun. You can pedal or use the electric motor.The Elf also runs on solar power.The owner of the head turner lives in Medford. He said it not only keeps him in shape but it saves him money.
“It’s a big savings because compared to what I was going to get which was a regular car. Also insurance, a couple hundred dollars per vehicle. Registration costs something,” said Seth Ceteras.
Are you a short-distance commuter? Then check out Organic Transit, a Durham-based company that has created a cross between a bicycle and a car called the ELF. A bug-like contraption with an enclosed cab, it has three wheels, pedals, a solar panel and a rechargeable battery (the ELF does not use gasoline). A standard ELF seats one (like a bike) and can go 14 miles without pedaling.
It’s called the ELF, a solar-powered bike-car hybrid that’s turning up in cities across the country. Costing $5,500, the transportation requires no insurance or gasoline. Vicente Arenas took a test drive and talks about how the bike-car hybrid works.
I can see that in an urban milieu it could easily replace a car and since it is legally a bike, you don’t have to pay for parking or worry about rush hour parking and stopping restrictions. It costs less to buy than a car costs to operate for a year and gets the equivalent of 1800 miles to the gallon.
Seth Powsner, a professor of psychiatry and emergency medicine at the Yale Medical School, commutes to work in an ELF.
In a perfect world, someone would invent a small personal vehicle that runs on nothing but sunshine and calories – and carries a week’s worth of groceries, for good measure. Don’t look now, but it’s already here.
“Imagine if you couldn’t drive, and had to walk everywhere you needed to go,” Danna said. “I think people take being able to drive for granted a lot of the time. If I could do that, I would. But I can’t.” A bicycle, Danna said, is something that he can ride — even though the ELF doesn’t look like an ordinary bicycle.
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Laura Brusky rolled into a restaurant parking lot riding in an enclosed tricycle that looked something like a big white egg, but she was there to work, not eat.
The greening of Kent State University’s campus this spring includes the state’s first “sun-powered trike.” The ELF (electric, light, fun) pedal vehicle is owned by Paulette Washko, director of research compliance. It is one of about 400 manufactured by Organic Transit of Durham, N.C. It costs about $5,000.
The building previously housed a plumbing supply business. Cotter said they knocked down walls and put glass in the garage doors to let in light and installed energy efficient LED lights, among other improvements. In the offices and showroom in the front, a window offers a glimpse into the assembly room where workers were working on new ELFs in various stages.
A team from Durham, N.C., designed the semi-enclosed, three-wheeled contraption to marry the best aspect of bikes and cars. The result is a low-impact EV that gives you some protection from the elements and plenty of room for groceries. Pedal when you can, but let the solar-powered battery kick in if you’re hauling bags of kitty litter uphill.
I’ve taken one for a test-ride over at MNN but somehow, so far, we have yet to write about Organic Transit’s ELF. This has to be corrected. With Lloyd calling for a recall of the car, and with Twitter alive with #ReplaceBikeWithCar, the topic of a pedal/solar-powered hybrid vehicle that’s specifically designed to get the cycle-challenged out of their cars has never been more timely.
Organic Transit completed its first full year of ELF production this March. There are now more than 300 ELFs on the road, and the company can already a boast a very high-profile driver: comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who purchased his vehicle last summer.
At first glance, it looks like something from the movie Roger Rabbit. You’re driving along and you notice a giant, green cartoonish insect traveling the opposite lane. But wait. No. That’s an actual vehicle, and it’s holding its own in the traffic. If you drive around Asheville often, you will see this vision sooner or later, along with its 68-year-old driver, Bill Curtis. He is the happy owner and driver of Asheville’s very first ELF.
Rob Cotter, a former performance engineer and top-gun tuner with Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, knows how to go fast. Now he wants to make a go at going slow. Mr. Cotter is the founder and CEO of the Durham, N.C.-based Organic Transit, which makes the Elf: an ovoid, semi-enclosed, solar-chargeable, plug-in, bike-lane-legal, electric pedal car.
With gas prices soaring, car emissions straining the environment and people spending more time in traffic instead of the great outdoors, a Durham company has developed a solution. It’s called the ELF. Stephanie Bourland takes us to Organic Transit where they’re producing solar electric assisted bikes. These vehicles combine the ease of a car with the benefits of a bicycle.
Take a spin in the ELF, a category-defying new vehicle built here in Durham, and prepare to have this question shouted at you by passing motorists. And bicyclists. And people on the sidewalk. Park in a public place, and get ready for an onslaught:
“Does it have a motor? How fast does it go? How much does it cost?”
Parked in the Idylwood Plaza shopping center, the 5-foot-tall, 8-foot-long eye- catcher prompted passersby to stop, look, touch, and in most cases, smile. “This is the ELF — it’s an electric-assisted trike,” says Pete Warasila, owner of the vehicle, and investor in the project now being produced by Organic Transit, a North Carolina company.
Adult tricycles—even e-tricycles—are already a thing. But are they cute enough? North Carolina start-up Organic Transit is addressing that problem with the Elf, a pedal-electric solar-powered tricycle that makes low-carbon conveyance easy and adorable.
Walking into the headquarters of Organic Transit, a North Carolina-based developer of what it calls “the most efficient vehicles on the planet,” I was struck by a decidedly disorienting feeling. At first glance it was hard to put my finger on where that feeling was coming from. And then it hit me. People were actually making things.
Some vehicles don’t fit easily into one category or another. Organic Transit’s Elf — a battery-boosted, solar-powered, covered tricycle — is definitely one such device. The 92-pound vehicles have an aluminum frame with a lightweight cover attached to keep the elements off the rider and whatever is in its modest trunk. On its roof is a 60-watt solar panel that can be used to trickle-charge its lithium iron phosphate battery.
Founded by CEO Rob Cotter in April 2012 in North Carolina, Organic Transit went through 6 prototypes starting from June 2012 before coming with 9 beta models similar, to the one you see in the picture. Fifty one production models are currently being produced with the money raised on Kickstarter, they will be introduced to the market later this month, thanks to the 51 lucky owners who financed the production.
How would you like to get around on a bicycle, but have a little help when you get tired of pedaling and something that’s more visible than a traditional bike? Say hello to the Elf. It’s a three-wheeled pedaler that can go where a bicycle goes and has a solar-powered motor that kicks in when you need it.
Organic Transit, the Durham-based company that’s been working on to produce a solar-or-pedal-powered consumer velomobile, is scheduled to be on NBC’s “Today”. Rob Cotter and another employee were in New York City Thursday to meet with producers of Today. “We couldn’t really ask for bigger exposure than that, and we’re very excited that we’re going to be on there.”
So, among your new year’s resolutions – maybe there’s one that has to do with getting more exercise – getting out on a bike perhaps. But the dangers of bike riding in the short dark days of winter and the problems of arriving disheveled can put you off. Well, today we report on a new invention that could be an answer for those problems, the Elf.
Not all that far from where I live, a small group of people are building innovative solar/pedal powered velomobile trikes in a former furniture warehouse in downtown Durham, North Carolina. As I mention this made in the USA eco-friendly vehicle, I am looking out my hotel window in Shanghai, a city where cars and trucks are increasing doing work that was done by human power not all that many years ago.
Our week in the Southeast gave us plenty of memorable moments, but perhaps my favorite of the entire trip was when I stumbled upon the Elf — a pedal-solar electric hybrid vehicle from Organic Transit in Durham, NC. It’s one of those products that — given the right financing and marketing — could be completely disruptive in Urban areas.