While it’s all very well and good to use an electric vehicle as your around-town ride, full-size electric cars can still be pretty pricey. Also, as many of their critics are quick to point out, the electricity used to charge their batteries currently still tends to come from eco-unfriendly sources such as coal-burning power plants. Well, that’s where the three-wheeled ELF velomobile comes into play. It’s cheaper than a car, can be pedaled like a tricycle, and the battery that powers its electric assist motor can be charged from the Sun.
Prototypes of the ELF are presently being built by Organic Transit, a Durham, North Carolina-based company founded by entrepreneur Rob Cotter. The vehicle has an aluminum frame, a single seat, rear cargo compartment (reportedly good for about eight bags of groceries), a vacuum-formed ABS-composite body, and a polycarbonate windshield. It also features a full LED lighting package.
“Under the hood,” so to speak, it has a 750-watt permanent neodymium magnet motor powered by an 8-pound (3.6-kg) 88.8-volt lithium battery pack. Although drivers can extend the range by choosing to pedal or by adding an additional battery pack, a single pack will take them about 30 miles (48 km) per charge.
While the battery can be charged in two hours from a standard outlet, the ELF also features a roof-mounted 60-watt photovoltaic panel. This provides a trickle charge to the battery while the vehicle is parked – provided it’s getting a good dose of sunlight.
All told, it has a claimed fuel economy of 1,800 MPGe (0.13 L/100km equivalent). Some of the ELF’s other features include disc brakes, standard 26-inch mountain bike-style wheels, and a top allowable speed of 20 mph (32 km/h) – under U.S. federal regulations, the vehicle is classified as a powered bicycle. The target weight for a full production model is 100 pounds (45 kg), including battery.