The Organic Transit ELF has been getting a lot of attention recently. It’s another vehicle that claims to be poised to revolutionize the way we get around.
Granted, in this day and age of global warming concerns, congested cities and high gas prices, it might seem natural to go looking for alternatives to automobiles. Using human power also seems like a good idea, given the way to go, since many of us can use exercise anyway.
Elf Electric Pedal Car: When 1 Horsepower Is Enough
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. Got that? With a 1-hp (750-watt) electric motor in the rear wheel hub and a lithium battery pack, or two, snugged into the center frame rail aft of the front wheels—and a plastic canopy to keep the weather off drivers—the Elf proposes a solution for urban commuters who want to leave the car at home but can’t quite hack the rigors of a conventional bicycle.
“We’re creating our own consumer product category,” said Mr. Cotter, whose operation in a downtown storefront in the former tobacco capital is bustling. The company has 1,500 orders in hand—more than enough to reach profitability, said Mr. Cotter, a TED talker who Kickstarted much of the original funding—and soon the company’s retinue of bike gurus and production staff (including some volunteers) will be moving to larger quarters downtown. Prices just went up: the Elf costs $4,995, more if you want the backup battery, the continuously variable transmission rear hub or the better solar panels.
The Elf’s capacity is 350 pounds; top assisted speed is 20 mph (it goes faster downhill); and the 10-amp-hour batteries offer a range of up to 30 miles, but the batteries last longer the more riders pedal. It takes one whole sunny day to charge a fully depleted battery with 60-watt roof-mounted solar panels.
Mr. Cotter and I took a couple of Elfs for a tour of Raleigh recently, and according to the vehicle’s smartphone-app instrumentation, I traveled 15.4 miles at an average speed of 15 mph; burned 586 calories (by pedaling) and displaced 15 pounds of CO2 (using solar watts). It’s a start.
The vehicle has gotten a huge amount of press and attention. It even managed to raise nearly a quarter of a million dollars on Kickstart – apparently from a large group of people who are genuinely convinced this is an amazing and revolutionary concept. It’s even touted as the “Cleanest, most efficient vehicle on the planet”
Let me know if I am missing something or just wrong…
|Cost|| About 200
to 800 (for a high end model) US Dollars for new.Second hand
at significantly less.
| 5000 US
Dollars. Possibly additional shipping costs.
| Maintenance and
|Chain should be lubricated.Tires will need replacement every few years.
As with bike, will need periodic tire replacement. Also will need maintenance of chain, peddles and brakes. Additionally, has large lithium ion battery which will need replacement every two to five years and will be significant cost.
Solar panels do not have unlimited lifetime.
Hybrid CVT drive train is likely to require more maintenance than simple chain drive. Likely beyond the capabilities of most owners.
|Headlights:||Optional but available. Inexpensive
(multiperson bikes do exist)
A standard bike can hold about one to two to three shopping bags by placing them in sidesaddle storage, a basket or in a back pack.
If cargo transport is necessary or desired, accessories like bike trailers or cargo-optimized tricycle-style bodies can be used and allow upwards of 10 shopping bags and more than 350 lbs to be transported.
| About 5 shopping bags.
350 lbs of cargo. (about 160 kg)
|Electric Power Assistance:|| Generally no, but optional after market systems are available.
Given that bike riding is pretty easy to begin with and that the power assist systems tend to add significant weight, expense and complexity, they have tended not to be very popular.
| Yes.Up to 30 miles (48 km) under ideal conditions using an 8 pound (3.6 kg)* battery pack and 750 watt motor.
(weight is only battery, not hybrid transmission, charge controller, motor etc)
|Areas accessible:|| Roadways, trails, paths and mountainous areas.
Depends on type of bike. Most bicycles can easily deal with dirt roadways and smooth paths.
Mountain biking can be done even in harsh
|Paved roads and paths.|
Can be used to avoid traffic, dodge obstacles, weave between cars and stay on narrow paths.
| Appears to be fair. More stable than a bike, but comes at the expense of much less nimble turning and maneuvering.
Narrow enough footprint to be used on bike paths, but certainly not passing others with the same clearance.
|Protection from Weather:|| None.
A raincoat or jacket can be worn, but that’s about it.
Cabin will provide protection from some
Likely to be unpleasant in very heavy rain. Bottom is open, so water could splash if wet enough.
Like a bike, there is no heat or air conditioning.
| Bike theft is a major problem. However, security can be well maintained with a sturdy locking mechanism.
Many locations provide bike racks and other kinds of structures can be used to secure the bike.
| Not easily attached to bike rack. Possibly attachable with large long chain, but this would be less secure.
The solar panel presents an obvious target for thieves to remove and could be removed.
Theft of entire vehicle may be deterred by the fact that it would be conspicuous.
|Transportability and storage:|| Excellent.
Easily lifted and carried. Can be brought indoors for storage easily.
Transportable by car.
Bike racks are readily available.
Public transport accommodates bikes.
For even greater portability, folding bikes exist.
Large and bulky. Would require a truck, van or cargo trailer.
Not easily lifted.
Won’t easily fit indoors.
Public transport is not an option.
Stored outdoors unless a dedicated garage or shed exists.
established as being reasonably safe when used properly.
Hazards do exist because of the open nature of the vehicle.
By far the greatest hazard is head injury, but this can be nearly negated by proper helmet usage.
Most dangerous for serious injury is aggressive bike riding in city traffic. Riding on paths and more cautious ridership reduces risk.
Risk of injury remains relatively high, as compared to other transport modes, but serious injury or death is very rare with helmet usage.
| Safety is not well established because of the very limited number of such vehicles that
have been produced and used.
The enclosed passenger compartment may provide minimal protection, but would not prevent serious injury in a major accident.
It may also reduce visibility and situational awareness.
The design is less likely to tilt over but also less maneuverable. It can’t as easily stay out of the way of cars.
It is claimed that it is more visible to cars than a bicycle. This claim is unproven and questionable.
So the ELF comes up as being superior, albeit marginally in a couple of areas and vastly inferior in most others. Also, it costs thousands of dollars more than a bicycle. Which one is really the cleaner, more viable and usable form of transportation?
This entry was posted on Friday, January 31st, 2014 at 8:52 am and is filed under Bad Science, Just LAME, media, Misc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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