The ELF is an interesting little electric assisted pedal trike. It can charge in an hour from the grid, or in 7 hours with the 60W solar panel on the roof. It’s chief innovation is that it is US$4995 which is about half that of the European built velomobiles. It has turn signals, brake lights, LED headlights and wing mirrors, plus it mostly keeps the rain off with a polycarbonate shell. It is open to the elements in the floor and in the sides.
It has a 750W electric motor, so yes it would be illegal under current New Zealand laws, but it is an excellent example of why that law (250W max electric assist on a bicycle) is not a good law and is stifling innovation. In the US it apparently is a legal bicycle.
It has a max speed of 32km/hr under electric assist (to comply with US law) and a range of approx 30 kms. Having an extra battery pack that doubles the range is an option. Windscreen wipers, a better performing solar panel, and doors are all future options.
It’s chief disadvantages are its weight which is just under 150lbs or 70 kilos, making it double the weight of a velomobile. And it only has 3 gears, so when the battery ran out it would be a very heavy trike to ride up a hill.
For electronics in the dashboard add your own smartphone and an appropriate app.
The ELF, being built by a company called Organic Transit, was started by a kickstarter campaign and is being built in Durham, North Carolina. The guy behind it, Rob Cotter, gave a Ted talk about it:
Here’s a nice blog, called Orasfarsasiget from someone who bought one in North Carolina and rode it home to Massachusetts .
Although there is really nothing all that new, that other people aren’t already doing, it is a nicely designed package.
Sometime a design like this is going to reach a tipping point and be widely adopted and then our cities are going to be fundamentally changed. We aren’t going to need new billion dollar motorways. We’re going to need safer places to ride our bikes and trikes. It is time that we were bold. It would be completely within the capabilities of New Zealand companies to build similar machines. We will be able to decouple transport from burning oil. The sooner the better. It’s time to think smart.