Meet the ELF: An American-built solar-powered trike

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.

Conceived by former sports-car designer Rob Cotter, and built right here in Durham, NC, the ELF features an electric assist motor; a durable, highly visible outer shell to protect you from the elements, and a sizable cargo compartment capable of holding eight grocery bags. (It is said to carry a total payload of 350lb.) The pure electric battery range is 14+ miles, and that can easily be extended the more you choose to pedal/coast. And the battery will recharge in about 7 hours if left in direct sunlight, or 1.5 hours if plugged into an outlet. Its makers claim it gets the energy equivalent of 1,800mpg.

Now there are naysayers of course. Some say that it pretty much does what a bike or cargo bike does anyway. Others say it's just too expensive. But given that there are a huge number of people who could be coaxed out of their cars, and yet for whatever reason—safety, convenience, weather, not wanting to be sweaty at work—choose not to bike, I say the ELF is an ideal solution for many commuters. The price ($4995, rising to $5495 on April 17th) is not for everyone if you compare it to your average bike, but think of it as a replacement car and it starts to look decidedly economical.

I already know of people in my community who are foregoing a second car in favor of an ELF, and sales appear to be picking up pace. The company has built and sold 325+ ELF's since its crowdfunded launch just over a year ago, and it is aiming to sell a further 1,200 this year. Jerry Seinfeld is a proud owner, apparently piloting his ELF around the Hamptons on a regular basis, and the ELF has been featured on USA Today, ABC News and many other major news outlets.

Organic Transit is currently exploring many avenues for growth, including distributed manufacturing hubs in bike-friendly communities around the world, as well as production of adapted models for use as ambulances and water-carriers in Africa.

But that's enough from me. (It's true, I am a little enamored.) Check out the ELF in this video from QUEST Science and then, just for fun, have a look at what Durham might look like when we finally move beyond the car.


Tags: Air Quality | Cities | Clean Energy | Electric Bikes | Electric Vehicles | Energy Efficiency