I have been following the progress of Durham, NC-based Organic Transit for some time now. I took a test ride of their ELF solar/human-powered hybrid velomobile for Mother Nature Network. I posted about the company's development here on TreeHugger. And I reported on the fact that they've hired an ex-Ford exec to ramp up production.
In short, I'm somewhat of a fan. Still, I never really thought of myself as part of the target market.
I have small kids. I sometimes ride my bike around town when I can go solo, I occasionally throw the kids in the bike trailer if I have the time and energy, and I use the car when we're in a hurry/I'm too lazy/it's raining/[insert other excuse here]. Despite the impressive design and cool list of features, a $5,000+ one-seater electric velomobile felt like an indulgence for one, and impractical for family transportation.
Enter the 2FR —a two-seater upgrade option that Organic Transit are just rolling out. It first crossed my radar via this short video founder Rob Cotter posted to YouTube:
I was intrigued enough to drop Rob a line and hear more.
The option is literally just moving into production, so no details are up on the website. But Rob told me they are taking pre-orders, that the upgrade costs $499 (standard retail price for an ELF is $5,495), and the current wait on orders is between 6 to 8 weeks. I had sufficiently fond memories of my last outing in an ELF that I had to go check it out. And Rob was kind enough to take me for a spin. Here's what it feels like to ride in the back:
I can report that the ride is pretty comfortable (though not roomy) for a grownup, and Organic Transit team members tell me that two seven-year-olds can ride fit on the back seat, maybe even without fighting. I also got a chance to take the wheel and found the 2FR surprisingly easy to maneuver, even with a 170 lb adult in the rear. The electric assist is obviously essential on the up-hills, but on the level you can get moving without it and on downhills it becomes entirely unnecessary.
Rob and I broke the journey with a quick bite to eat and a chat about the future of Organic Transit.
In short, interesting things are afoot. Alongside the development of the 2FR, the company is in active talks with cities and private companies about pilot ELF-share programs. The idea is that velomobiles like the ELF can help solve the "last mile" problem faced by public transit users in a way that bike-share maybe can't. From the weather protection through increased visibility on the roads to upcoming cooling (and heated seat!) options, there are creature comforts in an ELF that may seduce even the most reluctant or athletically compromised cyclists. Indeed, many of Organic Transit's existing ELF-owners have some degree of physical disability, with one woman reporting that she is now "biking" 20 miles a day after being told she would never walk again.
Organic Transit is also working on other innovations, including new features, product lines, international development work and operational improvements, but those will have to wait for another post. In the meantime, this is a company—and a transportation concept—that's well worth watching.