Want to Buy a High-Tech, Low-Carbon Electric Vehicle Company? Organic Transit Is for Sale.

CC BY 2.0. Elf in the factory/ Lloyd Alter

Why aren't people lining up for this enclosed solar powered e-cargo tricycle? It pushed every button.

Sufficiency is a regular theme on TreeHugger, where we ask, What is enough to do the job? It's why I get more excited about e-bikes than I do about electric cars. It's why I got REALLY excited about the ELF from Organic Transit.

ELF outside factory

ELF outside factory/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0It's basically a different kind of e-cargo tricycle, with a lightweight cabin. It could carry two people and eight bags of groceries, doing much of what a car can do. It can travel 30 to 122 miles on a charge depending on the batteries or the pedalling, which is farther than most people need to go.

It can charge itself from solar panels on the roof in seven hours or an hour and a half from a normal plug. It doesn't cost much more than a high-end cargo bike, and these days cargo bikes are all the rage. E-bikes are all the rage. E-cargo bikes are all the rage.

ELF test ride photo

Sami Grover/CC BY 2.0

And now it is bankrupt.

Due to constraints on working capital, Organic Transit's assets are now being sold via bankruptcy to a buyer that seeks to monetize its positive brand, intellectual property, proprietary trade secrets, and customer prospect pipeline.

This is all so strange. Elon Musk sells 30,000 Model 3 cars every month. He calls electric cars the answer to our climate crisis. But there are about ten tons of upfront carbon emissions from making every Model 3. Making an ELF has upfront carbon emissions of 300 pounds.

The Elf is a whole lot cheaper and uses a lot less electricity, takes up less space, and can do much the same job for most people. But we are so car-obsessed that something smaller and cheaper doesn't even register.

Rob Cotter and Lloyd Alter discussing the heater

Rob Cotter and Lloyd Alter discussing the heater/ Sami Grover/CC BY 2.0

Rob Cotter of Organic Transit tells TreeHugger that the first ELF ever made was just sold again. That in ten million miles of riding, about 20 have been hit by cars with no serious injuries. That some that are sold in the south never get plugged in at all, as they charge themselves in the sun.

The Elf seemed like the perfect confluence of so many trends, a small, efficient and useful alternative to the car. Sami noted that it was "specifically designed to get the cycle-challenged out of their cars." It seems like this should be its time to shine.

So what happened? Why now? Especially when for years, investors said it was "too early" for such technologies. It's not too early now for low carbon electric vehicles. Cotter explained that he had been working with a serious investor and had a deal to get the funding they needed to get rid of debt and expand production, but in the end it never came through. But now he is optimistic that new investors might give it another chance. Learn more at Organic Transit.

ELF as banana stand

ELF as banana stand/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

And remember, there's always money in the banana stand. Me learning how to drive an ELF:

elf from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.