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BugE – the DIY three-wheel electric vehicle


November 25, 2010

The BugE is a faired electric three-wheeler that buyers purchase as a kit, then put togeth...

The BugE is a faired electric three-wheeler that buyers purchase as a kit, then put together themselves

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Electric vehicles are beginning to spread onto the mass market, but one of the limiting factors in these early days is a high-cost compared to their gas-burning equivalents. Electric scooters and motorcycles are considerably cheaper, but not everyone is comfortable on two wheels, or likes being exposed to the elements. Here's an alternative type of EV that costs less than six thousand dollars, is stable on the road and will protect you from wind and rain. It’s called the BugE, and there’s just one catch to it – you have to put the thing together yourself.

The almost-fully-faired three-wheeler was invented by Mark Murphy, of Creswell, Oregon. In the past, he has worked as a designer on concept projects for companies such as GM, Chrysler and BMW. He has sold about 50 of his BugE kits to customers around the U.S. since 2007, and has now started exporting them to Japan and Europe. His design criteria was for “a simple, low cost personal mobility vehicle that could function in a four-season environment on city streets.” If that philosophy sounds at all familiar, it might be because Murphy thinks of his vehicle as “a Model T for the 21st century.”

BugE – the DIY three-wheel electric vehicle

The BugE is propelled by a 17 bhp DC series motor, which is powered by four M34 lead acid batteries that take around eight hours to recharge. It has a steel box chassis with a composite body, an acrylic Lucite canopy, and has an empty weight of about 350 lbs (159 kg). The vehicle’s top speed is 50 mph (80 kph), with an approximate range of 30 miles (48 km) at 30 mph (48 kph) – Murphy noted that this can be expanded considerably if users swap in lithium batteries.

“The BugE is an entry level street legal EV suitable for errands, school or work commutes within the community,” Murphy told Gizmag. “It needs no special infrastructure since it plugs into 110V outlets using the existing electrical grid... it offers basic stability, performance, wind and rain protection and capacity for local use at a price comparable to a Vespa motorcycle. Four BugE's can fit in one parking space.”

BugE – the DIY three-wheel electric vehicle

Buyers can choose between three kit options, depending on how much they would like to tweak their vehicle with custom parts. For US$3,850, they’ll get the parts necessary for a rolling chassis. An additional $325 will get them the lighting and controls, while the power train will cost an extra $1,412. It adds up to a total of US$5,587, plus shipping.

“By selling kits we can reduce the cost of the vehicle, allow for hobbyist experimentation and modification, and create a local build and sell opportunity without requiring a factory and the high start up costs,” said Murphy.

“The BugE has huge potential and we are only scratching the surface.”

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth

Yes this is like 5 years old.... the only real one is for sale from a guy in Canada.

26th November, 2010 @ 07:09 am PST

Since I'm big into DIY, this is a good idea but it might not be quite as good a deal as stated. It is not clear if batteries come with it (likely not), so the final price could be $500-$1000 more, depending on what type of batteries are used and where they are obtained. Then there is the shipping cost but if picked up at the factory, some money could be saved there. All in all, still not too bad for what one gets.

Neil Larkins
26th November, 2010 @ 07:19 am PST

I would like one with a rowing machine inside so I could row down the street, get exercised and charge the battery. Pulling and steering on the same extendible stick. Two seater would be good too.

Passive Lead
26th November, 2010 @ 08:58 am PST

The look reminds me of a mid 1950's Messerschmidt 3 wheeler.
26th November, 2010 @ 11:27 am PST

If you want to see what one of these can do if pimped out, go look at Nap Pipen's 2008 Lithium BugE with a range of 124 miles which can be seen at He has since donated it to the Reynolds Alberta Museum and moved on to his next build called the Lithium Hawk. As a two-seater it is the next step up the evolutionary ladder and can be seen at

Will, the tink
26th November, 2010 @ 12:08 pm PST

Yes, 5 years old- well, we small companies take a while. Wonder if they have improved the wheels since the orriginal which had some off rim issues on cornering. The "pimped" version is getting pricey!! Messerschmidt has the advantage of being normal heigth, not being a crawl in. This means you can be seen easier and run over less easily. Tom, would you consider a treadmil drive instead of a rowing drive? I think they would be great since they can have a different floor pan and could be done without cranks that people in nice clothes might not want to use (when going out to the opera etc) arm power has more issues with steering at the same time, but i have seen it employed, online anyway.


low kinetic human hybrid llc

Facebook User
26th November, 2010 @ 01:24 pm PST

Looked at the Lithium Hawk. Its a motorcycle and requires a license as such. The back seat is perilously close to the roll line ( front wheel to rear wheel) and rather high so there is a large coupling. I should enquire about rollover.

Facebook User
26th November, 2010 @ 01:28 pm PST

Definetly cheaper that regular car, though 2 seats is a mandatory option! Sure thing to get one of these as soon as two people can fit inside (i mean like two non-midegt adults, ok?). Beat'em up, Mark!

Михаил Финогенов
26th November, 2010 @ 02:35 pm PST

Will, the tink, thanks for the links.

The LITHIUM HAWK look more like what I think most people in the market would want compared to the stock Bug-E. I would really like to see more and larger photos of the final chassis though. The sole shot on his site is TINY!

The thing is though, if Nap Pipen were to offer it up to consumers as kits or total packages, I'm afraid they'd be well over the price of an average car. No?

26th November, 2010 @ 04:46 pm PST

I was hoping this would come in at around $500-1500 bananas. That's the price monkeys would pay around here. Can you add AC or heat? Banana dispenser?

26th November, 2010 @ 08:12 pm PST

haha! the diy thing is most definitely the fun part in this!

Vikrant Chandragiri
27th November, 2010 @ 01:41 am PST

It would have a lot more appeal if it had better cargo carrying capacity and/or capable of carrying a passenger.

Michael Crumpton
28th November, 2010 @ 03:26 am PST

as to the cost of the "not a vehicle" you build...

while the power train will cost an extra $1,412

You don't get anything but the shell to build for the base price?!?

(at that rate, can a 283 fit in it??)

the old rang
28th November, 2010 @ 10:28 am PST

Greetings. I think this is a really great idea! With the current technological advances, as we speak, upgrades are surely possible. This could really catch on! Best wishes of success! GOD Bless!

29th November, 2010 @ 12:54 pm PST

Went over and looked at that Lithium Hawk model. Says it uses an 1800 Gold Wing shaft drive to transmit power from the electric motor. How about just using the whole drivetrain, motor and all! That would be awesome to build a really cool reverse trike like that with Gold Wing power!

Chris Blake
29th November, 2010 @ 09:56 pm PST
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