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ELF velomobile is powered by you and the Sun


December 3, 2012

The ELF is a pedal/electric velomobile, that can be charged using a built-in photovoltaic panel

The ELF is a pedal/electric velomobile, that can be charged using a built-in photovoltaic panel

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While it’s all very well and good to use an electric vehicle as your around-town ride, full-size electric cars can still be pretty pricey. Also, as many of their critics are quick to point out, the electricity used to charge their batteries currently still tends to come from eco-unfriendly sources such as coal-burning power plants. Well, that’s where the three-wheeled ELF velomobile comes into play. It’s cheaper than a car, can be pedaled like a tricycle, and the battery that powers its electric assist motor can be charged from the Sun.

Prototypes of the ELF are presently being built by Organic Transit, a Durham, North Carolina-based company founded by entrepreneur Rob Cotter. The vehicle has an aluminum frame, a single seat, rear cargo compartment (reportedly good for about eight bags of groceries), a vacuum-formed ABS-composite body, and a polycarbonate windshield. It also features a full LED lighting package.

“Under the hood,” so to speak, it has a 750-watt permanent neodymium magnet motor powered by an 8-pound (3.6-kg) 88.8-volt lithium battery pack. Although drivers can extend the range by choosing to pedal or by adding an additional battery pack, a single pack will take them about 30 miles (48 km) per charge.

While the battery can be charged in two hours from a standard outlet, the ELF also features a roof-mounted 60-watt photovoltaic panel. This provides a trickle charge to the battery while the vehicle is parked – provided it’s getting a good dose of sunlight.

All told, it has a claimed fuel economy of 1,800 MPGe (0.13 L/100km equivalent).

Some of the ELF’s other features include disc brakes, standard 26-inch mountain bike-style wheels, and a top allowable speed of 20 mph (32 km/h) – under U.S. federal regulations, the vehicle is classified as a powered bicycle. The target weight for a full production model is 100 pounds (45 kg), including battery.

Of course for most people, what it all ultimately comes down to is price. Cotter and his team are currently raising production funds on Kickstarter for an initial run of 100 ELFs, each of which should be priced at US$4,000. This is actually quite a good price for an electric-assist velomobile. Similar vehicles that we’ve covered recently include the $7,450 Tripod and the $5,700 Hornet ... and those ones are at the low end of the price scale.

The ELF can be seen in action, in Rob’s pitch video below.

Source: Organic Transit

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

Nice looking design, good protection from rain, now how about producing a non powered version that you simply peddle, the last thing most people need is less exercise!

Jerry Peavy

But wait. Lets look at the whole system.

How much fuel is used to produce the foods that are consumed to bike??

Sadly, when you look at how carbon intensive our food supply is in the USA (average distance traveled/meal is 1400 miles), our human powered vehicles are no longer so fuel effecient as say, a Hummer....


Next step, buy local, grow local (and organic)


it's cool but we need practical too, How about adding a hatch-back for groceries or tools & a roof-rack for ladders or perhaps a surf board.

I'll take one then..

Mark Whitton

Jerry, if you want more exercise, don't use the battery and just peddle. Mark, Hatchbacks require more framework and more hardware. This will add weight. A roof rack would defeat the solar charging, and make the vehicular dangerously top heavy. Now a side mount rack low enough to clear all vision and mirrors would do well, if it could keep clear of the turning radius. Two design questions, (1) why do the wheels tip inward? wouldn't this cause tires to wear unevenly, and possibly damage the more vulnerable sidewalls? (2) What about a solar charging dock for it at home? What is the solar charging time as is, and how large of an array would be required to charge it at wall charger speed, and actually be zero footprint? (besides manufacturing requirements)


Perfect addendum to a teardrop travel trailer. At a hundred pounds you could pull it as a commuter vehicle behind your trailer on vacation.

Jesse Allen

This vehicle has a robust electric motor and battery. The addition of solar trickle charging of the main battery intrigues me as it is no simple matter. I found it to be easier to just solar charge up a 12V LED lighting system.

Ross Nicholson

Great product and I'm game for that price. $4000 will buy you a good electric bicycle but at least there, you can ride in the rain. And it's all about choice, peddle or use the electric motor to help. This is a great compromise.

Nicolas Zart

Neat little unit. But will your poor cousins up north have access to this great little comuter buggy? I currently ride a Catrike from the US of A and would like to explore the enclosed version of this mode of transportation.

Kevin James

I would love to have one of these things, atm my only reliable form of transportation is a regular mountain bike.

Brandon Kline

pros: as of any velomobile + low price in the US, standard solar charging, easier entry and better visibility than some of its cousins cons: as of any velomobile + poor aerodynamics (even compared to Alligt A4) + high centre of gravity One can buy this for a few years gym membership that's either working out for free or having a free ride:) Good luck Organic Transit! PS: prospective buyers of e-cars must look at the ELF's ratio of price to range on a single charge.


He had me at the first lick of "Sure Thing".

I miss my St. Germain CD and I'm going to get whichever one of you took it.

re: "Racks

That sounds exactly like the kind of thing you could figure out yourself. Any LBS that wouldn't help should be punished with avoidance.

C. Walker Walker

@Jerry Peavy. For less exercise, drive a car. A car will give you no exercise. This vehicle gives you the option to exercise or not. For $4,000, that's a price I would consider. It's actually cheaper than most purely pedal powered velo-cars.

Edgar Walkowsky

It has one terrible flaw: THREE wheels instead of four makes it unstable around turns. If it had four wheels, I would seriously consider buying it.

David Mayer

Are looking for Dealer's, if so how many could I expect, one month, 6 months or 1 year!! I'm a developer located in North Bend, Oregon.

We have many 'custom bike builders' on Coos County, including one 'Electric Bike' assembler, and he is having trouble because of Liability Insurance!

How does your State classify your vehicle?


What about theft? There are no doors whats to stop someone from riding off with your new 4000 electric bike?

Zach Ryan

Instead of the peddling direct powering the vehicle, why not just put an onboard electric generator to recharge the batteries. That way, the driver can sit stationary and recharge the battery while idle. I was thinking that in New York City, it would be an efficient way to improve the performance of the existing pedicabs. While the drivers are waiting for fairs, they could pedal and recharge the battery until they get the next fair.

Eric Goldstein

Love the idea . I think it would be good for me in so many ways . I was injured in an accident , and because of medical issues cannot get a license . A bike is fine but very dependent on the weather . Another problem I see is if I go shopping somewhere I can only go to one place at a time because there are no secure areas I can lock my shopping while I go in a different store ( at a mall , or shopping center ). How is the ventilation on this ?

Tom Hawes Jr.

You are using a cult symbol as your logo. I would advise to change it as the cult of $cientrollogy is very litigious, they will sue you and they have a$$ tons of money.

Aaron Baker
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