Imagine a ride with the open-air freedom of a motorcycle but the overhead frame of a car. Now put it on three wheels, ride in it silence and plug it in when the day is done.
This is the premise of the Arcimoto FUV, the latest innovation in the burgeoning mobility segment.
The three-wheeled electric motorcycle seats two, has a 70- or 130-mile range, hits 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and has a top speed of 80 mph. When production ramps up next year, the price will range from just under $12,000 to about $19,500.
The FUV — an acronym that sounds more confrontational than anything — is branded as a fun utility vehicle by Arcimoto, a Eugene, Oregon-based startup developing a fun solution for a serious problem.
“We use a tool meant to carry seven people 300 miles to take one person three miles,” Arcimoto founder and President Mark Frohnmayer said in a phone interview. “Driving is not fun to a vast majority of people commuting. It’s a huge hassle to find parking, to navigate the congestion. So Arcimoto is a right-sized solution to the problem of mobility.”
The future of personal mobility might return us to the time when driving was fun. In our half-hour behind the handlebars, the FUV delivered on its promise.
Since it is electric, there is no engine thrumming, and no exhaust wafting up at stops. The two stacked seats are much like conventional car seats, or chairs, with a very comfortable seating position with feet on the floor and back against the full-size backrest. Both seats can accommodate riders up to 6-feet, 4-inches tall. Riders sit above sedan height and eye-to-eye with crossovers, so visibility is better than roadsters and other open-roof cars.
A sort-of roll cage extends overhead from the long front windshield to the tail, so the only wind is coming from the side. There are available hard and soft shells for all-season riding, as well as optional doors. Overall it is much more comfortable and accessible as an everyday vehicle than a motorcycle.
Operationally, it is similar to a motorcycle. There is a throttle on the right handlebar along with a regenerative braking handle. Regen braking can be done to a stop, but for more urgent applications, a right foot brake pedal is on the floor, kind of like where the gear shifter on a motorcycle would be.
At low speeds, the power steering operates like any other vehicle, though it doesn’t steer as directly or tightly as expected. As you go faster, the power steering fades out by degrees to avoid tipping. We didn’t push it to the point of imbalance, but it felt firmly planted in every turn we made.
There is a touch screen embedded beyond the handlebars, with functions to be developed beyond the prototypes.
The FUV is a blast to cruise around in. It doesn’t require any technical knowledge, though a motorcycle license might be required, depending on the state. There are no gears, so torque is instantaneous and acceleration brisk. The open sides are thrilling, and the three-point harnesses, as well the upper frame assembly, have all passed safety test standards established by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
“We’ve gone above and beyond what goes into testing, including front crumple zone testing and tests for the efficacy of the frame,” Frohnmayer said.
It is much more developed and ridable than other three-wheel prototypes we’ve tested, especially Elio, which was a gas-powered two-seat steel coffin that rode like a go-kart in a Mad Max world.
“Our approach has been more incremental [than Elio], we’ve spent our resources more on product development than marketing,” Frohnmayer said. “Elio is the automotive model of development, we’re much more similar to a tech startup or software company by getting our product to market then building to scale.”
In 2007, Frohnmayer sold his first startup, GarageGames, a game technology and software developer, to get the capital to launch Arcimoto. In September, the company went public to secure more funding, and, like another tech startup making vehicles, it has used the Tesla model of securing $100 deposits from over 3,000 customers who expect signature models late this year.
“That money is not used for product development,” Frohnmayer clarified. It’s meant to save a place in line, he said.
Three-wheel motorcycles are nothing new, but they have been a bright spot of growth in the declining motorcycle segment. Prized for their stability and safety while still providing the open-road fun of a motorcycle, trikes by Can-Am, Harley-Davidson, Polaris and others are not just giving aging riders an alternative, but courting a new generation of buyers who don’t want all the trappings of a traditional vehicle.
Arcimoto is taking that a step further, with a promotional tour aimed at young urbanites looking for a simple thrill and the convenience of parking in spots where cars can’t fit.
“I was searching for something lightweight, affordable and high quality — an all-day electric vehicle — but nothing fit the bill,” Frohnmayer, 43, said of Arcimoto’s origin. “It’s the ideal daily ride for a wide swath of the driving public, for people who commute alone, or for running deliveries around town. And passengers can ride together in a vehicle footprint not much bigger than a touring bike.”
It could be the ideal resort vehicle as well, or for fleet purposes at institutions such as college campuses.
Development and delivery sound far more reasonable than at Elio and Tesla.
By the end of 2019, Arcimoto plans to be producing 200 FUVs a week out of its Eugene factory. It’s legal in all 50 states, and has a standard Level 1 charger and a 220V Level 2 charge capability. It has an expandable frame architecture to haul everything from surf boards to bikes and lumber.
It will certainly haul the fun, for a serious purpose.
“Moving to an FUV rather than full-size car can avoid the problems we have created ourselves,” Frohnmayer said.
Arcimoto FUV: 3-wheel electric motorcycle that seats two
Price range: $11,900-$19,500
Top speed: 80 mph.
Range: 70-mile or 130-mile options
110V/220V charge time: 8 hours/4 hours