At long last, Arcimoto CEO Mark Frohnmayer is ready to roll.
“It’s been a non-trivial undertaking,” Frohnmayer said with a laugh in an interview with Forbes.com following a momentous day in the NASDAQ-listed company’s history – and he wasn’t exaggerating. Arcimoto’s journey to fully-vetted, street-legal, DOT-approved production status has taken 12 arduous years and over $40 million, but that first drive last week made it all seem like time and money well spent.
After numerous prototypes, refinements, fussing over details like finding approved turn signals and checking every other bureaucratic box, Frohnmayer rode the first production-spec Arcimoto “FUV” (Fun Utility Vehicle) home from his tidy plant last Tuesday. After a celebration at the Arcimoto assembly facility on Thursday, it was back to work to continue spooling up production of the first of over 4,100 units the company has pre-orders for. “It was a blast,” Frohnmayer said of the first ride out on the roads in and around his hometown of Eugene, Oregon, in the first retail-ready and fully street-legal machine.
On Monday, Frohnmayer was in Portland, Oregon, with that very first production FUV and the fuv, er, fun commenced, as it were. Forbes.com was the first publication to drive the FUV following the start of production, and Frohnmayer said we were aboard that first production unit, Serial Number Zero. The machine was a full-boat “Evergreen” model with all the options, and nicely turned out in glossy black and dark red. It’s also his personal ride.
Fast-growing Portland has become a bit of a car traffic nightmare (and bicycle commuting nirvana), so a smaller vehicle like the Arcimoto is a powerful tool for getting around. With Frohnmayer at the controls, we zipped around Portland’s southern waterfront sector, and then slipped downtown for a short bit before he turned over the driver’s seat to Forbes. The FUV didn’t disappoint.
Arcimoto’s electric 3-wheeler is a “reverse trike,” with two wheels up front and a single wheel out back. According to Oregon law, it’s a motorcycle (similar to a Can-Am Spyder or Polaris Slingshot) and it does have handlebars, but the riding experience is much more car-like. It even has criss-cross dual seatbelts and a windshield wiper. And a stereo. And a transparent roof, and (removeable) doors, if you want them. Frohnmayer says that due to certain codicils in the law (and those seatbelts and roof), riders do not have to wear helmets.
Unlike the Spyder and Slingshot, the two-seat FUV is powered by a pair of electric motors driving the front wheels instead of sending power to a single rear wheel. A 19.2kWh battery pack gives it an EPA-estimated range of 102 miles, which translates to a stout 172mpg-e. Top speed is 75 miles an hour, so it’s freeway capable, but it really shines while zipping around town. Frohnmayer says it’s one of the most efficient vehicles you can buy.
Out on the road, the Arcimoto FUV is a hoot to pilot, nicely blending the open-air thrill of a motorcycle experience with the stability, grip and weather protection of a small car. Portland’s well-worn infrastructure meant an abundance of potholes, pavement irregularities and other suspension challenges, which the Arcimoto traversed easily while maintaining a well-controlled ride, even while cornering with enthusiasm. Even at higher speeds, the quiet electric drive and aerodynamics of the FUV meant Frohnmayer and I could carry on a conversation with ease, no yelling required. And we didn’t have doors on our machine, either.
The dual motors put out about 500 kilowatts of peak power total, which results in brisk but not Tesla-levels of acceleration. Despite the small size of the FUV, the rear seating area is spacious and comfortable, and at 6-foot-1-inches tall and 230lbs+, I am not a small person. Legroom is aided by long side runners, and up front, I was comfortable in the driver’s seat. Frohnmayer said he’s hoping to give future buyers the option of adding seats by renowned motorcycle seat maker Mike Corbin among other customization options.
Cockpit controls will be more familiar at first to motorcycle and scooter riders, with a twist throttle on the wide handlebars, and the FUV also features a finger-operated lever that engages the regenerative braking system on the right bar. It works just like a brake, and being a long-time motorcycle rider, I found using it to be second-nature. Drivers used to those more circular steering controls will need a few miles to get used to it, but in the meantime, the automotive-style pedal brake on the floorboard activates three disc brakes and stops the FUV in short order, just without the benefit of a quick blast of juice back to the battery.
The top-tier $19,900 Evergreen edition of the FUV features a full slate of options, including heated handgrips, heated seats, a very handy rear lockable mini-trunk that held a backpack and my full-face motorcycle helmet with room to spare and a Bluetooth stereo system. There are two USB powerlets including a 2.1-amp option for charging your phone, and the plugs sit under a small bar-mounted phone cradle for using GPS, music and phone ops. An LCD panel acts as the speedo while also showing battery level and other info bits. And yes, the FUV does have reverse – and neutral. Future options could include multiple performance modes, adjustable steering sensitivity, and even air conditioning. Prices are also before any EV incentives and currently, Arcimoto is only shipping the FUVs to Oregon, California and Washington buyers. But in time, that will change.
Frohnmayer says that his goals for now include getting production sped up while maintaining quality, and FUV No. 1 felt very solid while underway. Fit and finish was very good on the two units he brought to Portland. While the Evergreen model seats two, it’s clear the FUV would also make an excellent urban delivery platform, and Arcimoto has a single-seat delivery model, called the Deliverator, in the works. There is also a Rapid Responder model kitted out for first responders that’s packed with emergency gear and the requisite lights and noisemakers. Given how the West Coast is a disaster zone waiting to happen, civic leaders might want to take a closer look.
During our cruise around town, Frohnmayer said that in light of Amazon ordering 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from EV pickup truck startup Rivian (of whom Amazon is a key investor), he thinks an Arcimoto FUV kitted out for small package delivery would be a smart addition to Bezo’s burgeoning EV green fleet.
For now, CEO Frohnmayer is focused on getting Arcimoto’s 100 employees and new factory tuned up to make headway on the thousands of preorders, and he says he envisions a future where economies of scale mean he can start selling the machines for a target price of $12,000 for a base model, and possibly under $10,000 at some point in the future. But mostly, he’s enjoying putting miles on the first of what could be a new (and definitely fun) class of electric vehicles about to take to West Coast streets.