By on November 11, 2015

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I guess I cover the reverse trike beat here at TTAC.

It started with a post about a Chinese death trap three-wheeler I’d seen advertised. In the comments to that post, one of our readers suggested looking into the Elio project. We’ve done that a few times since then, including an exclusive review of one of their prototypes. Because of our coverage of Elio Motors, a group of Elio deposit holders who have become disenchanted by continued production delays asked us to consider their charges. While it’s true that I’m in what may be a minority of automotive writers that don’t think Elio is a scam, I’m not naive. There are ample reasons for skepticism and we take the word truth in our title seriously, so Mark Stevenson and I looked into the critics’ complaints and we both decided they were adding nothing new to issues raised by Elio’s critics before.

However, I do keep tabs on their Facebook group, which is how I found out about Arcimoto, a Eugene, Oregon company that hopes to put their highway capable electric reverse trike in production by the end of next year with a starting price of $11,900.

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Arcimoto was founded by Mark Frohnmayer, who spent 10 years as a video game designer before embracing the world of real hardware. The Arcimoto trike is going to be called the SRK, promoted as “the everyday electric” and the company will be showing a production prototype for the first time later this week in their hometown, then followed by a road show in California. Like the Elio, SRK is a tandem two seater with front wheel drive. Unlike the Elio, which has a conventional 3 cylinder gasoline engine, the Arcimoto SRK will feature individual 30 kW AC induction motors for each of the front wheels. Projected 0-60 performance for the 1,023 lb trike is 7.5 seconds, with a top speed of 85 mph. Handling is said to be “nimble”. Turning circle is a tight 27 feet. Range with the standard 12kWh battery pack will be 70 miles — though a larger, 20 kWh pack will be an option. Like Tesla, Arcimoto is using standard 18650 form factor Li-Ion cells.

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The SRK will be regulated as a motorcycle and the base model has moto-like al fresco riding. Equipped with all-weather panels and a HVAC system, the SRK will cost about $15,000. Fully optioned models will cost about $20,000. Arcimoto says that it takes just minutes to enclose the SRK. Mercedes-Benz SLs and DeLoreans have gull-winged doors. Tesla describes the passenger doors on their new Model X crossover as “falcon-winged”. Arcimoto says that their optional door is a “one of a kind Eagle winged door”. They will also offer something like a sedan delivery option for commercial customers, called the Deliverator, with the rear seat replaced by a fully enclosed cargo area.

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When I asked Frohnmayer why someone should spend $20,000 on an SRK instead of thousands less on an entry level Nissan Versa, he said people who live in San Francisco or London would appreciate a vehicle that can park in a tiny space. Frohnmayer said they kept the total length down to 106 inches because it will fit nose first in a conventional city parking space, allowing three SRKs to park in the same space as a Toyota Highlander. While it’s intended as an urban vehicle, Frohnmayer stressed that it’s not a speed restricted neighborhood electric vehicle. He’s hoping that the SRK’s “engaging driving experience” will set it apart from economy cars.

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The SRK is the eighth generation vehicle developed by Arcimoto, started in 2007. It’s the first to feature an upright seating position like on a CanAm Spyder along with handlebars instead of a steering wheel. Those changes allowed them to reduce the weight of the vehicle by an impressive 700 lbs. A conventional automotive type seating position means a longer vehicle to accommodate leg room. Longer vehicles are heavier vehicles. Unlike the CanAm Spyder, though, the SRK does not require sophisticated electronics to keep it stable in turns. Though the rider is sitting high, the weight and location of the battery pack keep the overall center of gravity low. The two electric motors and their gear reduction units keep the weight biased towards the front, the way God and Morgan intended three-wheelers to be. Between that and the low center of gravity, both front wheels stay on terra firma when cornering hard. Cornering is aided by electrically assisted power steering.

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Because of the availability of hand controls, Arcimoto has given the SRK two braking systems: a conventional hydraulic system operated with a foot pedal, and a regenerative braking system that is activated by a hand lever. Frohnmayer expects that regenerative braking will provide most of the stopping power for the SRK in real world use.

The SRK will be regulated under the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as a motorcycle. It does have rollover protection built into the space frame, and the five point harnesses are meant to duplicate the safety of the BMW C1 scooter’s passenger protection. Like the C1, it has crush zones, front and back. Unlike the Elio, there doesn’t appear to be any side impact protection. The company will likely piggyback on Elio Motors’ lobbying U.S. states to have three wheelers given a special class of motor vehicle — autocycles — that would more or less have the status of motorcycles, but without drivers having to wear helmets.

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Initial sales will be in just three states — Oregon, California and Washington — with plans to expand to other markets as production ramps up. Initial production will be 10,000 units a year, though Frohnmayer hopes to eventually sell hundreds of thousands per year. They’re also looking into making the SRK in China, but U.S.-built Arcimotos will comprise almost completely of domestic content with the exception of the traction motors, which are sourced from Italy.

Sales will be direct from Arcimoto, with service provided by local partners (probably similar to Elio’s deal with Pep Boys). There are no plans to set up a dealer network, though the company is looking into standalone company owned stores or mall kiosks, similar to Tesla’s current setup.

Mark Frohnmeyer has promised TTAC a test drive of Arcimoto’s latest prototype, provided we can get someone out to Eugene. If that’s something you like to see us do, let us know in the comments.

By the way, while the disgruntled Elio deposit holders seem to think that Arcimoto has more credibility than Elio, Frohnmayer didn’t disagree when I told him that both companies are in similar situations, credibility-wse. He said that’s why they use the word “target” for production dates.

I make no apology for thinking that there is romance in the idea of starting up a car company and would like to see both Elio and Arcimoto succeed. If they do, I’m sure that TTAC will do our utmost to arrange a comparison review of their two trikes.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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21 Comments on “Arcimoto Announces Production Plans for $11,900 Electric Reverse Trike...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Ugh. Every trike that comes out is just a reminder of how much cooler cars could be if they weren’t bound by safety regulations. Thank God I can live in a state with flexible kit car laws… but even still, that’s not enough.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      If you were someone who’d lost a parent to a metal dashboard in the 50’s, or had them impaled on a steering column, you might feel differently.

      We need safety regs.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        If endless safety regulations are so critical, why allow these coffins? What if your mom gets killed in one? What about motorcycles? Ban those too? What if your Uncle Charlie gets killed on one?

  • avatar
    redliner

    Forget Agramoto (or whatever)…

    Where is my LIT C1? http://litmotors.com/c1/

    These dreams ultimately end up being flightless, kind of like Aptera.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Pile endless mandatory safety regulations on automobiles but allow the organ donor motorcycle class to grow into frankenstein motorcoffins.

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    They are missing the “autocycle” distinction which Elio is pushing — you sit in a seat, like a car, and have full surroundings, like a car. The point is to have rollover and side-impact protection in the vehicle’s body, plus seatbelts and airbags.

    It also misses the price advantage of the Elio — $6800 for a complete car, body-wise, vs $11500 for no weather protection, or $15K for weather protection.

    It’s only advantage over a Versa or such is shorter parking length.

    My favorite Elio trick is that they intend to finance it by a gas card which charges triple the gas price, with the extra going to car payments. If it does get 84 mpg, then buying one for commuting breaks even (minus insurance!) if the replaced vehicle gets 28 mpg; if it replaces anything which gets less mileage, you come out ahead. At $6800, that might work, even sipping gas. $6800 at $2.50/gallon ($5 going to car payments) requires 1360 gallons total, or 114K miles, or $22K miles a year over 5 years. I suspect owners would have to pony up a little more to meet some monthly minimum, but it’s still a fascinating concept.

    • 0 avatar

      The mileage is a major plus for Elio, also…not only the claimed 84mpg, but the fact it can go as far as its true fuel economy on a full tank will take you…without stopping to charge the batteries. Certainly that is hundreds of miles farther than an SRK will travel, uninterrupted.

      I have no investment in any of these ventures, but I do hope they succeed. A $6800 Elio is a very tempting option for me to recommend to my nearing-driving-age daughter (who seems averse to riding her bicycle or walking to local destinations).

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      I thought the point of the Autocycle definition is to allow vehicles manufactured to federal motorcycle standards that wouldn’t necessarily require a motorcycle license endorsement to operate. Virginia’s autocycle law specifically permits operation of autocycles with fixed roofs and windshiels without having to wear a helmet as is required of motorcycles.

      That said, I doubt the Arcimoto would qualify as an autocycle under Virginia law as said law specifies that you sit in a seat automobile syle without straddling. Sure looks like this requires you to straddle the battery.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      If the Elio can actually do 84mpg on the daily commute, they’re going to have a world-beater there. My Yamaha Zuma 125 scooter is only knocking out 80mpg running 45-53mph on the daily commute. And I’m wearing winter motorcycling clothes at this time of the year.

    • 0 avatar
      mark_frohnmayer

      Arcimoto’s earlier prototypes all would have fit the autocycle definition, but ultimately we found that designing a reverse trike with tandem and pretty recumbent seating created a non-optimal solution: second seat ingress/egress is a real challenge, and the overall vehicle is significantly larger while providing less passenger comfort.

      Also, when you compare pricing advantage it is useful to take into account cost over a reasonable life span of the vehicle. Going electric in any form factor carries a higher up front cost, but will save you money over time. The base model Arcimoto is priced to be realistically produceable and affordable for just about everyone.

      In that price range it becomes a question of what is important to you as a driver – if you don’t care how much space you take up in the world, you don’t mind continuing torching hydrocarbons to get groceries and you are satisfied with the pretty mediocre experience offered by internal combustion cars, that will lead you to one product, whereas if you want to minimize your footprint, are tired of buying gas to get groceries and want to have a very engaging, refined ride experience wherever you go, you’ll make a different choice.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Fully optioned models will cost about $20,000.”

    Lawl. We’re above the “cheap vehicles for necessity” price range, and into “old guy wants sun weather toy” range.

  • avatar
    InterstateNomad

    Looking around in the big cities in Florida, I don’t see any of these small vehicles (even downtown, probably because of aggresive driving) and I wonder if there will really be any takers. Ironically, I have seen Smart cars in smaller towns like Gainesville and the Vilages.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      If I lived in a smaller, fair-weather urban area like those listed above, I would have gotten a Mitsubishi i-MiEV (especially when they were being heavily discounted due to almost non-existent sales everywhere else).

      It would have seemed to be ideal for that kind of locale, since it’s pretty much just a high-performance, street-legal electric golf cart, anyway, and golf-carts already permeate those kinds of places.

  • avatar
    stroker49

    Ugly and too expensive. If (and I don’t) would spend money on something similar it would be a Renault Twizy (fourwheeler) or the said Elio.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Cars could get similar mileage if not for all the mandatory safety regs. Why exempt them if they have three wheels? Wouldn’t 4 wheels be safer? There is no logic. People have to innovate around the government rules in order to save people money. Like Uber.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    More choice is always good, so I’m glad to see this coming. It could work for some people for sure.

    As for mass-market appeal… if this is a vehicle “ideal” for city dwellers, then it needs to be a viable solution to a wide variety of common duties so that the dweller doesn’t need to maintain two cars. Many city dwellers have a single parking spot.

  • avatar
    wmba

    “Like the C1, it has crush zones, front and back.”

    Where?

    3 wheelers – the third wheel is always on the crown of the lane on our worn out roads. Great if you like dartiness. Hard to imagine a worse form.

    Elio, longer in gestation than the NSX. A complete load of pie-in-the-sky fuzzy-wuzzy thinking. $6800. Right. Crowd-sourced by people who’ve never made anything physical themselves and have no clue what things cost. Elio prezident – living high on a great salary while occasionally writing fantasy updates to please all the nitwits who gave him $200 each.

    This Arcimoto thing is at least priced semi-sanely for what you get and the fluffies may love it. Perhaps. 18650 cells are obsolete, but don’t tell Elon who’s building a pyramid to this folly in the Nevada desert.

    Has everyone lost their critical faculties or are there some who still believe in the Fish carburetor? And magic?

    • 0 avatar
      mark_frohnmayer

      While it is true that there are many wrong ways to design a 3 wheeler, your categorical rejection of the form is not accurate – having driven our prototypes on many worn roads, the back wheel on the crown doesn’t create ride instability because the rear is not a driven wheel – it’s just along for the ride. A rear-wheel drive reverse trike has to trade off stability and traction. A front wheel drive reverse trike like the SRK or Elio, not so much.

      18650 is a cell format, not a chemistry, and referring to the format as “obsolete” ignores the reality of the global marketplace.

  • avatar

    The problem with three-wheelers? Either their advocates like Paul Elio end up presenting a not particularly cozy two-seater on a floor plan that’s basically the same as that of a hatchback to avoid having to deploy some sort of tilting mechanism… or they are too small to be considered safe transportation outside city limits. However, if you really take the time to ‘properly format’ a three-wheeler, you end up with a vehicle that’s superior to any similarly sized four-wheeled car – safer, more comfortable, more economical as well as more fun to drive! Check out newisetta.com and you know what I mean. Despite its mere ‘paper status’, it is the way to go.

    The SRK does make for a nice alternative to the Renault (Nissan) Twizy a Frisco car-sharing company just brought into service.


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