Despite the many upgrades to our personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) over the years, such as four-wheel disk brakes, rack and pinion steering, optional automotive glass, greater power, seat belts, turn signal lights, etc. the vehicle as a concept and as a practical tool for getting you to point B from point A, continues to have significant drawbacks.
How would you characterize a PTV?
Remember the phrase, “A jack of all trades and a master of none”? We could think of the PTV as a multi-use vehicle and excelling in none in particular. It does get you around the gated community and can be equipped for light duty pick-up and delivery—and, of course, is usually good for golf outings. What does it lack? For one thing it is confined; that is, unless equipped and certified as a low-speed vehicle (LSV), you cannot legally drive it on public roads. Even if it is LSV-certified, public road driving is confined to streets with speed limits of 35 m.p.h. (This is the usual restriction in probably a majority of jurisdictions around the country.)
You can complain all you want about NHTSA’s nitpicking, but they lay out the rules, and they have, if not the public’s support, the full backing of auto insurance companies that are scared to death that LSVs on public roads, and their prospective accident and injury claims, would bankrupt them. Butting up against NHTSA’s rules and regulation is a self-defeating effort. Ask my friend, Jim Tomberlin of Tomberlin Electric Vehicles. He pioneered the Anvil, a super cool LSV, pictured at the left. Jim’s vision was to make the Anvil a commuter transporter; that is, something you could drive to the station, find a nice, narrow space in which to park, and return home at the end of the day with very little driving expense. NHTSA deemed it unsafe for such use, however.
Undeterred, Tomberlin devised an airbag device for the Anvil, a unique safety feature for an LSV, but all to no avail. I do not believe the Anvil is now in production, although Tomberlin electric vehicles are still very much in the small vehicle picture, particularly with their E-Merge line of LSV vehicles.
The loophole for on-road small vehicles grows larger
Several manufacturers have found a way around the on-road restrictions that have been hampering small vehicle market development—and for that matter development of the much-needed urban mobility market. The answer, build a three-wheeler, and presto it becomes a motorcycle for regulatory purposes. Of the various ventures out there at the present time, the Arcimoto, Inc., based in Eugene, Oregon, may be the most interesting for those of us inside the gated community. The reason becomes fairly obvious from the photo below: it has an open-air design, feature most of us balmy climes really enjoy. Arcimoto has dubbed its vehicle as an FUV—that is, a Fun Utility Vehicle.
The open-air feature is one distinguishing feature of the Arcimoto compared to some of its three-wheel competition. Otherwise, it is electric powered whereas most of the other three-wheelers are gas-powered. The vehicle has a unique drive train, called FutureDrive that combines two electric motors, a custom dual-motor direct drive gearbox and vehicle power electronics.
Summary of Arcimoto features
Thanks to my colleague Marc Cesare for the following:
The Arcimoto FUV is a three-wheeled vehicle powered by a 67 hp electric motor and a 12 or 20 kWh lithium-ion battery for a range of 70 or 130 miles and a top speed of 80 mph. As a three-wheeler, most states classify the FUV as a motorcycle or similar vehicle. Therefore, it does need the same safety requirements as a full-sized, highway capable vehicle.
The FUV can seat two passengers, one behind the other, and features regenerative braking, hydraulic brakes, a windshield with wiper and defrost, and heated seats and hand grips. Additional options include full HVAC, soft or hard shell doors, rear cargo box, bluetooth speakers and racks for golf clubs, bikes, surfboards, etc. The target price for the base model is $11,900 with a fully decked out model reaching the $19,000 range.
It is this combination of price point, size, electric powertrain and ability to travel public roads that makes the Arcimoto FUV an intriguing alternative to golf cars, PTVs and LSVs. Moreover, as the company moves to volume production, its marketing plan will, in fact, make gated communities a key target. To read Marc’s full blog article to go https://www.smallvehicleresource.com/blog/2018/10/31/arcimoto-fuv-ptv-threat/.
Another feature which is also intriguing is a flexible body design, which can be extended to accommodate light cargo of various sorts. And, yes, it can be used on the golf course. Another important aspect of the vehicle is that it can be hard-body-enclosed. This is a feature I’ve always advocated in the PTV space. If you want to pre-order the Arcimoto FUV one, go to their website, at https://www.arcimoto.com/.
By the way, I would look forward to getting your thoughts on the vehicle. See my contact information attached to this article. Is this a contender for use in your gated community? Can it give the current crop of PTVs, LSVs, and golf cars a run for the money?
Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or check out our website at www.smallvehicleresource.com, where you will find an extensive database of vehicle models and can make side-by-side comparisons of vehicles based on a full set of specifications.