ELF Bikes E-velomobile—Mixing it Up.
Here is an electric bike that is kind of a mix with a automobile. Comfortable, smooth and green, it is a great way to mix up your transportation needs. Just like any E-bike it is big fun too. My personal feelings on it are just a bit mixed, yet if I had one I am sure it would get ridden a lot. Bikes are my number one passion and this fits the bill as closely as you will get with a three-wheeled vehicle. It is truly the best E-velomobile I have ridden to date.
What exactly you call this ELF is a mixed bag too. You might go with “Personal Transportation”. Maybe “Velomobile”. How about “Electric Velomobile”? “Electric Trike” with a motor and a body? You might just name it like you would your bike and go with that. The ELF is made in Durham, North Carolina in partnership with Organic Transit. Yes, about 650 of these have been made in the USA and roam the streets daily. They call them simply the “ELF”, so that is good enough for me.
Here on the west coast Greg and Karen out of Palm Desert are your go to folks for trying out and securing a ELF. They stock a wide variety of the available models that include 1 and 2 seaters (their site mentions the possibility of a 3rd). They feature mid-drive electric motors that can either be 750 watt or 1000. There are many options to choose from to match your particular needs. They come in 6 bright colors and really stand out as you ride about. Check their webpage to see just how your ELF can be outfitted.
As you ride the 160 lbs. or so ELF, the weight is not really noticed (it felt much lighter). I did some pedaling without power and it was a bit strenuous, yet not out of the question on level ground and slight downgrades. Of course just like any E-bike, you find yourself pedaling to help the motor most all of the time. And as far as I can tell it classified just like an E-bike, so you are free to ride anywhere a bike can, with no license, registration or insurance. And as of the 1st of the year, no helmet needs in California are required, yet you still might want to strap one on.
The seat has a long sliding rail, so a wide range of people will fit comfortably, I know my wife and I both did. The steering was tight and stable, with the angle of the steering tube more horizontal, unlike a bicycle that is vertical. I felt that worked great, giving a easy feel, yet with the tighter turns taking a bit more effort. At low speeds you can cut a tight turn, and at the higher speeds I felt fully connected to the ground. At no time was I worried or concerned that the ELF wasn’t under full control and safe. Although there is no reverse gear, backing up was an easy matter of using the Flintstone foot maneuver.
I rode both the 3-speed geared hub model and the NuVinci N360 CVT (continuously variable transmission) model. One was a nicely optioned single seater with the 750 watt motor and the other was the limo (2 seater) with the 1000 watt power plant. Both had decent power and controls. Both had the optional rear brake (recommended I would think) and like all the ELFs had full lighting, rear view mirrors, an electric horn and a bell. On the roof is a solar panel that will add power to the battery when the sun is shining.
The standard power system offers about a 20 mile range between recharges, a top speed in the 20-25 mph area, and will handle 375-550 lbs. The have an extended range battery on the books and I was told a bit of tweaking can get a few more mph out of the ELF if you so desire. I liked the way the battery was inclosed in a plastic carry case, and the way it is installed and is retained in the bike. Extra internal body panels are an option and Greg told me riding in the cold and rainy parts of the year is not nearly as bad as I might imagine.
We rode mostly on the residential streets in Palm Desert, yet hitting the open road seemed fully doable. The easy visibility (both out the windows and of the bike) and the lights will add to your confidence, as will the power and solid handling of the ELF. The ride was great on the smooth streets, and as we hit a few rougher spots you could feel it, but not to the point of discomfort. Our time in the saddle was fun, pleasant and comfortable, that is what I took away from all the test riding.
The ELF sits on a stout chassis that I would think is aluminum. The steering and other pieces that support you and the bike all appeared to oversized and strong as could be. The body is thin, yet made out of a strong plastic (?) to keep the weight down. Visibility in all directions was good and the mirrors added to that. In the front there is a shelf for your light items and and in the back is a “trunk” for securing and carrying the larger and heavier stowables. If that isn’t enough, than I see no reason you couldn’t tow a bike trailer for even more convenience.
I can’t say that I will be getting an ELF anyday soon, but for many people it could be the perfect way to get around. All the reasons you ride a bike are pretty much the same reasons you would ride an ELF. And then again, the ELF has plenty more benefits than a bicycle offers. If you are used to hauling your bikes to remote locales for riding and touring, you could do it with these too, yet a small trailer would be necessary (not out of the question as Greg and Karen have one). If you just want to cruise the town, have some fun and maybe do some shopping, this could be your answer to staying green and healthy.
Give one a try, you could find mixing it up is your new perfect, Turbo Bob.
“The bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created. Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon.”—Bill Strickland, The Quotable Cyclist.
You can find Greg and Karen, and a ELF for you at these sites.
Because the ELF is so cool, I just had to post 5 videos.