Electric Car Maker Arcimoto Drives Long Road

In the far and wide ranging electric car industry there are full sized vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, and low speed, golf cart like vehicles (LSV) only meant for neighborhood driving. Somewhere in the middle falls a cadre of start up auto manufacturers vying to build that perfect electric vehicle (EV) to fit your daily driving needs. One of these is Oregon-based Arcimoto.

We’ve tracked the progress of Arcimoto since late 2009, watching the company owned by former GarageGames founder Mark Frohnmayer evolve several generations of its EV offering. Arcimoto is on its fifth iteration now, hosting a recent unveiling at its Eugene, Oregon headquarters that drew, among others, cult actor Nathan Fillion. Fillion and his buddy, actor Jon Huertas, are both fans of the company’s vehicle.

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The Arcimoto EV is designed upon a three wheel, reverse trike platform, with the current SRK iteration moving towards target specifications of a top speed of 65 MPH, an acceleration of 0 to 60 in 9.8 seconds, a range of up to 80 miles with a lithium battery and a one seat behind another tandem configuration. The company notes these specifications are not final, as at least one more generation will likely be produced before the final product is made available.

A recent trip down I-5 from EarthTechling headquarters in Portland to Eugene found us on a sunny spring Friday at Arcimoto headquarters. The company, likely owing to Frohnmayer’s background, seems to be truly run like a start up dead set on delivering a product to a market that may not quite be sure what to do with the likes of this type of EV. A second car for trips around town? Something you tow behind your RV for use on vacation? These are certainly questions Arcimoto thinks about as its team prepares its vehicle for market.

Current deployment plans, according to Frohnmayer, call for limited release of the vehicle later this year as a pilot program. As this is going on venture capital funding is being sought, regional production plans are being considered and retail outlets designed around a Starbucks/Apple Store model are being envisioned.

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Just like one would pick different levels of trim on a vehicle bought through an auto dealership, Arcimoto envisions its EV being tricked out in different configurations. The base model (SRK) is seen as being Jeep like in its open to the elements design. Beyond that, one could go with the Pulse option, which offers hard shell windows and side panels, or the LT option, which sports canvas windows and side panels. $100 deposits are being taken for those hoping to have an Arcimoto, but the company has not specifically set a price yet. A target base price of $17,500 or so has been mentioned, however.

On our Arcimoto visit we had a chance to take the fourth generation vehicle out for a little spin. The drive was a touch rough, which is to be expected for a vehicle still under development. Overall, however, the short trip with the open seating provided a near zen like experience of being more closely connected to the environment you are moving through. The overall quietness of the drive, mainly due to the lack of an internal combustion engine, allowed for easy conversation with Frohnmayer in the back seat. This certainly wouldn’t be the case if one were cruising down the highway at 60 MPH, but on the roads of Eugene it made for a nice little outing on the open road.

Will Arcimoto find success? It certainly seems to be ahead of the game compared to many other niche EV manufacturers that exist in the gray area between the Leafs and LSVs of the world. That being said, time will tell how much market demand truly exists for this type of EV and whether enough can be sold for Arcimoto to at least break even. It will certainly be interesting to watch and see.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.