lunes, 16 de diciembre de 2013

Organic Transit’s Enclosed Tricycle Is Half Bike, Half Car

With electric assist and a hard shell, the Elf aims to transform cycling into practical transportation

This past summer, Organic Transit, a small company in Durham, N.C., completed construction of the 51 enclosed, electrically assisted tricycles that it sold earlier in the year through a successful Kickstarter campaign. I visited Organic Transit’s founder and chief executive officer, Rob Cotter, to find out more about this intriguing little vehicle—and to give it a test ride.

The company and its new product—the Elf—is certainly something different. Normally, when you say “cycling,” what comes to mind is the classic safety bicycle, which was developed in the late 1800s. While lots of people continue to use this sort of bicycle for getting around town, for many folks, cycling is just not a practical means of transportation, even if they’re not going far. It may be raining, for example. Or they might need to carry more groceries home than they can comfortably tote on a bike. Or maybe the problem is that once they’ve got the bicycle all loaded up, they won’t be able to tackle that big hill on the way back from the supermarket. Or perhaps they just don’t want to risk getting hurt if they wipe out.

Bicycle makers have recognized these problems for a long while, but few companies have attempted to address them. Organic Transit is the latest to take on this long-standing challenge. Its three-wheeled Elf adopts what’s known as the “tadpole configuration,” with two wheels in front and one in the rear. In this respect, it’s similar to many of the velomobiles that have come before it. But unlike most of those earlier models, it wasn’t designed low and sleek to slip through the air. Rather, the Elf’s designers had safety and comfort at low speeds in mind, which is why the rider sits high and why the plastic body of this vehicle is not particularly aerodynamic.

While the Elf is certainly cute and will provide an attractive way to get around for some people, I came away from my visit with Organic Transit a bit skeptical. To me, the Elf, small as it is by car standards, seemed way too big and heavy. (It’s almost 70 kilograms—150 pounds.) So you can’t, say, carry it up a flight of stairs as you can with most any bike. And forget about taking it someplace in or on your car.

It’s also not clear to me how easily you could maneuver something that’s 122 centimeters (48 inches) wide on a typical bike path or on the shoulder of the road. During my short test drive, I kept the Elf in the middle of the lane, as you would a car, rather than trying to hug the shoulder, as I usually do on my bike. Unless you’re keeping to places with very low speed limits, that’s not going to win any friends on the road.

My final critique reflects something that Cotter and his colleagues are well aware of: The Elf seems a bit of a rattletrap. Indeed, this trike is, literally, a “rattle” trap, because each clunk you experience when you hit a pothole, say, reverberates around the cabin. Cotter says that he and his colleagues are working on that problem, but it’s hard for me to see how they’ll be able to find a solution that doesn’t just exacerbate the weight issue.

Organic Transit is planning to introduce early next year a larger pedal-electric vehicle called the TruckIt, designed to carry 227 to 363 kg (500 to 800 lbs) of cargo. As much as I applaud its efforts to make cycling serve people’s practical needs, I would have preferred to see the company focus its design talent on something toward the smaller, lighter end. But if they succeed with the Elf and the TruckIt, maybe they’ll do that too.

Learn More ELFOrganic Transitbicycletricyclevelomobile

Sturdy Trylon™ Shell The ELF body is made from a rugged ABS composite that protects you from the elements and helps you stand out in traffic. The basic ELF comes in Arctic White.

Colors: Upgrade: Stand out from the crowd in Titanium, Wasabi, or Mango for (+$125).
Carbon fiber panels
Upgrade: Carbon fiber panels on the front and rear add a touch of style and luxury while reducing vehicle weight and adding strength. Quieter, too! (+$500)
Generous Rear Storage Compartment 
Every ELF features an enclosed cargo compartment with a locking lid where you can stash your briefcase, your groceries, or whatever else you need to carry.
A dual layer ABS Upgrade: A dual layer ABS and coroplast front dash complete the look and add space for your lightweight gear. (+$300)

Bamboo Cargo Shelves Upgrade: Bamboo cargo shelves and cargo nets add even more space for your gear (+$150/set of two)
A reinforced trunk lid Upgrade: A reinforced trunk lid and bulkhead increase your carrying capacity. Add textured ABS plastic for a tough surface that makes your rear platform more rigid and resists scratches and marks (+$150)
Tires The ELF comes standard with 26 x 1.9″ Continental Town & Country tires on the front and a 26 x 2.35″ Kenda Kiniption out back.

The standard 26” front wheels feature 36 spoke downhill rims with 20mm thru axle hubs. Built in the USA.
The standard rear tire is the Kenda Kiniption. A rugged 26 x 2.3″ urban tire. 840 grams

Maxxis Hookworm high volume Upgrade: The Maxxis Hookworm high volume, high durability rear tire smoothes your ride and reduces your risk of puncture. (+$35)

Fat Tire Option Upgrade: Wider 24″ x 3.0″tires and Disc specific 24″ black anodized wheels up front will smooth out rougher roads for a quieter and more comfortable ride. One of our most popular upgrades. The larger volume tires have slightly more rolling resistance, but what a difference! (+$60 option/$329 retrofit)

Internally geared hub
The ELF comes standard with a 3-speed internal hub. Internal gears offer two huge advantages over traditional derailleurs. For one, all the parts are sealed inside where dirt and grime can’t get at them. Second, you can actually shift gears when stationary. Ever been at a stop light and realized you were in the wrong gear to get rolling again? No problem. Need a wider gear range? Check out our infinitely variable Nuvinci 360 optional rear hub.
Fallbrook NuVinci n360 hub 
Upgrade: The Fallbrook NuVinci n360 hub extends your range and helps you find your sweet spot. This continuously variable transmission offers a 360% gear range and is perfect for those with light loads and long commutes. (+$485)
Solar Panel
The ELF’s built in 60W solar panel liberates you from the grid by trickle charging your battery whenever the sun is shining.

Removable Battery
The ELF is powered by a 10Ah 48V LiFePO4 battery that can be charged in the vehicle using the rooftop solar panel or can be easily removed and plugged into a wall charger (included). Each battery can be recharged up to 2000 times.

Dual Disc Brakes AVID disc brakes on the front tires and a caliper brake on the rear give the ELF reliable stopping power. Activating the disc brakes also illuminates LED brake lights on the rear to improve communication with other drivers on the road.
Safety and Visibility
 LED headlights, tail lights, and turn signals increase your visibility on the road and signal your intent to other vehicles. Adjustable side and rearview mirrors allow you to keep your eye on surrounding traffic.

Trusted components
The ELF uses Race Face Ride cranks, Avid disc brakes, and other bike components that meet and exceed industry standards for reliability and quality.

Comfortable seat
The lightweight, high back seat with lumbar support slides forwards and backwards on the rails to comfortably accommodate riders between 5’ and 6’9”. The breathable mesh seat also features two incline settings and can be tipped forward to allow easy access to the battery compartment.
Super charger
Fully recharge your battery in under an hour using a 15A super charger (+$150)
Accessories Extra Battery
Extend your range with a second battery. The ELF is built to accommodate two, so go for it! (+$750)
ELF Security Cover
Protect your ELF with this custom cover made from water repellant ripstop nylon to keep your ELF clean, dry, and free from intruders. The clear window allows the solar panel to function with the cover in place. The cover has a buckle and zipper closure, and reinforced openings for a cable lock on the rear tire. Available in Forest Green ($450)

Baseball hats
100% Organic cotton adjustable baseball hats with the OT logo on the front. Available in navy with red logo, grey with mango logo, or green with dark green logo. $20 plus $5 shipping (additional shipping charges apply on international orders)

We offer 100% organic cotton t-shirts featuring either the OT logo or the ELF in ¾ profile. Available in assorted sizes and colors. $20 plus $5 shipping (additional shipping charges apply on international orders)
  • Equivalent of 1,800 MPG
  • Total weight 150 lbs
  • Load capacity 350 lbs
  • Electric motor 750 watt
  • Electric power 20 mph
  • Electric range 14+ miles
  • Charge via outlet 1 1/2 hours
  • Charge via sunlight ~ 7 hours

ORIGINAL: IEEE Spectrum, Organic Transit
By David Schneider
16 Dec 2013

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