Although it looks something like a car, Rob Cotter is emphatic: The ELF, which he’s now producing in a North Carolina factory, is a bicycle. “I’ve been involved in human-powered transit for a long time,” he says, “and realized there was a maturing market—people would pay for a vehicle that gives them exercise and helps the planet.”
The ELF is an enclosed three-wheeler with electric assist and a rooftop solar panel that can charge the battery in seven hours. You pedal it, and the electric motor is there as a kind of turbocharger to take you up to 20 mph. Although an enthusiast just rode one from the factory all the way to Cambridge, Mass., the 135-pound door-less vehicle is primarily a short-hop commuter hybrid for people who want to stay (mostly) out of the weather and tap into some help getting up the hills.
Cotter’s Organic Transit, launched through a Kickstarter campaign, has 22 employees in a former furniture warehouse. The company has produced approximately 70 ELFs, $5,000 apiece, and has orders for 1,200 more.
Opening the European market is next, Cotter says, because electric bikes there—many with lightweight cabs—are used for everything from delivering pizzas to hauling the mail. Coming, Cotter says, are ELF trucks, a hot rod, a pedicab and a catering version with solar panels providing power to keep food either hot or cold.