Since 2007, Mark Frohnmayer and his team at Arcimoto in Eugene, Oregon, have been working to create affordable personal electric-powered transportation for the masses. They knew the numbers: most trips are just one or two people in a vehicle driving an average of 33 miles a day. They also knew that globally, urban parking was the biggest problem people had.
The problem was building a vehicle that solved all these problems and was inexpensive enough for nearly everyone to afford it, especially the half of the global population that lives in urban areas. Through seven iterations, the Arcimoto team worked to create the vehicle that would solve all these problems and run on battery power alone, but it was still too heavy, too expensive, and too awkward.
“We were fighting for ounces on generation 7,” says Frohnmayer. “We kept aiming for global transportation, and we kept landing on a midlife-crisis mobile. Others are building low-volume specialty cars for rich people; that doesn’t move the needle” on reducing carbon emissions and improving the transportation landscape.
The answer came on the winter solstice in 2014 when Frohnmeyer questioned, as he puts it, “the very first thing that had never been questioned”: the steering wheel and pedals. Though the Arcimoto vehicle was always intended to be classified as a motorcycle rather than a car, his first design choice—“made when we had the least information,” he says—was to use car-style controls. Using handlebars similar to those on a motorcycle or snowmobile made all the difference.
Once the controls were changed, Arcimoto was able to add more capabilities in a smaller, lighter, more affordable vehicle, all of which benefits the electric power plant.
Generation 8, which will make its world debut in Eugene November 14, is 700 pounds lighter than generation 7. It’s easier for both occupants to get in and out via a unique Eagle Wing door, and the safety structure is improved. The new design is just short enough to park nose-in in a parallel parking space. Arcimoto calls it the rock-star parking feature and notes that it comes standard on every vehicle.
“The lighter you make it, the more fun it becomes,” Frohnmeyer says. “Less is more has created a much better product.”
That extends to the price as well. Arcimoto is targeting an $11,900 base price for a 70-mile range, though there will be extended range options when the cars go into production at the end of 2016.