We wrote about the ELF a few weeks ago – the solar-powered electric trike, invented by the clever people at Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina. At the time, I thought it amazing, but, y’know, possibly a bit of a wild idea, although this commuting doctor in New Haven, Connecticut, caught my eye.

Here comes the ELF!
Here comes the ELF!

Now the ELF is here (at Bikes & Barbers, 53b Davis Crescent, Newmarket), and the proof is very much in the pudding. You have to make an appointment to test-drive one, that’s how popular they are. Contact Chris or Tomas – 027 5326352 / 0508 BULLITT.

Deb King from Quikes in Raglan is the visionary who brought them to New Zealand. Deb discovered the ELF while looking for a company that had ethical business models and an innovative way of thinking about the future.

Her conversations with Organic Transit’s founder, Rob Cotter, came down to this: “You just need to bring them into the country, so people can see them.” So now they’re here – four for starters, more to follow as demand dictates. And next month she’s taking one on a road-trip down the North Island, then through Nelson to the rest of the South Island, so everyone can see it and try it.

Deb talks ELF with a passerby, a car enthusiast whose only question was "That's ALL?" when he heard the price.
Deb talks ELF and safety with a passerby.

The orange one (Mango) looks a bit like Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage (if Cinderella were an eco-conscious gal with a yen for a weatherproof e-bike), and has room in the back for a fortnight’s worth of groceries.

And the Wasabi green is cheerfully reminiscent of a pumpkin seed, or a Granny Smith version of Lowly Worm’s ride-in apple (if Lowly had two feet for pedalling), with room for one large or two small passengers. Deb also has one each in Goji red and classic white. Ultimately, various combos can be created to suit your preferences.

The 750W motor has been officially dampened down to conform with NZ law on electric bikes, but it’ll still give you a decent speed. At 75kg (a third of that is the battery), you won’t be pedalling one unassisted up a hill, nor carrying it up stairs, but that’s not what they’re for.

Fully charged, they give you 45-50km range of assisted pedaling; if you were simply relying on electricity and giving your legs a rest, you’d get 20-25km out of a single charge. You can “fill ‘er up” by plugging into the mains for two and a half hours… or by simply parking in the sun for seven.

Just standing outside Bikes & Barbers looking at people looking at the ELFs was eye-opening. Workers, men in suits, women with kids, one car enthusiast whose only question when he heard the price tag ($10,000) was “That’s ALL?”

ELFtinytestdriver
This tiny test driver had no hesitations. Gumboots on the pedals, and he was ready to go.
Suits you nicely, sir.
Suits you nicely, sir.
The siren song of hi-vis orange was irresistible for these guys on their break.
The siren song of hi-vis orange was irresistible for these guys on their break.

These things are, as Deb says, “change-makers.” “If each ELF can take one car off the road, I’m happy,” she says. “And you create a cyclist at the same time!”

Now here’s the rub: because they’re legally bikes, you have to wear a helmet while trundling along. Deb was thinking of a helmet competition. What kind of legit headgear would go best with this superb new vehicle? Thinking caps on!

elf

Oh, and, word to the builders of infrastructure (and drivers of buses): expect to see more of these electric pumpkins on the roads. Yes, technically, they’re bikes, so of course these can travel on the cycleway. But for that, we’re gonna need a bigger bike path…

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3 responses to “A toast to your good ELF – the solar e-bike has landed!

  1. cool yes, but like any trike they have a footprint similar to a Smart car. Theres is no lane splitting, no hopping over kerbs, and the cost of 10 decent bikes….. no thanks.

  2. Had my ELF nearly two years now and love it.

    My trips downtown take half the time as my bike. Cars on the road are far, far more respectful of me than with the bike. Driving at night with my LED headlights is easy and bright.

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