My Ride...

You are probably visiting here because you saw my vehicle and wondered: what the heck is that? Enjoy the content below and if you have questions send me an email. Oh, and thanks for sharing the road with me.

What is it?

It is a low speed electric bicycle

Technically it is a two-seat recumbent tricycle with shell enclosure and an electric assist motor powered by a battery that is charged by a solar panel.

In Virginia it is considered a bicycle under this definition:

"Electric power-assisted bicycle" means a vehicle that travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground and is equipped with (i) pedals that allow propulsion by human power and (ii) an electric motor with an input of no more than 1,000 watts that reduces the pedal effort required of the rider. Operators must be at least 14 years old or be under the supervision of someone at least 18 years old. An electric power-assisted bicycle shall be considered a vehicle when operated on a highway." VA Code § 46.2-100. Definitions

That means there are no license requirement and it can be legally driven on bicycle lanes, sidewalks and on the shoulder of a highway to pass cars stuck in traffic. For more information: see this VDOT Site

How fast does it go?

It goes 15 to 25 mph.

The Federal government, through the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has defined this type of vehicle as a "low speed electric bicycle" that is NOT a motor vehicle:

...a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph. [HR 727]

States regulate vehicles and there is some variability in their laws. Virginia, for example, increases the electric motor size to 1000 watts in their definition of an low speed electric bicycle and declares a top speed to 25 mph. However, the federal rules are a minimum:

[Federal regulations] shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed electric bicycles to the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or requirements. [HR 727]

This vehicle is a bicycle and conforms to the 20 mph federal rule and also the maximum 25 mph Virginia rule and as such can be ridden any place that a bicycle is permitted.

Motor assist is optional and on steep grades without motor assist this vehicle, like any bicycle, can exceed 35 mph. If motor assist is engaged on steep hills the motor acts as a brake preventing one from easily exceeding the 25mph limit for electric-assist bicycles. Although this vehicle could be ridden at any legal speed using pedal power only (since there are no speed limits for bicycles) rudimentary suspension makes 30 mph a practical limit.

The primary benefit of electric assist is that the rider can maintain speed uphill. Electric assist provides no improvement in downhill speed. Average speed moving for long distance rides is 18 to 19 mph. See the "What do you do with it" section for a recording of my typical commuting speeds.

What do you do with it?

I use it to commute or run errands

I commute from Sterling to Tysons. It has a second seat that is great for giving rides to small people. It has plenty of room to haul a shopping cart full of groceries.
Here's a map of recent travels that is pretty typical: 17 miles in 56 minutes, 18.2 mph average moving speed.

Where did you buy it? How much does it cost?

I bought it from Organic Transit

ELF models range from about $6,000 to $8,000 depending on options selected. I also purchased additional components from other vendors to customize the ELF.

Follow the Organic Transit link for details. Contact me if you live nearby and want a test ride. If you order one tell them you heard about the ELF from Owner #414 and I'll get something shiny and new for my ELF.