Arcimoto and ElectraMeccanica recently reported progress in bringing their three-wheeled electric vehicles to commercial success. The Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV) from Arcimoto and the SOLO from ElectraMeccanica could potentially make inroads into the PTV market now dominated by golf car manufacturers.
SOLO Begins Production
ElectraMeccanica announced the start of production of their three-wheeled Solo electric vehicle. The company’s manufacturing partner and strategic investor Zongshen Industrial Group is producing the vehicle. According to management, the single-occupant vehicle fills a “…niche between last-mile micro-mobility solutions and larger, under-utilized passenger cars.” According to a company presentation the three target markets are urban mobility, vehicle share programs and deliveries/utility fleets. The SOLO distribution will start on the coast beginning with three existing ElectraMeccanica retail locations in Los Angeles, CA, Scottsdale, AZ and Portland, OR. Management expects initial deliveries to occur in late November or early December.
The SOLO is highway capable with a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 80 mph. The vehicle features front and rear crumple zones, side impact protection, roll bar, torque-limiting control, as well as power steering, power brakes, air conditioning and a Bluetooth entertainment system. The SOLO’s price is $18,500.
Arcimoto Plans Progressing Despite COVID
Arcimoto continues to make progress with their Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV) and is slightly ahead of the SOLO. Arcimoto has already produced or have in production over 110 vehicles and have nearly 4,400 pre-orders. In a recent earnings call (seekingalpha.com) the CEO outlined ambitious plans to increase annual production capabilities from about 5,000 at their current facility to 50,000 in 24 months. While COVID restrictions caused suspension in manufacturing the company is currently hoping to ramp up production to three vehicles a day by the end of the year. They have also enlisted the engineering expertise of Sandy Munro of Munro & Associates. The aim is to improve quality, lower costs and enable scalability to higher production volume. They have already been able to identify nearly 400 “low handing fruit” improvements.
FUV Specs and Target Market
The FUV is more a platform rather than one specific vehicle. The initial FUV is a two passenger version for people transport. Since then the company has rolled out the Deliverator version for last mile deliveries and the Rapid Responder for emergency response such as EMT, police and fire use. The two-seat FUV has a 75 mph top speed and 102 mile range. Other features include hydraulic and regenerative assist brakes, heated seats and hand grips, lockable rear storage, bluetooth speakers and half doors. Full doors are under development. Target markets include urban/suburban commuting, vacation rental fleets, last mile delivery, emergency response and gated communities. For the latter, a speed limiter can make the vehicle available for use on golf courses. The FUV is assembled in Oregon. The FUV’s price is $19,900. A key moving forward is producing at much higher volumes to lower the price point.
SVR’s Take on Three Wheeled Vehicles
Three-wheeled vehicles have the advantage of being classified as motorcycle type vehicles in most states rather than cars. This reduces the need for more expensive safety features and allows them to be highway capable as well.
I believe Arcimoto’s approach to the market will be more successful in the long run. The FUV appears to be a more flexible platform for addressing multiple end-uses. This approach has proven successful for golf car manufacturers in the small, task-oriented vehicle market. The FUV is both tangential to that market and will be directly competing with those manufacturers in some markets. The Deliverator could certainly be used for some on campus and light utility applications. The highway capability of the FUV makes it much more versatile than a PTV or LSV in a gated/golf community setting. On the other hand, the SOLO design seems to be more locked into the urban commuter niche and is more like an enclosed a car.
Price points and Market Opportunities
For either manufacturer, a key will be getting the price point down. If the FUV price point can be reduced to around the $12,000 range, the vehicles can be competitive with LSVs and PTVs and light utility vehicles. Consumers may pay a significant premium for the ability to transition from their gated community to public roads.
Bigger opportunities may lie in Europe and Asia where smaller vehicles for transport and last mile delivery are more prevalent. However, the COVID induced changes in mobility habits in US urban centers may increase opportunities in the US as well. They could be a remedy to increases in car usage and subsequent increases in pollution, CO2 emissions and traffic. Three-wheeled vehicles are more protected, offer greater performance and more versatility than bikes and scooters, but are smaller, less expensive and less polluting than cars. The next 1 to 2 years should give us a good idea of how successful three-wheeled electric vehicles can be.
Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com