Arcimoto FUV Production Starts

Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle - FUV
The electric powered Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV) is just starting retail production.

Oregon-based Arcimoto recently started production of their Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV) to meet pre-order demand for 4,100 vehicles. Technically a motorcycle, the FUV is an electric powered three-wheeled vehicle that seats two. Many states have a special classification for three wheeled vehicles and only require a regular driver’s license to operate the vehicle. The current FUV Evergreen edition costs $19,900 but the company hopes in the future that volume production will reduce base model pricing to $12,000 and possibly below $10,000.

Arcimoto FUV Specs

The Arcimoto FUV is essentially a trike with two wheels up front and one in the rear. Each wheel up front has an electric motor. The vehicle has a 19.2 kWh lithium ion battery pack for a range of just over 100 miles and a top speed of 75 mph. The FUV has handlebar steering with a twist throttle and finger activated regenerative braking. Foot operated hydraulic brakes on all three wheels augments the regenerative braking. Other specs include:

  • Removable doors
  • LCD display
  • Heated seats
  • Bluetooth speakers
  • Two USB ports
  • Phone cradle
  • Lockable rear storage
  • Criss-cross seatbelts

The company is also developing a one person delivery vehicle and an emergency responder vehicle based on the same platform.

SVR’s Take

The Arcimoto FUV satisfies a need for a small, energy efficient vehicle that can be driven locally. Even though the FUV can operate at highway speeds I believe the sweet spot for the vehicle will be on roads up with speed limits up to 50 mph. Gated communities and vacation destinations that already allow low speed vehicles (LSVs) and golf cars will be a key market.

PTV Market

The problem with this market currently is that LSVs and golf cars can only go 20 to 25 mph and are often restricted to certain public roads based on speed limits and local ordinances. Classified as a motorcycle and with the power to operate at higher speeds, the FUV avoids this issue. This combination greatly increases the functionality of the FUV. The FUV with a speed limited setting can go from golf course to gated community to higher speed public roads. Therefore, the FUV is appropriate for a wider range of activities.

FUV Challenges

I currently see three main challenges that may limit the FUVs appeal. The first is consumer acceptance of driving a three-wheeled vehicle with handlebar steering. This is different than many consumer’s traditional driving experience. The second is price. The company should target the $10,000 to $13,000 price range to be competitive with LSVs, PTVs and golf cars. Although, the increased functionality of the vehicle is a mitigating factor that could allow for a pricing premium. The third is that the vehicle is only two passenger, so it may have limited appeal for families or larger groups.

Competitive Landscape

The FUV is a direct challenge to the LSVs and more importantly the personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) that have become a key growth market for the traditional golf car companies. The decline and stagnation in fleet golf car market has forced these companies to target the utility vehicle and PTV markets for growth. (LSVs have largely been relegated to college and corporate campuses with some personal transportation use.) This could become the classic case of the outsider coming in and disrupting a market.

Where are the golf companies?

There is no reason the golf car companies could not have developed this vehicle first and they certainly have the resources and time to create a vehicle of their own. However, in the past these companies have missed opportunities such as the utility vehicle market for which they were well positioned. In addition, the FUV could serve as an alternative to a second or third automobile for running local errands or short one or two person commuting.

What Does The Future Hold

It will be interesting to see what kind of uptake the consumer version has. Recreational vehicles like the Can-Am Spyder and Polaris Slingshot have not completely taken off and remained niche. However, they are more recreational and less of a practical and green transportation alternative than the FUV. I think the delivery version of the FUV might be the sleeper product. Given concerns about urban congestion, pollution and sustainability, these vehicles could become a popular option for last mile logistics in crowded cities. The urban environment could play to the vehicle’s strengths of smaller size and zero emission powertrain while mitigating weaknesses such as limited top speed and driving range.

Club Car 411 Utility Vehicle

Club Car 411 utility vehicle in pickup configuration
The Club Car 411 is an all-electric vehicle developed in partnership with AEV Technologies.
Club Car 411 flatbed configuration
The flatbed version of the Club Car 411 utility vehicle.
Club Car 411 Van Box Configuration
The van box version of the Club Car 411 utility vehicle.

Club Car 411 Overview

Earlier this year Club Car introduced the Club Car 411 utility vehicle, an all-electric vehicle for cargo services and low speed logistics. The 411 is the result of a partnership between Club Car and AEV Technologies, a manufacturer of light-duty battery-electric vehicles. The partnership combines AEV’s expertise in design and manufacturing with the dealer network and brand power of Club Car.

Club Car 411 Target Market

The Club Car 411 is targeting the space between full-sized trucks and smaller golf car based utility trucks. The partners designed the vehicles to have a lower cost of acquisition, operation and overall ownership while meeting the demand for clean energy vehicles. Typical uses would be on corporate and college campuses, in warehouses and as part of municipal fleets.

Vehicle Capabilities

The Club Car 411 comes in three basic configurations: a van box, a pickup with sides and a flatbed. The vehicles have a curb weight of approximately 2,100 lbs depending on the configuration and a payload capacity of 1,100 lbs. As an LSV the top speed is 25 mph and it has a range of 50 miles. A 10 Kw, 13.4 hp AC motor paired with a 240A AC controller powers the rear-wheel vehicle. The six sealed lead acid batteries provide a range of up to 50 miles.

Standard Features & Options

Standard features include a backup camera, 7″ LCM display, reinforced ABS body panels and cabin heating. The 411 has a reinforced steel chassis, 4-wheel, hydraulic disc brakes and power assist steering. Options include fleet management systems including GPS and geofencing.

SVR’s Take

This is a curious move by Club Car. Clearly the vehicle fits with their existing customer base and dealer network, but rather than develop the vehicle themselves they partnered with AEV Technologies. I speculate that the partnership reduces Club Car’s development costs and associated risks. For AEV, the partnership gives them access to a large customer base. AEV Technologies also makes a three wheeled vehicle similar to the Arcimoto FUV. Therefore, if the FUV makes inroads into Club Car’s PTV market then they could have a ready for market vehicle to compete against it.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Tropos Motors and Panasonic Partner

Able pickup CUV from Tropos Motors
The Able electric compact utility vehicle from Tropos Motors in a pickup configuration.
Tropos Motors Able XR CUV
The Tropos Motors Able XR model with a view of the lithium battery packs.

Panasonic is partnering with electric compact utility vehicle manufacturer Tropos Motors to improve vehicle performance. Tropos Motors manufacturers the Able and Able XR electric compact utility vehicles that are low speed and electric powered. The Able features a 72V system with a 13 hp motor and gel lead acid batteries for a 50 mile range. In contrast, the Able XR uses lithium batteries in a 96V system with a 13 hp motor and a range of up to 160 miles.

Compact Utility Vehicle Niche

The electric compact utility vehicle (CUV) is part of the “right-sizing” trend in commercial vehicles. Smaller than a full-size pickup but larger and more capable than a modified golf car, CUVs are designed to be the right tool for the job. Or, in many cases, multiple jobs. In particular, they are useful on college and corporate campuses and urban environments where their smaller size is an advantage and a high top speed is less critical. Like many CUVs, a user has the option of limiting the Able models top speed to 25 mph. Therefore, with the proper safety options, they can be classified as street legal low speed vehicles.

Tropos Motors Capable and Versatile

Tropos Motors Able CUV trades package
The Tropos Motors Able CUV with the trades bed package.

The Able lineup has 1,100 lbs of payload capacity for the street version and 2,000 lbs for the campus version. Similarly, the towing capacity is 2,000 lbs and 3,000 lbs. Clearly they are capable of hauling and towing for a wide range of applications. Like many CUVs the Able lineup is versatile with their Easy-Swap system of bed packages to perform a wide range of on campus tasks. The bed packages include a pickup style, boxed van for hauling cargo, trades/maintenance configuration for carrying tools, a special sweeper package and a trio of emergency services packages.

Green and Cost Efficient

By virtue of their electric powertrains, electric CUVs can help organizations meet their sustainability goals while limiting air and noise pollution on campus. These smaller vehicles usually have a lower cost of purchase. Furthermore, the electric drive train also produces a lower cost of operation.

SVR’s Take

Currently, Tropos Motors is a relatively small manufacturer but landing Panasonic as a partner is big deal. What could be an important factor in the growth of this niche is the decreasing cost of lithium batteries. Partnering with Panasonic gives Trompos Motors access to a high volume lithium battery manufacturer. The trade-off between the range, performance and reduced maintenance of lithium batteries and their higher costs is key. As the price comes down, a wider set of applications become possible and less frequent re-charging is needed. The latter may also translate into less charging infrastructure needed. Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Optimus Ride Expands Autonomous Shuttle Service

Optimus Ride autonomous vehicle
An Optimus Ride self-driving LSV based on a GEM e4.

New York & California Locations Added

Optimus Ride, a self-driving startup company with roots in MIT, will be expanding their autonomous shuttle service next quarter to New York and Northern California. In both cases the service will be operating in a more controlled environment than public roads. In New York, Optimus Ride will operate their shuttle service on private roads in the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard. The private development features light and heavy manufacturing and is home to about 8,500 workers. In Fairfield, CA the autonomous shuttle service will be deployed at Paradise Valley Estates. The Estates are a private, 80-acre, retirement community.

Optimus Ride NEVs

Optimus Ride uses GEM e4 and e6 models for their vehicles which are LSVs and therefore limited to a 25 mph top speed. They were first deployed in Weymouth, MA by the Boston-based company. Last year another 15 cities in the state announced an agreement to serve as a test bed for the autonomous shuttle service. Learn more: Theverge.com

SVR’s Take

The use of NEVs in a controlled environment as a testbed for autonomous vehicles is not surprising. SVR has previously discussed the advantages of using LSVs in gated communities for self-driving technology. These environments are more controlled than public roads with a limited, clearly defined set of low speed roadways. In addition, the older populations who may not be able to or want to drive can potentially find the greatest value in the service. At the same time, the gated community offers a challenging environment for testing the technology. Similar to public roads, there is a mix of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, albeit on a smaller scale. The low-speed roadways offers a cost advantage as well, since an electric LSV costs far less than a highway capable EV.

PTVs at the 2019 PGA Show

StarEV Sirius 2 PTV personal mobility
The Sirius 2 from Star Electric Vehicles is one of a number of PTV offerings at the 2019 PGA Show.

My colleague Steve Metzger recently attended the 2019 PGA Show. He reports on the trends in personal mobility vehicles from established and new players. In addition, he discusses the mainstreaming of lithium batteries and related implications. The following is a summary of key insights from the article.

  • The personal mobility market in the form of personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) is attracting an increased level of product development.
  • The major fleet golf car manufacturers, Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha are turning their attention to PTVs and other non-golf markets.
  • New models incorporate a greater variety of features and more automotive style features
  • The Sirius PTV from Star Electric Vehicles is the most likely candidate to seriously challenge offerings from Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha.
  • Club Car introduced lithium battery powered models and other manufacturers are considering the technology as well
  • Both Trojan Battery and ReLion Battery presented lithium batteries targeting the aftermarket for PTVs, golf cars and light-duty utility vehicles
  • Lithium battery market penetration has implications for the recycling of fleet golf cars, used PTVs and future demand for public road access for PTVs
  • EFI engine technology continues to advance in the face of improving battery technology as market choice will likely increase before a winner shakes out
  • Potential California LSV legislation could become a model for other states and a market driver
  • Product engineers may drive the market in the next 3 to 5 years

Learn more: Smallvehicleresource.com (Full article)

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Should Polaris Acquire Club Car?

Club Car Tempo
The Tempo, Club Car’s fleet golf car introduced in 2018.

A recent article speculated that Ingersoll-Rand’s acquisition of Precision Flow Systems could pave the way breaking up the conglomerate. Club Car is one of the pieces that seems a poor fit with the rest of Ingersoll-Rand. If this is the case, then Polaris Industries might be a good suitor.

The Pros for Acquiring Club Car

A strong international brand

Club Car has a number of characteristics that match previous Polaris acquisitions. First, Club Car is a leading brand, if not, the leading brand of the three major golf car manufacturers. Second, it is an international brand. Third, Club Car participates, in part, in a fragmented industry. Therefore, Polaris would have an opportunity to use their resources to establish a more dominate market position. While the golf car fleet market is primarily a three company affair, Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha, the non-fleet personal transportation vehicle (PTV) and light utility vehicle markets are more fragmented markets. Fourth, a large installed base of vehicles forms the basis for a substantial parts and accessories business. This was a key reason for the Polaris purchase of Taylor-Dunn.

Club Car complements Polaris vehicle portfolio

A large portion of Club Car vehicles sold are electric and would fit well with the Polaris EV portfolio. Other EVs in the Polaris portfolio include GEM, Goupil, Taylor-Dunn and Aixam. Polaris could spread their battery and EV powertrain development costs over a larger number of vehicles. In addition, Club Car’s end markets and distribution network would complement current efforts by Polaris. Their PTVs would complement the street legal GEM vehicles and their light utility vehicles would complement the more heavy-duty Rangers.

In addition, the golf manufacturer’s dealer network would expand Polaris’ footprint. While there is some overlap with the GEM and Taylor-Dunn dealer networks, there would also be a large number of additional dealer locations in the US and internationally. Furthermore, these dealers could be used to expand the GEM and Taylor-Dunn distribution. Club Car end markets such as golf courses, resorts, colleges, airports and other institutions would also take Polaris into new markets or broaden their vehicle offerings where they overlap.

The Cons for Acquiring Club Car

Is there enough growth?

Polaris looks for acquisitions in growing markets and/or traditionally strong but neglected brands that they can leverage. In the case of Club Car, the fleet golf car market has been declining for a number of years. The PTV and light UTV markets are growing but not at really high rates and are a smaller part of the business. Club Car isn’t necessarily a neglected brand but is somewhat lost among much larger Ingersoll-Rand businesses. In contrast, Polaris might be able to focus more attention and resources and make a strong brand even stronger.

Another acquisition to swallow

Polaris has already made a number of acquisitions in the past year, adding Boat Holdings and the Marquis-Larson Boat Group to start a new boating business. Acquiring Club Car would require more management time and focus to successfully integrate the business into Polaris. In addition, the purchase would likely add additional debt to their balance sheet. Polaris management might want to finish integrating their recent acquisitions before adding another piece and avoid increasing their debt.

What Will Polaris Do?

A strong argument could be made that Polaris should acquire Club Car if it’s for sale. The key questions are whether the management perceives if there is enough growth in the market, and do they think they can use their resources to drive more growth. The combination of the PTV and light UTV markets along with the parts and accessories business may offer enough potential. Timing may also be an issue. Any down turn in the economy, which some are predicting, would hurt Polaris. Discretionary income drives a significant portion of their sales.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Yamaha Golf Car Recalls 145,000 Vehicles

Yamaha Golf Car Adventurer

Yamaha Golf Car’s model year 2016 to 2018 Adventurer vehicles are being recalled.

Yamaha Golf Car Adventurer Sport 2+2

The Adventurer Sport 2+2 is also part of the recall.

Yamaha Golf Car Drive 2

Yamaha Drive 2 is being recalled.

Yamaha Golf Car Recall Overview

Last month Yamaha Golf Car announced the recall of approximately 145,000 golf cars, personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) and utility vehicles. The accelerator pedal return spring can break on the vehicles, posing a crash hazard. The recall involves model year 2016 through 2018 gas and electric-powered golf cars, personal transportation and specialty vehicles. Model names include the Drive, Drive2, Adventurer and Adventurer Sport 2+2. Owners should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact a Yamaha golf car dealer to schedule a free repair. There have been no reports of injuries related to the recall but 417 spring failures have been reported.

This is an extremely large recall and rivals those of Polaris from the past several years. Yamaha had a slightly larger recall earlier in the year involving many of the same models for a brake cable issue. SVR tracks recalls of golf cars, PTVs, PSVs and UTVs. In general, the small, task-oriented vehicle industry appears to have a recall problem. A significant number of vehicles are being recalled every year. The following detailed information on this recall is from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Yamaha Golf Car Recall Information from CPSC

Name of product:  Yamaha golf cars, personal transportation and specialty vehicles
Hazard:  The accelerator pedal return spring can break, posing a crash hazard.
Remedy:  Repair
Recall date:  October 3, 2018
Units:  145,000
Consumer Contact:  Yamaha toll-free at 866-747-4027 anytime or online at www.yamahagolfcar.com and click on the CPSC Recall Alerts tab for more information.

Recall Details

Description:  This recall involves the following model year 2016 through 2018 gas and electric-powered golf cars, personal transportation and specialty vehicles. The vehicles were sold in various colors including blue, green, red, white, tan and silver. The model and serial number can be found on a label under the seat on the left or right side.

Model Year

Model Name

Model Prefix

Serial Number Range

2016

Drive Models YDRA (Gas)

JW8

600101

614300

JC2

300101

312000

JC0

700101

706600

Drive Models YDRE (Electric)

JW9

600101

618100

JC3

000101

004700

JC1

700101

703500

Adventurer Model YTF1A (Gas)

JW6

800101

800600

Adventurer Model YTF2A (Gas)

JW7

700101

701250

Adventurer Model YTF2E (Electric)

JW3

100101

100300

2017

Drive² Models DR2A (Gas)

J0A

000101

010100

J0B

000101

016900

J0D

000101

007200

Drive² Models DR2E (Electric)

J0C

000101

011400

J0E

000101

002900

J0J

000101

002000

Adventurer Model YTF1A (Gas)

JW6

900101

900400

Adventurer Model YTF2A (Gas)

JW7

800101

800750

Adventurer Model YTF2E (Electric)

JW3

200101

200250

2018

Drive² Models DR2A (Gas)

J0A

100101

110400

J0B

100101

119200

J0D

100101

110600

Drive² Models DR2E (Electric)

J0C

100101

111700

J0E

100101

102600

J0J

100101

102700

Adventurer Model YTF1A (Gas)

JW6

910101

910500

Adventurer Model YTF2A (Gas)

JW7

900101

900800

Adventurer Model YTF2E (Electric)

JW3

300101

300250

 

Remedy:  Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact a Yamaha golf car dealer to schedule a free repair. Yamaha is contacting all registered owners directly.

Incidents/Injuries:  Yamaha has received 417 reports of incidents involving spring failures. No injuries have been reported.
Sold Exclusively At:  Yamaha golf car dealers nationwide from June 2015 through August 2018 for between $5,500 and $12,300.
Manufacturer(s):  Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America, of Newnan, Ga.
Distributor(s):  Yamaha Golf-Car Company, of Kennesaw, Ga.
Assembled in:  U.S.
Recall number:  19-701

Road Use Regulation Roundup – November 2018

golf cart signRoad Use Regulation Summary

The following is a summary of some of the road use regulations for golf cars, LSVs, ATVs and UTVs that have been passed or are being considered at the state, county and city levels since June, 2018.

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • There is a fairly even split between ordinances that will allow more small vehicles on the roads and ordinances that will restrict use or clarify existing regulations.
  • California is allowing San Diego cities and the county to create a regional LSV plan..
  • Once again most of the legislative activity occurred in the Midwest and Southeast.
  • Florida municipalities were the most active followed by Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Road Use Regulation by Location

Largo, FL – Largo officials denied a request from a mobile home community to allow the use of golf cars on nearby public roads. Officials cited safety concerns and potential cost issues as signs would be needed to notify other drivers that golf cars might be on the roads.

St. Johns County, FL – The county Board of Commissioners is replacing the existing golf car ordinance with one that would provide more clarity and uniformity in the county so the Sheriff’s Office can provide better enforcement.

Panama City Beach, FL – The Florida Highway Patrol reported a number of low seed vehicle and golf car accidents on Back Beach Road which is a state highway route. According to road use regulations the vehicles are not allowed on the route.

Holmes Beach, FL – The town commissioners are considering new golf car regulations that would require the addition of limited safety equipment or a full LSV set of accessories. In addition, they are considering keeping the vehicles off main thoroughfares.

Oconto, WI – The Oconto City Council revised an existing golf car ordinance to allow the use of utility vehicles on city streets. In response to citizens, the Council is considering an ordinance allowing ATVs and UTVs on some city streets.

Greendale, WI – The Greendale Village Board passed an ordinance to allow the use of low speed vehicles on certain city streets.

Austin, MN – The local police department is making an effort to educate citizens that UTVs and ATVs are not allowed on city streets.

St. Cloud, MN – Stearns County passed an ordinance to allow golf cars and LSVs on public roads. A similar ordinance had sunsetted in May.

Covington, OH – Operators of OGGO and Gest low speed vehicle transportation companies asked the city to amend their current low-speed vehicle ordinance to allow the company’s LSVs to operate on certain streets. The transportation is free for the riders. The services will be operating in Cincinnati and Newport as well and generate revenue from advertising.

Toledo, OH – The City Council is considering making permanent an ordinance that allows recreational and commercial use of golf cars in certain areas of the city. Currently a pilot program, the council is also considering expanding the areas of the city where the ordinance would apply.

Edmonton, KY – The Edmonton City Council approved an ordinance that would allow golf cars, ATVs, UTVs and mini-trucks on city streets.

Reedsville, WV – The City Council considering changes to the local vehicle ordinance listened to concerns of citizens regarding the use of UTVs and ATVs on town roads. Some citizens use their vehicles for practical purposes while others are “joy” riding on off-limit streets. The vehicles can be used on certain roads for a legitimate farm use. The changes would require drivers to show proof of farm use and have safety signage attached to the vehicle.

Woodstock, GA – The Woodstock City Council tabled a small vehicle ordinance in order to further discuss the definition of golf cars, ATVs, low-speed vehicles and personal transport vehicles, and the safety features required for each.

Poplarville, MS – The Board of Alderman is sending a resolution to the state legislature to allow the use of golf cars and other low speed vehicles on city streets.

California – Governor Brown signed a bill that gives cities in San Diego County and the county itself the authority to establish a LSV transportation plan.

South Carolina – A new law is about to go into effect designed to more easily allow police to enforce violations related to driving golf cars and other low speed vehicles. Violating any golf cart rule will be a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum fine of $100 or 30 days in jail, unless the offense is deemed to be a felony.

 

 

Arcimoto FUV: A Threat to PTVs?

Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle - FUV

The electric powered Arcimoto FUV (Fun Utility Vehicle) is just coming to market.

Oregon based Arcimoto is beginning to roll out their three-wheeled Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV). The combination of price point, size, electric powertrain and ability to travel public roads makes the Arcimoto FUV an intriguing alternative to golf cars, PTVs and LSVs.

Update – Arcimoto responded to a number of questions I sent them and I have added the information to the relevant sections below.

Arcimoto FUVs already on the Road

The first 10 FUV prototypes hit the road this past June. The company completed another 15 vehicles, referred to as their beta series, in September. These went to five customers and the remainder to rental locations. Vehicle rental franchising in tourist locations is a key part of Arcimoto’s marketing plan. As of the end of June the company has 2,800 reservations for the FUV.

Volume Production

Management expects to begin production and delivery of their A series of vehicles during this quarter. The A series marks the move to higher volume production. Plans call for a run rate of 200 vehicles/week or roughly 10,000/year by the end of 2019. The company has deliberately designed smaller sized production facilities that can produce approximately 10,000 vehicles per year.  A production facility costs approximately $10 million. This limits initial capital costs and creates a facility that can be profitable relatively quickly. Furthermore, the facility can be easily replicated in other parts of the country or the world.

Vehicle Features and Specs

The Arcimoto FUV is a three-wheeled vehicle powered by a 67 hp electric motor and a 12 or 20 kWh lithium-ion battery for a range of 70 or 130 miles and a top speed of 80 mph. As a three-wheeler, most states classify the FUV as a motorcycle or similar vehicle. Therefore, it does need the same  safety requirements as a full-sized, highway capable vehicle. The FUV can seat two passengers, one behind the other, and features regenerative braking, hydraulic brakes, a windshield with wiper and defrost, and heated seats and hand grips. Additional options include full HVAC, soft or hard shell doors, rear cargo box, bluetooth speakers and racks for golf clubs, bikes, surfboards, etc. The target price for the base model is $11,900 with a fully decked out model reaching the $19,000 range.

Arcimoto FUV Dimensions

Arcimoto FUV Dimensions

Versatility and Price Point Creates an Alternative to PTVs

The FUV is a versatile vehicle for gated communities. The vehicle can move from golf course, to community pathways to public roads. On public roads the FUV faces none of the restrictions of a golf car, PTV or LSV since it is classified as a motorcycle. Therefore, it can travel on higher speed roads and at night. The FUV can travel faster and farther as well. In terms of speed, the FUV may need a speed limiter option for use on golf courses or within communities depending on local regulations. According to Arcimoto, the vehicle does have the capability to cap speeds to meet specific needs.

The company is targeting a $12,000 base price. Therefore, the FUV is pricier but competitive with LSVs and fancier PTVs given the trade off between price and functionality. One of the reasons LSV sales never really took off in gated communities as expected is that the additional price premium did not offer a significant benefit over new or refurbished golf cars. LSVs are most successful where regulations greatly restrict the use of PTVs or golf cars on local roads. However, if anything, municipalities are becoming less restrictive regarding golf car use. Furthermore, in states like California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Arizona, and Illinois there are tax incentives available for the FUV. There is also the possibility that electric motorcycle or similar incentives could be brought back at the federal level. The company is lobbying to have the tax credits for motorcycles and three-wheeled vehicles brought back. This additional cost reduction could further boost the attractiveness of this alternative vehicle.

Arcimoto FUV Drawbacks

There are some potential drawbacks to the Arcimoto FUV in the gated community setting.

Higher Driving Speeds

Some communities may object to the vehicle’s higher speed capabilities. Some type of speed limiter could address this, or not, depending on the locality. In addition, given the older demographic in gated communities, some drivers may not feel safe driving at higher speeds on local roads. Nevertheless, driving up to 40 to 45 mph would include a large swath of vehicle usage inside and outside a gated community. In effect, the FUV could displace both PTV miles and a sizable chunk of driving performed with highway capable vehicles.

Seating Configuration

Seating configuration is another potential drawback. The seating in an FUV is one passenger behind the other rather than side by side. Some users may feel this reduces the social aspect while riding in the vehicle, particularly on a golf course.

Vehicle Storage

For seasonal usage by vacation home owners, there is often a need to store the vehicle for several months without any usage. This can be an issue or at least require some planning for the current battery powered vehicles. According to Battery University a lithium ion battery should be stored at 40% percent charge if being stored for an extended period. Arcimoto did not answer my question directly on this subject but expect to have a battery pack with a lifetime of “…8-10 years with normal vehicle usage, and still maintain more than 80% of their original charging capacity.” The pack replacement cost is expected to be under $2,500 inclusive of the residual value.

Marketing, Pricing and Local Regulations Critical to Success

The success of the Arcimoto FUV in displacing golf cars, PTVs and LSVs will depend on three key elements:  marketing, pricing and local regulations. The last may be the most important. If gated communities object to the FUV’s higher speed capabilities, and there is no technological fix, foreclosing the market. The pricing may be the easiest to address. If Arcimoto can hit their target price at volume production, even without tax incentives there is a compelling cost benefit story for the FUV.

The marketing element depends in part on where Arcimoto’s management wants to invest resources. The gated community market may be too small to target during the initial phases of the vehicle’s rollout. In addition, golf car dealers mainly serve this market. The company likely does not have relationships with this distribution channel. On the other hand, their rental franchise plan could overlap with these dealers as some are located in tourist oriented beach communities and have high PTV use. This angle could serve as an entry point to the market. In response to my questions Arcimoto stated that they put on a test ride event for the FUV at The Villages, a gated community in Florida, on November 12th. They also noted that the short drives and warm weather make resort communities a great market for the vehicle.

In a years time we will have a better idea whether the Arcimoto FUV has met with success, and whether it threatens the PTV market.

Marc Cesare, SVR

Does Future Mobility Include LSVs?

GEM has been the market leader in LSVs for many years.

The falling cost of batteries and rise of autonomous driving technology has launched a new stage in the development of mobility technologies. These advances may be bad news for LSVs. For decades small-task oriented vehicles, and in particular by golf cars, have dominated the EV market in terms of production volume. Long before Tesla, golf car manufacturers produced hundreds of thousands of electric golf cars annually. Primarily for these vehicles were for golf courses, but for personal transportation as well. In addition, the large volume of used electric golf cars coming off of golf courses each year were finding their way into the personal transportation and utility markets. In smaller volumes they produced electric powered burden carriers and general utility vehicles for use in enclosed spaces such as factories and warehouses.

Speed and pricing hurt LSV adoption

Federal regulations in the late nineties lead to the development of Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs), originally referred to as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs). The LSV classification created the opportunity to move small EVs out of gated and golf communities and relatively confined driving environments and onto public roads in large numbers. Unfortunately, for LSV manufacturers, the widespread adoption of LSVs for personal transportation has never occurred. In theory, LSVs would be a good choice as a second vehicle. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate and suitable for the short trips typical of many drivers. In practice, they are relatively expensive for their limited functionality, and to many they look like a glorified golf car.

With a 25 mph top speed, LSVs are too slow for real life driving where speeds are often 30-45 mph. Federal authorities, already concerned about LSV safety, are unwilling to compromise on safety requirements for higher speed Medium Speed Vehicles. The additional safety requirements for MSVs would make these vehicles relatively expensive compared to fully highway capable vehicles.

Pricing has always been an issue with LSVs, which typically cost around $10,000 on the low end. They find themselves competing against new, used and refurbished golf cars that can cost thousands of dollars less or comparably priced, but heavily customized golf cars. On the other end of the spectrum, the lowest priced highway capable vehicles available do not cost that much more and offer far greater functionality. As a result, the LSV market has never “taken off”. SVR’s research has shown that LSVs for personal use have only gained traction where local laws restrict the use of golf cars on public roads. The trend has been for local governments to allow more golf cars, modified golf cars and even UTVs on local roads.

Where LSV have found some success is on college and corporate campuses. In these environments the LSV safety features are worth the additional expense in the context of insurance and liability. The slower speed is another plus where administrators do not want employees speeding across pedestrian filled campus grounds. The utility LSV has proven to provide plenty of functionality and mobility in these confined environments at a reduced cost compared to pick-up trucks which they often replace. In addition, electric LSVs fit well into sustainability and green initiatives on these campuses.

Electric bikes and scooters offer an alternative

New battery and autonomous driving technologies are unlikely to change the fate of LSVs, and likely will make it worse. Batteries are becoming small enough, powerful enough and cheap enough to create new competitors to LSVs. Namely, a rash of electric bicycles and electric scooters have been entering the market. While costing thousands of dollars, electric bicycles have the potential to chip away at some of the LSV market. Have a short commute on local roads and don’t need to carry much with you. Why not use an electric bike? Need a quick way around urban areas and don’t want to worry about parking? How about an electric scooter.

There are electric bike and scooter sharing programs either already operating or in pilot programs in major cities. These options aren’t ideal in bad weather or for multiple passengers, but they can potentially reduce LSV usage. In fact, they may even provide competition to golf cars and Personal Transportation Vehicles (PTVs) within gated communities.

Autonomous vehicles take a new direction

May Mobility self-driving GEM

GEM configured by May Mobility for self-driving.

Similarly autonomous driving technology may very well reduce the potential footprint for LSVs. Google has used some LSVs for the testing of their autonomous driving technology.  You could argue from a standpoint of safety that the more controlled environment of gated communities could be a good entry point for the technology. But it appears the major players are starting with highway capable vehicles. There have been some instances of LSVs with the technology being tested for limited use scenarios such as shuttle runs. Currently, the relative expense of the autonomous driving technology compared to the cost of an LSV is likely too high. The economics favor installation on premium vehicles or rental/sharing fleets with the flexibility for high volume usage.

Nuro autonomous vehicle

This Fall Kroger will be using passengerless autonomous vehicles from startup Nuro to deliver groceries to customers.

Starship Technologies Delivery Robot

Starship Technologies is rolling out a robotic delivery service on college and corporate campuses this year.

Even in the commercial use of LSVs or their slightly faster cousins in Europe for tasks like urban delivery, autonomous driving technology may undercut the application of these vehicles. There are a number of startups developing autonomous delivery vehicles for operation on streets. However, they are passenger less or even smaller and slower for use on sidewalks. The last vestige for the LSV may remain the college or corporate campus, but even the autonomous shuttle could cut into some of that usage. We may be witnessing the highpoint for the use of LSVs right now.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com