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

 

 

Eicher Polaris JV Launches Multix: A Personal Utility Vehicle for Indian Market

The Multix utility vehicle, the first offering from the Eicher-Polaris joint venture.

The Multix utility vehicle, the first offering from the Eicher-Polaris joint venture.

Eicher Polaris Pvt. Ltd., a 50:50 joint venture between Eicher Motors Ltd and Polaris Industries Inc., launched the Multix India’s  first personal utility vehicle. The Multix, available in two versions and four colors, is targeting the “independent businessman”. The Multix is being positioned as a versatile vehicle that can be used for both business and family purposes. Management estimates the market size to be 60 million households. From initial idea to launch took Eicher and Polaris about five years and $60 million. Extensive consumer testing was performed to identify the market and test the concept. The Multix is being viewed as launching a new vehicle category. Initial production is expected to be 5,000 vehicles per month and the manufacturing facilities can expand to handle twice that volume.

Key features of the Multix include:

  • 500cc Diesel engine
  • Cabin space that can comfortably seat a family of five along with luggage
  • Multix can be adapted to create large storage space of 1918 liters.
  • X-PORT a unique power-take-off point, which can generate power of up to 3 KW that can be used for lighting homes and powering professional equipment
  • Pro Ride Independent suspension system
  • Ground clearance of 225mm,
  • Mileage of 28.45 kmpl.
  • Tubular frame structure and Roll-Over Protection System (ROPS) 
  • Flexituff body

The two Multix versions are priced at 3,620 USD or 2.32 Lakh and 4,245 USD or 2.72 Lakh. The vehicle will be launched in 30 cities with test drives starting in July and deliveries in August. Learn more: Equitybulls.com

Comment:  In contrast to the US market where a crossover utility vehicle means a vehicle for work and play, in the Indian market it means work and family use. This utility vehicle/mini-truck market is very dynamic. Not only do you have new entrants like Eicher-Polaris with the Multix, but there are also a number of startups receiving venture capital that are targeting the independent delivery/shipping market that utilize these vehicles. These companies are using software and other technology to make the process of locating and quickly accessing a shipper much more efficient. This could prove to be another catalyst for the vehicle market.

Jordan Initiates EV Solar Charging Project

The Jordanian government is working with a consortium of companies to develop a pilot project demonstrating the use of solar powered charging stations.  The consortium includes AllCell (USA), Nissan (Japan), DBT (France), MATRA (France), Sun Phocus (USA), Nissan Jordan and NETenergy, a Jordanian start-up company.  The Ministry of Environment has signed a memorandum of understanding and is planning on procuring 300 Nissan Leafs as well as other “light electric” vehicles such as e-bikes, e-scooters and NEVs.  Learn more:  Zawya.com

KYMCO To Launch 700cc UTV In The US

Kwang Yang Motor Co., Ltd. (KYMCO), the largest powered two-wheeler manufacturer in Taiwan recently announced major 2011 marketing initiatives including the introduction of a 700cc UTV in the US market.  The company which took over the remaining share of KYMCO US in 2010 expects to sell 1,000 UTVs in the US this year.  Management expects UTVs to eventually replace ATVs in the market.  Total revenue for the company is about $1 billion a year.  Learn more:  News.cens.com

TrikE: Another Low Speed Transportation Option

TrikE Commuter Vehicle

TrikE - A new option for the urban commuter

The TrikE is an electric  power assisted bicycle designed to provide urban commuters with a transportation option that takes advantage of the increasing miles of bike lanes.  Developed by Speed Studio Design, the TrikE features weather protection, light cargo storage and a 36v lithium battery pack which drives a 750W motor.  The TrikE has a top speed of 20 mph and is classified as a bicycle.  The vehicle is positioned, in part, as a more affordable transportation option than NEVs.  Learn more:  Design-daily.com

China Market News

A recent report showed strong growth in what is referred to as China’s low speed vehicle market which includes low-speed trucks and three wheeled vehicles.  Compared to the first quarter of 2009, the output of low-speed trucks climbed 6.43% to 142,700 units, while that of three-wheeled vehicles rose 17.45% to 493,000 units.  In both sub-segments the top 10 producers account for nearly 90% or more of the output.  Learn more:  Alibaba.com

Electric Vehicle Dealerships Struggle In Bay Area

A recent story chronicles the struggles of a number of electric vehicle dealerships in the San Francisco area.  Some have closed their doors, others report low sales and some are changing their focus to the commercial market and/or their product mix.  The latter includes switching to off-road electric vehicles and electric bikes or scooters.

The factors causing a downturn for these dealerships, which primarily sell LSVs, include lower gas prices, a poor economy in which these vehicles as a second car become a luxury, and the inability to drive the vehicles on highways.  Learn more:  Contracostatimes.com

Comment: It is not clear that this trend is a national one or local, given the level of highway use in California.  In 2009 LSV sales were robust as a whole because of generous federal tax credits.  I think in areas that have a history of widespread use of these vehicles as well as golf cars, electric vehicle dealerships should have a better chance of success.  Unfortunately for many of these dealerships, they opened not too long before the economic downturn. As the economy rebounds and electric vehicles that can attain highway speeds come to market, it will be interesting to see if these type of dealerships start to increase again. – Marc Cesare

Company News

Global Motor Services – This newcomer to the electric vehicle market is using former Bears coach Mike Ditka to promote their products.  Their current line-up includes a converted Chevy Aveo and a three-wheeled scooter.  They expect to add an LSV in the future and currently have dealers in San Diego, New Jersey, Las Vegas and Chicago.  Learn more:  Autobloggreen

Zap – Zap has shipped a Zaptruck XL equipped with a solar panel to a large government agency.  The solar panel supplements normal charging and provides some extra range. Learn more:  Zjucnc.org

Also the company has been awarded “…an engineering prototype contract for the design and development of an electric mail truck.”  This project is for converting a US Postal Service gas vehicle to electric propulsion.  Learn more:  Autobloggreen

Cruise Car – Adam Sulimirski has been promoted to the position of General Manager from Global Sales Director.  Learn more:  Madduxpress.com

ZENN To Stop LSV Production; ZAP Phasing Out Xebra?

ZENN announced that it will be stopping production of their LSV in April 2010. As had been reported earlier the company is shifting it’s focus to the development of electric drivetrains based on EEStor technology. The company reports selling about 500 of their LSVs in three years.

Learn more: Reuters.com

In another story about phasing out a vehicle, a careful examination of ZAP’s most recent quarterly findings, seem to indicate that they will be phasing out their three-wheeled Xebra model. From their 10-Q for the quarter ending September 30, 2009:

The decrease of $1.5 million (in revenue) is primarily due to the phase out of our three wheeled Xebra vehicle with reduced selling prices.

In addition the company appears to be putting less emphasis on development of the Alias model.

Research and development expenses decreased by $57,000 from $138,000 in 2008 to $81,000 for the third quarter ended September 30, 2009. The decrease was due to less work on the development of the Alias prototype vehicle

Learn more: thetruthaboutcars.com