By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Its creators call it an Organic Transit Vehicle (OTV), a “new class of velomobile” that’s positioned somewhere between a bike and a mini-car.

The game-changing aspect of this newfangled vehicle, one model of which is called the ELF, is that its carbon footprint is near zero.


The ELF, a solar-powered, cargo-carrying, zero-emissions vehicle or OTV.

The ELF relies on pedal power, like any other three-wheeled bike, but gets a power-assist from an electric motor powered by a lithium battery which is replenished by a 60watt solar panel. The solar panel spans the ELF’s car-like cover, which also serves to shield the driver/rider from the elements and make the vehicle more visible on the road.  This solution creates a virtual zero-carbon vehicle, which uses only a teeny bit of grid power when the user needs to plug the battery into an outlet for a quicker charge.

Compared with a mini-car or even an electric scooter, the ELF has a tiny carbon footprint. Its impact is mainly embodied in its manufacture, and even that has been handled as sustainably as possible by Organic Transit, which conceived the vehicle and plans to manufacture it in Durham, NC. The OT team built a prototype built using local talent, tools and supplies. So we can, in the spirit of the season, say that this should be one Green ELF. Heh.

Now, you can’t cruise down I-90 in the ELF (safely or legally) with the top speed being 20 mph, but you could take an ELF to the bank, the library, to school or the grocery via wide sidewalks, bike lanes or bike trails. You could ride it to work if your city/town provided the right infrastructure. This could substantially reduce those millions of short daily car trips that keep cities congested and polluted. It might even be especially useful in suburbs where residences and commerce are a bit too far apart for easy pedestrian travel. The cargo capacity is projected to be 300 pounds.

We’re thinking, dang Santa, this is a bike-mobile that could catch on. The genius is this: How many times have you thought you should and could walk somewhere or ride your bike, but you worried you might run out of juice on the return trip, or have an awkward cargo situation, causing you to abandon the bike or walking plan? The ELF covers a person for these scenarios, providing a little assist on hills, a little protection from the rain, a rear cargo compartment that can hold eight grocery bags, the potential for daily exercise, visibility in traffic and places to stash your stuff. A side seat is being planned for second gen ELFs, and that means even silly dogs could ride along.
Just as important, the ELF is no Christmas fantasy. It’s been off the drawing board for some time, and Organic Transit built a full prototype that’s been road tested (see the video).  Now the company is collecting backers large and small on Kickstarter to finance putting 100 of the vehicles into production starting in early 2013.

The team has already exceeded its goal of $100,000 (at $118,894 today) on Kickstarter. But will continue collecting through Jan. 13, 2013, the declared funding end point for this first round of capital. In Kickstarter style, all donors, even those who give just $1, will be recognized. Those giving $25 get an Organic Transit t-shirt and those giving $4,000 will get…one of the first 100 ELFs!  (Shipping not included).

See more specs on the ELF and it’s cousin the TruckIt at the company website.

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