Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Drivers Review, The “Absolutely Electric” Arcimoto SRK

In 2009, I was fortunate enough to become a field trial driver of pre-production electric prototypes; first the BMW Mini-E followed the BMW ActiveE. I drove both for five years in an effort to understand where we were going as we transitioned to the future of electric transportation.

Heady...but uncertain days in 2009 with the BMW Mini-E

2016…. Enter the Arcimoto SRK.

Heading to my County of San Diego Planning Commission Meeting.

Do you ride or drive the Arcimoto? Tough question to answer, I’ll go with ride.  Riding the SRK these past few days, brought me mentally back to early 2009 comparatively speaking, when I was first handed the keys to the prototype BMW Mini-E.   Heady days…

Imagine the ability and resources of BMW, a 100 year old company that produces approximately 2 million vehicles a year, in putting together a prototype electric car program and showing that pre-production car to the world.   Now imagine the resources of a small but mighty Oregon based startup called Arcimoto as they begin traveling the same path, demonstrating their pre-production prototype to the world.

Two in one parking space, both connected to the dual head L2 charger
As a driver of both the BMW Mini-E and now for a few days and several long trips, the Arcimoto,  I was amazed to find that the prototype SRK is far more refined and closer to production ready than was the Mini-E.   High praise for the Oregon based Arcimoto and their ability to execute a well thought out plan. 

The vehicle architecture is sound, stable and robust, nicely put together with attention to a high design ethos.  A few little tweaks to the steering assist and steering feedback levels, the emergency brake location, and the hydraulic foot brake location are the only obvious improvements that are needed. All are known realities of a one off prototype and easily addressable in the next phase of pilot vehicles.   It’s darn near ready to be displayed in a new vehicle showroom and sold as it is.

BMW C1 enclosure and cross seat belts.

The SRK pulls some vehicle architecture inspiration from the 2000-2002 BMW C1 with the roll cage, cross seat belts, and upright car like seating position.   This along with the three wheel stable platform, allows the rider to ride without a helmet in certain states such as Oregon and California.   Where the SRK improves surpassing the BMW C1,  is in its quiet electric drive train, 3 wheel stable platform, two seat configuration and freeway speeds.   On the road the SRK feels more car like in ride quality.  The suspension is top notch. I'm just guessing that the engineer in charge of the SRK's suspension dynamics has some track time in the seat, as the double wishbone race car like suspension is that good.

The three wheel configuration also positions the SRK as a preferred platform ready to enter the world of shared and autonomous driving.   It's easy to envision a future where a train commuter gets on a SRK and takes it the last 3 miles to the workplace.  After arriving the SRK would then autonomously reposition itself back at the transit station or drive to the next customer who has hailed a ride, perhaps at a hotel or shopping center.

You can also see a future where an operator like Zipcar or DriveNow would have thousands of SRK's in each large city.  It's low cost, zero emissions, off the chart fun factor and the ability to have fleets of SRK's in 1/3rd the space as the same number of cars,  gives transportation planners and car share companies some new tools in the toolbox.

That's an exciting future.

One of many test drives in the SRK, smiles all around.

These past few days, the two SRK’s were introduced to several hundred San Diegans via test drives & static displays, as well as trips up and down scenic coastal North San Diego County. Everywhere the SRK’s went they were greeted with high fives, thumbs up, waves, and lots of cameras.    All age groups from seniors to high school seniors were interested in the stories and solutions represented in the DNA of the SRK’s.

When a ride like the SRK draws more attention and “Out Gawk’s” the ultra beautiful BMW i8 parked in the next space, it has my attention and should have the automotive world's attention as well.   When it’s on the road in front, astride or behind you, you just can’t help but smile at how "uber cool" and how unique is the SRK.

Carlsbad Cars and Coffee,  The hit was the Arcimoto SRK's
Tough to please "gasoline guys"  wanted to learn everything.

When pulling away from a light, you can’t help but be surprised how quickly it sprints to 70 mph. It may be cool, that’s true, but it’s also seriously quick, stable and a friggen blast to drive, err, I mean ride.   Coming to a stop, the regen is perfectly integrated in a hand lever on the throttle side of the handlebars.  You feed in the regen by how hard you squeeze the hand lever.

I would estimate the max amount of regen as twice as strong as the BMW i3 which has the most regen of any car.  I love it and it's super easy to use.  It's the best regen system I've tried and I've driven almost every electric vehicle there is.  Think bicycle hand brake simple, the harder you squeeze, the more regen.

You don't have to use all that regen but you can certainly ride the SRK without using the friction brake.  The friction brake is down on the right foot pedal in a traditional position. 

Anticipating riding the SRK before its arrival, I was contemplating its “limited” use case in my mind.
After “riding” the SRK  up and down the California coast for a few days in early February,  It’s clear to me that this vehicle architecture is intersecting with history at exactly the right time and that its transportation use case is broad.  Far broader than a motorcycle, far broader than a convertible and far better than a car in metrics such as parking, efficiency, pollution and cost of ownership for urban and suburban dwellers. 

Coffee Coffee, Surfy Surfy, SRK, SRK

Will it haul your four kids around? No.    Will it get you to work, get you to the restaurants and stores, get you to transit, and get you 100 miles down the road at freeway speeds, absolutely.  What a blast of fun you’ll have getting there. 

As our nation continues its migration to cities and our citizens more often making the choice to live closer to where they work and closer to families (the opposite of urban sprawl,)  vehicles such as the Arcimoto SRK will play an ever increasing role connecting us to our transit options, to our work, and to each other.

It’s not a motorcycle, it’s not a car.  It’s an Arcimoto.  

February cruise along the sand.....Paradise.

I look forward to the pilot series of vehicles from Arcimoto and then the retail offerings across the nation.  After spending a few days exploring this unique vehicle and spending time with its CEO, suffice it to say, I think they are on a great trajectory. I think they have the "secret sauce" and I wish them wind in their sails and wisdom in their decisions for the next few years of their journey.

Powered by sunshine!

Bravo Arcimoto.   

I seem to have room for one more vehicle in my garage. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Electric Bike, Electric BMW i3 & Electric Arcimoto SRK

We're liking the Arcimoto SRK, come join us for a test drive :) 

Arcimoto SRK, Fun open, practical electric mobility

A bit of history, Julie and I are proud to be among the early EV Pioneers ushering in electric mobility. We began in 2007 with Solar PV and in 2009 as Field Trial drivers with BMW in the pre-production prototypes, the BMW MINI-E & the BMW ActiveE, both very important vehicles in the development of the BMW i3 and BMW i8, all driving on electricity produced by harvested sunshine. We are continuing in that electrifying pioneer spirit with our exploration of various classes of electric mobility. 

We're excited to to be hosting along with EVOasis, the San Diego launch event for Arcimoto this Thursday February 4th from 4pm to 7pm. 

If you're in the San Diego County- Orange County area, we invite you to join us after work  on Thursday for a test ride of the Arcimoto SRK & a little woodfired pizza.  Just RSVP at this link if you can make it.

It looks to be a fun and informative night. The CEO of Arcimoto, a Eugene Oregon based company, as well as local San Diego companies in the electric vehicle space will be present. 

Why the Arcimoto SRK? 

There's a huge chasm both in functionality and cost between the 50lbs electric bike and the 2600lbs BMW i3 which is one of the lightest four passenger cars on the market. 

Different forms of electric mobility. Pick the one that's right for you.

We're very interested in this vehicle class slotted between a 300lbs motorcycle and a 3000lbs car.  At a weight of 1000lbs, the SRK is incredible efficient returning approximately 7 miles per kWh used, it's extremely fun to drive, and does not require a helmet or motorcycle license in California.

Several years ago we had a Gem E4 and although severely limited by the top speed, (25mph) the range, (20 miles) and the need to replace the lead acid batteries every three years, we loved the car.  Why?  Because there was a resort like quality when you were tooling around in the Gem E4.   Open air, panoramic windshield, no noise and simple fun. It's the way driving along the California coast is the most enjoyable, open air and quiet, just soaking in all the sights. 

We're looking to recapture that open air feeling of the Gem E4
This is going to be hard for some to understand, as we love our BMW i3 and BMW i8 a great deal,  but the Gem E4, even with all it's shortcomings, had a certain magic and feeling about it, almost like you were on a vacation island in paradise, when you were driving it.   We loved taking the Gem E4 to the beach, the lagoon, out for dinner, to a play, and to the local grocery store.  Neither the i3, or the i8, nor any enclosed vehicle can give you that feeling.  Crazy huh?

Enter the SRK. 

The Arcimoto SRK provides that same sense of openness, quiet driving pleasure while eliminating the downsides of the Gem E4 as far as range and speed.  The SRK is also in my view a great platform to develop for future car share programs and for the future of autonomous driving.

First, it has three wheels and is a very stable platform,  this means that in the future world of autonomous driving,  the SRK will be able to come to you autonomously,  or return to a nearby transit hub by itself once you have finished driving the SRK.  This is simply not going to be possible with most two wheeled bikes and motorcycles.    

Toyota iRoad, the MIT PEV and others are also exploring similar vehicle architecture casting their vision forward in anticipation of shared vehicles and more efficient mobility. 

Toyota iRoad
Second, you can park three of the Arcimoto SRK's in the space of one typical car. In our crowded cities parking is at a premium and vehicles like the SRK if widely adopted would mean that we begin to solve that problem with less real estate devoted to transportation parking.  

Less space for parking lots, more space for people. 

Third,  The freedom and fun of driving. There's a reason Americans are in love with motorcycles and convertibles. With the Arcimoto SRK and its open airy design language (more open air motorcycle, less closed in car,)  the Arcimoto has that freedom and fun in spades.  It's in this important category that the Arcimoto is superior in my view, to those who are trying to enclose and mimic a more car like form with a three wheel option. 

What Arcimoto got spot on right, is keeping the openness and resort fun feel to the SRK while providing  for a semi enclosed cabin that does not require a helmet or motorcycle license in Oregon or California.  It offers more stability and safety than a motorcycle and if the weather's not cooperating,  take a few minutes and attach the optional doors.

Cruising a scenic corridor, in our case the California coastline, the mountains and the desert of the Anza Borrego is best done in an electric, zero emissions, open air vehicle for two.

Depending on your needs, your lifestyle, your vision of the future & where you want to go,  you might be surprised at how much value and functionality the Arcimoto SRK can deliver.

Can't wait to drive the Arcimoto SRK this Thursday February 4th,  Join us if you're in the neighborhood and want to test drive the near future of electric mobility.