FUV: West Coast company building electric 'fun utility vehicle' for under $20,000

Electric cars are still pretty pricey, with the cheapest EV right now being the base model of the Nissan Leaf. It's just a tick over $30,000 before incentives.

How about an electric vehicle for under $20,000, before incentives? It's not exactly a car, and not exactly a motorcycle. The new Arcimoto FUV has two seats like a car, in tandem, with seatbelts. But it has handlebars, like a motorcycle.

The company says it's a way to get electric transportation to more people.

"The whole thesis behind Arcimoto is sustainable transportation, and we don't believe that can happen until people can actually afford the solution. It basically has the capabilities you need for daily driving, at a much lower footprint on the road," said Mark Frohnmayer, president and founder of Arcimoto.

The company is based in Eugene, Oregon, where the vehicles are built.

It's somewhat open-air, though there are optional hard or soft doors for the side. There's a heater-defroster, heated hand grips, and heated seats available. As is a holder for your phone, so you have navigation right in front of you if you like, and music options through built-in Bluetooth speakers.

To replenish the battery, it plugs in to conventional home and public charging via the standard J1772 connector used in the majority of EVs. The Arcimoto is freeway legal, can go up to 75 mph, and is carpool lane legal, even with only a solo driver on board.

But watch your speeds if you're trying to maximize battery range. The official EPA rating is 100 miles on a charge in "city driving." But at 70 miles per hour, range goes way down, to 32 miles, according to Arcimoto's spec sheet for the vehicle.

This is more of an around-town EV anyway. For example, park it at a train station where your longer commute begins. Or take it to your favorite store, where even nightmare parking lots are no problem. Arcimoto claims three FUVs can park in a single space, but that may be a stretch. On my test drive I found that it fit with room to spare in a "compact" spot at a local Trader Joe's. I don't think a second one could have squeezed in beside or behind me, never mind a third one.

For those shopping trips, there's a locking trunk that'll hold a surprising amount of whatever you need to carry. I put two conventional grocery bags in, and there was space for at least two more. A large backpack or small duffel bag would also fit.

Arcimoto says getting the FUV to production is not the end of its 12-year development process. In fact, this debut model is just part of the beginning of it. They have big plans for this platform, like a delivery version, and a first responder variation that can carry things like a first-aid kit and fire extinguisher on the back. There are also plans to produce less expensive ones for consumers, possibly down in the low teens price-wise, before incentives.

This vehicle is amazingly simple, and a lot of fun to zip around in. You can think of this as an electric motorcycle that your mother might be okay with. Just ask company president Mark Frohnmayer.

"My mom won't let me ever ride a motorcycle. She forbade me to ride a motorcycle from birth, and she's getting one," he said with a smile.
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