Ok, maybe nothing will ever be that perfect, but one might expect this latest design to be pretty durn close – at least in terms of electric three-wheelers. Certainly, the alpha-build machines that the long-toiling outfit debuted Saturday night at its stomping grounds in Eugene, Oregon, and presented again Tuesday night at a party in Portland, are a pretty interesting proposition.
With two wheels up front and one out back, this latest SRK keeps the reverse-trike layout of the previous seven iterations, but don't be deceived. The changes made this go-round are more revolutionary than evolutionary, and have moved the project from an exercise in wishful thinking to one that just might have a shot at making it to the street. Yeah, Arcimoto has failed to come through on previous product announcements, but its try, try-again strategy may finally be panning out.
Revolutionary changes changes move the effort from an exercise in wishful thinking.
The difference is a redesign that dramatically slashes complexity and weight, and thereby, cost. Besides bringing a much better balance to the price-performance equation, one could also argue the changes make for a more functional and engaging-to-drive vehicle. Gone is the steering wheel, replaced by a set of handlebars, and, similar to a snowmobile, the feet now straddle the chassis' battery-pack backbone, connecting the driver to the vehicle in a more dynamic way.
Though it keeps a foot-operated mechanical brake, as is required by law for motorcycles – the class into which three-wheelers still fall – a regenerative-braking lever, which operates independently, is hand-controlled. Throttle duties are also moved to the handlebars. Founder and CEO Mark Frohnmayer tells us the engineering team is "experimenting with twist, half-twist and thumb throttles," some, or all of which, will be options on the production vehicle.
These changes, in addition to shrinking the vehicle's footprint, have allowed a whopping 727 bricks of butter to be melted way from the previous architecture, bringing the SRK-8 down to a svelte 1,023 lbs. The smaller, lighter form means more efficiency, think 230 MPGe, and better performance.
The smaller, lighter form means more efficiency, think 230 MPGe.
How much better? With a motor powering each front wheel, acceleration from zero-to-sixty now transpires in a snappy 7.5 seconds, while top speed is given as 85 miles per hour. Its standard 12-kWh lithium battery should see a range of 70 urban miles, but a 20-kWh/130-mile package will also be optional. Charging happens with either a Level-1 or Level-2 connection – they are still weighing a DC fast-charge option – and flat-to-full powering up is given, rather non-specifically, as "a few hours", reflecting the alpha state of the prototypes.
The passenger cabin of the SRK-8 is open-sided. Though there is a safety cage and, indeed, a roof, it doesn't protect you completely from the elements. While this is a point we rather like, as it viscerally connects occupants with their surroundings, Arcimoto has developed a side-panel option, complete with
Speaking of dollars. here's the part that completes this unique package and gives the effort an air of viability: a base price tag of $11,900. This, along with a low operating cost, keeps it within the realm of buyability for many American consumers. It also makes it the most affordable EV (aside from several actual motorcycles) you can purchase in the United States.
A base price tag of $11,900 gives an air of viability.
The company says it is targeting the end of 2016 for production and a refundable $100 gets you a place in line. Given its game plan calls for a 50-strong fleet of production-intent vehicles, and as yet no factory to build them, we feel the wait will be somewhat longer. Still, with financial backing from WR Hambrecht Ventures, and a product that could be built and sold in a number of markets worldwide, it seems the wind may finally be at the back of Arcimoto. Godspeed, we say.
Check out our galleries above and below for good look at the this alpha prototype, and the building of it, as well as renders of what they expect the finished product will look like. To see it in motion and hear Frohnmayer enthuse about his baby, we also included a nice video interview from The Register-Guard.