This post comes from Autoblog Open Road, our contributor network. The author is solely responsible for the content, and any opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Autoblog and its editors.
Let's start with the definition of an "Autocycle". The meaning of autocycle is not very consistent right now from state to state and country to country. In fact, a well-defined description continues to be chased by the manufacturers through legislative efforts across the United States and Canada in order to bring consistency in manufacturing, safety engineering, and consumer expectation. In short, an autocycle is a three wheeled vehicle. But as Mark Frohnmayer, President and Founder of Arcimoto points out, it's not that simple because "in the space between a four-wheeled car and a two-wheeled motorcycle, there are clearly many different types of vehicles. In particular, there are three-wheelers that look and behave more like a car, and there are those that look and behave more like a motorcycle."
Elio Motors has been vocal about its progress in 2016 with legislative efforts to get definitions and regulations in place. Perusing their blogs you will find that most states are ready to register their vehicles on the road with their four wheeled brothers and sisters. Thanks to their efforts and that of other manufacturers, some states will even allow autocycles to be operated without helmet restrictions. Yet, Polaris has still had a slow time navigating through these laws while selling their Slingshot across the United States. Headway is being made though.
This is one of the reasons autocycle may have a bright future in 2017. Autocyles being defined governmentally, and removal of helmet restrictions for some of these vehicles, lends to greater acceptance of all three wheeled products by the consumer and a higher likelihood that consumers may start to see these three wheeled vehicles en masse on our highways.
It's not all rosy though, the design of the vehicle plays a large part in the acceptance by the different governmental authorities. Some purchasers will need motorcycle endorsements on their licenses, while others will be fine with their "normal" driver's licenses. Although this may seem like drawbacks or limitations by some, other purchasers may think it's worth it. In fact, a whole lot of purchasers may think it's worth it because,...
The efficiencies of these vehicles is a huge draw. Autocycles are perfect for consumers that are looking for transportation solutions that have a lower their carbon footprint. Elio Motors, Arcimoto, and Electra Meccanica are quick to point out that their vehicles have a tremendous gains in mpg ratings over traditional vehicles.
Elio Motors uses a combustion engine for their Elio model and they expect nearly 84 MPGs after tuning of their development engine is completed (per their website and blog). According to Mark Frohnmayer, President and Founder of Arcimoto, their product's figures are encouraging as well. It uses two electric electric motors. "Using the EPA's calculation for MPGe, the SRK will achieve an estimated 230 MPGe, 10 times the national passenger fleet average of 23 MPG." Electra Meccanica also chose to go with the electric motor for motivation, which currently is rated with up to a 100 mile range.
Autocycles see improved efficiencies over traditional vehicles through other means as well. The manufacturers are quick to point out that their vehicles address the reality of today's commuter situation which typically sees one person in a vehicle traveling back and forth to work or the grocery store. So, these three wheeled vehicles are typically made for one or two people. As such, they save on weight, sheet metals, moving parts, and plastics when compared to the production of larger four wheeled vehicles.
Jeff Holland, VP or Marketing and Communciations at Electra Meccanica Vehicles Corp said, "We chose the autocycle design for the SOLO for a couple reasons. First and foremost we wanted to create an electric vehicle because we felt that it is the right thing to do for the environment. From there we needed to consider the most efficient packaging for a small one person commuter car since we know that most individuals make their daily commute as a single passenger. Further, we know that on average, these individuals don't commute more than 36 miles on average, so we developed a battery system capable of traveling those distances every day. We packaged around those parameters and the SOLO checks all the boxes."
These vehicles are tangible too, not abstract dreams by schemers. In the development of the autocycle products a few of the manufacturers have seemed to be unified in the approach of having actual product(s) to show, either in prototype of production trim. Jeff Holland said about the Electra Meccanica offering, "We wanted to people to know that this is a REAL vehicle as opposed to some vaporware dream. Having a real working prototype and assembly methods in place to manufacture the vehicle were paramount and that has resonated with our reservation holders and potential customers alike."
Having actual hands-on vehicles goes a long way when it comes to getting funding too, which is a concern for any new product development for any manufacturer, autocycle or not. To that end, investors are starting to line up as they have seen the autocycles toured across countries and states at different shows, from SEMA to NAIC. At each of these stops the consumers have lined up to look at the autocycles and questioned the representatives on hand on how to get involved. In fact, manufacturers have seemed to have the same positive response when they bring their products to different shows.
Jeff Holland said, "We recently exhibited at the SEMA Show in Vegas and I can't tell you how many people's initial remark was, "This is what we'll all be driving in the future." We obviously feel the same way. With current traffic congestion in many major cities at an all-time high and climate change now a daily part of our lives, small, all-electric commuter cars are fast becoming a solution to those problems."
Mark Frohnmayer seemed to sum it up best when he said, "The public response to our vehicle has been very positive. People are particularly happy with the unique look and just how fun it is to drive. These factors are directly attributable to the autocycle design. Other autocycles have garnered a similarly positive response. The public seems primed for a paradigm shift in transportation, and autocycles are one piece of the puzzle."
As for the response to Elio Motors offering, their website highlights that they currently have over 60,000 reservations. That figures says a lot by itself.
As we look autocycles from a macro perspective, we can see the governmental definitions and regulations are largely in place now for their acceptance, the vehicles themselves deliver high efficiencies, and the funding is coming in line for these products to be mass produced. All this leads one to assume that the consumer demand is already there and the manufacturers have found a niche ready to be filled. So, it's not a stretch to believe that the time is ripe for the autocycle. The manufacturers are eager to build them and the public seems eager to own them. In fact, this could be the breakout year. 2017 could be the year of the autocycle.