Not a car or bicycle, but a blend—an ELF vehicle

Jul 31, 2013
This photo taken July 24, 2013 shows the Organic Transit's ELF bike in a parking lot in Reston, Va. It's the closest thing yet to Fred Flintstone's footmobile _ only with solar panels and a futuristic shape. It's an "Organic Transit Vehicle," a car-bicycle blend also known as an ELF bike, and 65-year-old family therapist Mark Stewart is taking it on a 1,200-mile journey along the East Coast Greenway, a bike and pedestrian trail that runs from Florida to Canada. (AP Photo/Valerie Bonk)

A Massachusetts man is taking his car-bicycle blend "Organic Transit Vehicle"—also known as an ELF bike—on a 1,200-mile trip from North Carolina to Massachusetts this summer, turning heads as the unusual-looking green vehicle zips through city streets.

What Mark Stewart is driving looks like a cross between a bicycle and a car with , a gently humming motor and a futuristic shape. It's a "green" option for today's commuters.

"It reminds me of when I saw a Smart car the first time," said Joanne Bury as she emerged from her Reston condominium building to take a look at the . "This is incredible. What is it?"

Stewart, a 65-year-old family therapist and school psychologist from Cambridge, Massachusetts, took the summer off in order to drive his new vehicle more than 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometers) on trails and roads using the East Coast Greenway, a bike and pedestrian trail that runs from Canada to Key West.

Stewart began his journey by flying down to Durham, North Carolina, on July 15, and estimates that the entire trip will take about a month. He covered the first leg, from Durham to Reston, Virginia, over roughly five days, 60 miles (95 kilometers) at a time.

The ELF, or "Organic Transit Vehicle," can go for 1,800 miles (2,895 kilometers) on the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline. It does not require the insurance, repair and car maintenance costs of the average vehicle. Besides the cost of the occasional new tire, the ELF runs completely off what it costs to charge its battery.

This photo taken July 24, 2013 shows ELF bike owner Mark Stewart describeing the features of his bike during a rest stop in Reston, Va. It's the closest thing yet to Fred Flintstone's footmobile _ only with solar panels and a futuristic shape. It's an "Organic Transit Vehicle," a car-bicycle blend also known as an ELF bike, and 65-year-old family therapist Mark Stewart is taking it on a 1,200-mile journey along the East Coast Greenway, a bike and pedestrian trail that runs from Florida to Canada. (AP Photo/Valerie Bonk)

Stewart bought the ELF from Durham-based Organic Transit, which sells them for a base price of $5,000. He said he wanted to avoid the almost $1,000 delivery charge, so he decided to fly down to pick up the bike in person and learn how to operate it before taking the long trip back home.

"I spent three days in the shop hanging with the guys there and learning the vehicle," Stewart said. "This is just an unsupported solo trip up here in a vehicle that nobody else really knows."

Stewart's ELF is only about the 40th to come off the production line. While few bike shop workers have seen the contraption, the materials, such as the tires and pedals, are items on your average bicycle.

Organic Transit CEO Rob Cotter took technology from aircraft, boats and bicycles and incorporated them into a "green" 130-pound (59-kilogram) vehicle. He was consulting on bike-sharing technologies being considered by New York City when he saw there was a market for his vehicle.

"A combination of environmental catastrophes, high fuel costs, climate change and a migration of people moving to the cities all combined for a trend of people looking for an automotive alternative. But not everyone can fit a bicycle into their daily life," Cotter said.

Demand has grown significantly, and Organic Transit has opened a second factory. The company is working on its 75th bike, with more than 200 already sold or reserved with a deposit.

This photo taken July 24, 2013 shows ELF bike owner Mark Stewart taking a ride in his bike in Reston, Va. It's the closest thing yet to Fred Flintstone's footmobile _ only with solar panels and a futuristic shape. It's an "Organic Transit Vehicle," a car-bicycle blend also known as an ELF bike, and 65-year-old family therapist Mark Stewart is taking it on a 1,200-mile journey along the East Coast Greenway, a bike and pedestrian trail that runs from Florida to Canada. (AP Photo/Valerie Bonk)

While the ELF is classified as a bicycle by Organic Transit, the laws surrounding such a vehicle vary. In the District of Columbia, where Stewart's GPS was taking him, the ELF is not allowed on the bike trails and paths. The city classifies it as a motorized bicycle.

"They can't operate the unit on a sidewalk, they can't park on a street and they can't operate on off-street bike trails or bike routes," said Monica Hernandez of the city's Department of Transportation. "The only thing you can do (on the street) is stop to unload or load the unit."

Stewart says so far he's only gotten looks of curiosity.

"A lot of cops have gone by me no one's said boo. They'll look, they're interested but they don't question its right to be on the road," Stewart said.

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packrat
2.3 / 5 (6) Jul 31, 2013
He is going to have all kinds of problems doing this. Some of the northern states don't allow assisted bikes and almost no states allow them on highways of 55 mph or higher.... It's going to be all back roads and I hope he has good health and life insurance because he is going to need both before this is over with. I ride a recumbent trike as my main transportation and it's difficult to even get across town most of the time. There isn't enough back roads to even go to the next city down the road (<50 miles) without breaking the highway laws.
verkle
2.3 / 5 (6) Jul 31, 2013
A lot of hype but few details. Is it an electric vehicle? What is the range? What is the acceleration and max speed? What is the max load allowed? At that point what is the acceleration and max speed? Probably quite low. I wouldn't want to travel in one of these for very long.

packrat
3.8 / 5 (10) Jul 31, 2013

<150 lbs bike weight (about 75 of that is the plastic shell)
350 lbs load capacity (including rider) - reality about 150 lbs of cargo capability
750 w motor for assist (max allowed by fed law) doesn't say voltage but I think it's either 36v or 48v
20 mph on motor max (again - fed law) it will go a bit faster if you pedal along with it like your supposed to.
20 + miles range with pedaling help
high power charger < 1 hour lithium type batteries
sunlight charge approx 7 hours

It's was designed to be a small delivery buggy for downtown companies.

A lot of talk about it on the Yahoo bike groups. Hardly anyone on the various bike forums have been impressed with it as it is still too expensive for what you actually get but that's nothing unusual when it comes to these type of trikes. They are almost all overpriced except for just a couple of brands.

alfie_null
1 / 5 (1) Aug 01, 2013
He is going to have all kinds of problems doing this. Some of the northern states don't allow assisted bikes and almost no states allow them on highways of 55 mph or higher.... It's going to be all back roads and I hope he has good health and life insurance because he is going to need both before this is over with. I ride a recumbent trike as my main transportation and it's difficult to even get across town most of the time. There isn't enough back roads to even go to the next city down the road (<50 miles) without breaking the highway laws.

As a cyclist, you no doubt understand it's a chicken/egg issue. Not enough riders means lots of barriers. Bad laws, lack of infrastructure. All these barriers then, discourage more people from becoming bicyclists.
packrat
1 / 5 (3) Aug 01, 2013
I totally agree with you on that. It's a real p.i.t.a. most of the time. The small city where I live talked about a bike trail for the city for almost 15 years and then when they finally built it, almost none of it goes near the stores or business's in town... It's mostly through neighborhoods and almost useless to people that use a bike for transportation and not just getting a little exercise. Almost all of the really busy roads were originally two lane (which actually had room on the sides for bikes) and basically all they did was paint stripes down the middle of the lanes to turn them into 4 lane roads which now have NO room for a bike to ride down the sides. This is not a very friendly bike town any more since then. They have managed to put bike lanes down one road that was being redone and those are nice except for one small problem... There are no neighborhoods on the road at all and only a grocery store at one end of it. About 7-8 miles of nothing but trees.
Shelgeyr
1 / 5 (4) Aug 01, 2013
A combination of environmental catastrophes, high fuel costs, climate change and a migration of people moving to the cities all combined for a trend of people looking for an automotive alternative.


Environmental catastrophes? I would be surprised if more that 5 people on the entire planet have reacted to such by waying "gosh, I need to alter my lifestyle to include more bicycling!"

As for a "migration of people moving to the cities", that's being engineered by our statist government, which is also responsible for the high fuel costs. Oh and: WHAT climate change?

Hang on... [bzzzat!] . . . . . [bzzzot!] Yeah, thought so... Just took my TARDIS on a whirlwind tour of the next few decades, and surprise! Nobody owns these things.

I'm guessing that since it took a "second factory" to crank out #75, we're talking easily hidden and vanishingly small factories. Like "We're building them in Fred's garage now too" sized. Congrats! Their target of zero environmental impact: Achieved!