Last week, the good folks behind the company Arcimoto came to New York and brought their ambitious, futuristic runabouts along with. I took a quick ride as a passenger, and then again as a driver, in the FUV (yes, Fun Utility Vehicle) and… had a somewhat surprisingly delightful time. Mark Frohnmayer, President and Founder, says Arcimoto is meant to challenge, and eventually usurp, the current automotive paradigm as the future of sustainable mobility. A kind of motorcycle/scooter electric-vehicle hybrid, I found the Arcimoto to be quite intuitive, even as a four-wheels-only guy. And, it must be said that the open, low vehicle is a rush to drive in Manhattan traffic.
When I say the Arcimoto is intuitive, I mean that it becomes so pretty quickly. But the initial sensations — from climbing sidelong into place to strapping both seatbelts across my body (more comfortable and accessible than a four-point harness, I was told) to the gentle electric acceleration and stiff, regenerative braking — were a symphony of logistics. Almost immediately, however, I was cruising down Fifth Avenue with a twist of the handlebar accelerator/brake and wound up in as many cellphone pictures as an A-lister. To be sure, this isn’t the choice for speed demons or motorcycle daredevils, but rather for measured, forward-thinking early adopters.
Frohnmayer’s plans, again, seem quite ambitious, though he is impressively confident. His plan is to first make the vehicles available for rent in West Coast markets. From there, autonomy is on the horizon — as in ‘summon an Arcimoto and it will whisk you to work or home automatically.’ In the very near future, though, Arcimoto will have some humps to overcome — it’s an outlandish kind of vehicle, especially in a packed grid like New York though in Oregon, where Arcimoto is based, and smaller niche markets, I can absolutely see these reigning the roads with pleasure-seekers behind the wheel. Rain and cold are other issues, but throw on soon-to-be-available doors and the Arcimoto will handle moderate weather situations; if you’re willing to go along with Frohnmayer’s vision, you may even be able to strap on a kayak-like skirt and brave the elements. The company’s production model is such that it can be much more nimble than traditional automakers, issuing product updates and tweaks in mere months as opposed to a typical car’s sometimes years-long process.
Overall, I have to say I’m impressed by Arcimoto for many reasons. I find the vehicle fun and feasible in the small-scale near-term, and Frohnmayer’s vision is bold, to say the least. What his company’s future hinges on is, well, the future — will alternative mobility catch on soon enough to make Arcimoto viable? Possibly. If you’re able and interested should you snag a test ride or rental as soon as possible? Totally.