Solving Cities

For urban commuters: A pedal-solar electric hybrid vehicle

Posting in Cities

A new vehicle gives the commuters in cities the option of powering it by solar electricity or pedal power.

For the urban commuter who likes the option of driving an electric vehicle to work (you don't like to start the day sweaty, we get it) but wants to bike home, The Elf is your dream vehicle.

It's a hybrid that runs on solar electric and pedal power. So for those who like to get an early workout, you can bike to work, let the sun charge the battery during the day, and have a leisurely, solar-powered ride home. The vehicle can travel up to 30 miles on a single charge. It also has basic features found in a car: LED headlights, tail lights, and signals; side mirrors; and disc brakes.

Organic Transit, based in Durham, N.C., built the vehicle and has two variations of the hybrid. Along with The Elf, the company created The Truckit. It has a more heavy duty design and the ability to carry up to 800 pounds (The Elf can carry 300 pounds in addition to the rider). It would be a perfect design for an urban delivery service that doesn't want to hitch a trailer to their bike but wants to use sustainable business practices.

According to Organic Transit CEO Rob Cotter, the vehicles get the equivalent of 1,800 miles per gallon "when broken down as watts," he explained to me.

"[T]here is nothing like it out there," Cotter said. "A batch of velomobiles, some with electric assist. And there are neighborhood vehicles, none with pedal. But none are as light, as well suited for city traffic or have solar assist."

For their unique design, both vehicles have the price to match. The Elf will set you back $3,900 and The Truckit is $5,500. But while it's more expensive than your standard bike. It's a much cheaper option than an electric car, without the need for a charging station. The company will fill orders for the vehicles this Fall.

Watch The Elf in action:

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure