Mark Stewart turns quite a few heads as he makes his way down the road on his neon green ELF bike, which very closely resembesFred Flinstone's footmobile.
"It reminds me of when I saw a Smart car the first time," said Joanne Bury as she came out of her home to get a look at the vehicle. "This is incredible. What is it?"
Stewart, a 65-year-old family therapist and school psychologist took the summer off from work to drive his new ELF bike over 1,200 miles on roads and trails using the East Coast Greenway, which is a bike and pedestrian trail that runs from Canada to Key West. The attention Stewart receives from his ELF bike doesn't seem to bother him at all. "I don't mind though. I mean I like that people want to talk about it," he said. "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.
Stewart purchased the, 130-pound, ELF from Durham-based Organic Transit, which sells them for $5,000. Stewart said that he wanted to avoid the delivery charge of almost $1,000, so he made the trip down to pick up the bike and learn how to correctly operate it before traveling 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."
The ELF is can carry up to 350 pounds and it can reach a speeds of 20 miles-per-hour on the electric power alone. With a 750-watt motor, the bike can be charged using an electrical outlet in one hour, or in around seven hours using the solar panels built into its roof. It can go for 1,800 miles using the equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. It does not require the insurance, repair and car maintenance costs that go along with a normal vehicle. Besides occasionally replacing a tire, the ELF runs completely off the cost to charge its battery.
— matthew jensen (@ghotinczopc) August 1, 2013
Rob Cotter, Organic Transit CEO, combined the technology from boats, bicycles, and aircrafts and incorporated them into a "green" option for drivers.
"About 30 years ago I was working in the performance car industry working on Porsches and BMWs," Cotter said. "At the time the world record for a streamline bicycle was 55 mph by ground and I realize that those efficiencies are capable with one horsepower. I realized from a social, ethical and environmental standpoint that we're doing something drastically wrong. 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.
"Issues like weather, steep hills, lack of carrying capacity, falling over and safety concerns steer many away from bicycles. The ELF was designed to address those concerns, contribute to the rider's health, cost savings and lessen their environmental impact," he said.
The demand for this new ride has grown significantly. "Right now we make them at a rate of one per day hand built in the U.S. but we're about to open up another facility on the West Coast to increase our efficiency sometime this year to get up to four per day," Cotter said. The company is currently working on their 75th bike and have more than 200 already sold or reserved with a deposit.