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Savvy Duck Reviews: Arcimoto FUV


Did you know that there is a startup electric vehicle manufacturer right here in Eugene? After seven years of development, Arcimoto is on the verge of releasing their first product, a three-wheeled electric vehicle. They're starting to make a big splash in the transportation industry, and they intend to use their innovative two-seater to revolutionize the entire concept of personal transportation. Can they do it? Read on.

Note: I have written this review from the perspective of a tech enthusiast, and I am by no means an automotive expert. With that said, this vehicle is fundamentally an electronic device and I believe I have some perspective to offer.

Specs

The SRK is small in size, but packed with features.
Update 2 - August 22, 2018

It has been over a year since I updated this review, and wow, what a year! Arcimoto went public and earned nearly twice as much investment money than they were expecting, they got listed on NASDAQ, they moved into their first factory (The Arcimoto Manufacturing Plant, or AMP for short), they rang the opening bell on NASDAQ, and they installed a giant manufacturing laser they call the BFL (the F is for Fun). But most importantly, the progress on their vehicle rollout has been incredible


The Arcimoto Manufacturing Plant, or AMP for short
It's not SRK anymore!

During the oprning celebration of the AMP, Arcimoto rolled out their first unit of their customer vehicles, the FUV. While SRK stood for their motto - Simple, Reasonable, Kickass - FUV stands for Fun Utility Vehicle, an apt name if I ever heard one. The FUVs are the updated version of the Gen 8 platform, with capabilities and potential above and beyond the Alphas that I reviewed before.


FUV #0 (yes, the count starts at 0)
Meet the Signature Series

The Signature Series is Arcimoto's initial release of ten vehicles. Six have gone to early customers, two were kept for marketing, and two are used as engineering vehicles for developing and testing the platform's features and capabilities. If you want some actual customer reviews, two of these early customers have talked about their experiences on the FUV Owners Forum. I had the opportunity to drive the orange marketing vehicle, FUV #2, and it was a blast! Before you ask, yes, I operate a duck-themed business and drove the orange FUV. IT was a sacrifice, but it was worth it.
New features over the SRKs include a windshield wiper, USB charging ports, electronic parking break, power steering, and heated seats and grips. FUV #0 additionally includes prototypes of the pull-out power cable and fold-down seat options.
The drive itself was fantastic. Everything on the vehicle has been tweaked and updated. The regen break is solid (I barely had to use the hydraulic break at all), thevehicle is even quieter than the SRKs, and the upgraded suspension worked surprisingly well on the rough roads I drove. They clearly have not let up on impriving every aspect of this vehicle.


The new control panel
Meet the Betas, and more!

It has been a couple months since I drove Orange, and since then, they've started production on their next run of 15 Beta vehicles. Two are completed with the rest on the way, and they have even started the first vehicle in their next release - the Pilots. Every release incorporates more of the final production parts and processes, with refinements at every step. Each model gets them closer to full retail production, which is expected to happen by the end of the year. Exciting times for the folks at Arcimoto.


One of the first Betas
Conclusion

With their factory almost tooled up and (by my count) 12 FUVs in operation, the 11 years of hard work, sacrifice, and tireless planning are clearly about to pay off. If things keep going right, by this time next year there will literally be thousands of FUVs on the road. And with these vehicles getting better and better, I see nothing but bright days ahead for this company and those of us who are planning to drive away in an FUV. These guys know how to build a solid vehicle that balances usefulness and efficiency, while somehow managing to be incredibly fun. Two thumbs up!


Update 1 - June 14, 2017

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get a second test drive of the Arcimoto SRK. This was a longer and more thorough test drive, and they have really made some improvements to the vehicle. Production did get delayed, but the first customer deliveries are slated to start this summer, and the improved vehicle that I drove is much closer to the final product.


Don't be fooled. This is the same prototype as the blue one pictured above, but with many updated parts and different body panels. They do have two other prototypes that they frequently show off.
The Drive

The drive was fantastic. This time, we got out of the side streets where Arcimoto World Headquarters is located, and headed out onto more open roads. This allowed us to get up to 55, over twice the speed that I had driven it a year prior. Kyle, Arcimoto's new communications guru, was my guide. I was surprised at how well we were able to hear each other talk. At 45 mph, we could talk with our normal voices, and at 55 mph, we only needed to raise them a little. The wind blowing through the vehicle was still very manageable at that speed even without side panels, and despite being so lightweight, it still felt very sturdy on the road

Updates

Many changes have been made to the prototype over the past year. New (and very comfortable) seats have been installed, the suspension has been tweaked for a smoother ride, and there is a new sun shade over the touchscreen. However, the breaking system is where it really shined. The SRK still has two breaks, a hand break for regenerative breaking and a foot pedal for the hydraulic break. In my previous test drive, the hand break took a long stretch of road to stop the vehicle, and I would frequently have to rely on the foot break to stop a little faster, losing some of the potential for getting energy back. This time, the regenerative break was capable of stopping the SRK very fast. I only needed to use the foot break once during the entire drive, when we were stopped on a hill (regenerative breaking alone can't hold a vehicle on a slope). Then when I did need the foot break, I was pleased to find that its positioning had been tweaked and it was much less awkward to presss than it had been a year ago.

My customary terrible drive video. I started it when we were stopped for construction, and we get moving at about the 3:30 mark.
Conclusion

As impressed as I was with the SRK before, I am even more impressed by it now. The team has clearly been busy making improvements across the board. And with their announcements of other features like optional cargo racks of various types and an app that communicates with your vehicle, their offering just gets more and more appealing. I look forward to seeing these all over the roads, and to getting one myself to use on service calls. Two thumbs up!


Original Review


The Arcimoto SRK
Appearance and First Impressions

To say that the appearance of the The Arcimoto SRK is unconventional is an understatement. Not only does it only have three wheels, but the compact front end is stubby compared to other vehicles, and the inline seating makes the main body skinnier than most two-seaters. However, the sleek lines of its body panels combined with the smooth metallic frame and roll cage make it appealing to the eye, and upon seeing it for the first time, you definitely (and accurately) get the sense that there is more to this thing than a first glance may reveal.

A little history

In 2007, Mark Frohnmayer found himself dissatisfied with his transportation options. He found it overkill to use a 3000lb gas-burning vehicle to get groceries, but a bicycle doesn't exactly have great cargo capacity. He started looking for something in between, and one of the closest solutions he could find was the BugE, a small electric vehicle kit designed in Creswell, Oregon. However, it had drawbacks. It did not offer much in terms of cargo space and protection from the elements, and he decided he could do better. He used money he had earned from selling a game development startup to found Arcimoto.


Frohnmayer's Tedx Talk on sustainable transportation, 2012
Over 7 years, Frohnmayer and his team have built 7 electric, 3-wheeled prototypes, each more advanced and refined than the last. The Gen 1 is a bulky top-heavy vehicle that only seats one and has no protection from the elements, and the Gen 7 (sometimes called the "Orcamoto") is a sleek, powerful, fully enclosed two-seater, originally intended to be the final production design. But it still wasn't good enough. It was too large, too heavy, too inefficient, and too expensive. Frohnmayer often quips that they kept aiming for "global transportation solution" and kept hitting "mid-life-crisis-mobile." Then in late 2014 they had a breakthrough. What if they ditched the steering wheel?


The first seven Arcimoto prototypes
Up to the Gen 7 prototype, the vehicles all had traditional car controls with a steering wheel and pedals. However. These controls were designed literally a hundred years ago to mechanically operate internal combustion engines. One advantage to a computerized electric vehicle is that you can give it any control interface you want. So they went almost all the way back to the drawing board and discovered that handlebar controls similar to a motorcycle would have a domino effect on the design. They could build it significantly shorter, lighter, and with fewer moving parts, and they could make it run much farther on a charge. Not only that, but they were able to cut the projected price by over $5000. The Gen 8 was born.

It took less than nine months to go from a napkin drawing to a fully-functional design prototype: the engineering mule. Since then they have also built two decked-out Alpha prototypes that they call Blue and Red. They are touring the country with the Alphas, and taking what they've learned to begin construction of more refined Beta prototypes. Full production of the finalized design is planned for the end of the year.


The SRK Alpha Blue
The Drive

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to drive Alpha Blue. Previously, I had also had a chance to drive the Gen 6 prototype, but it was an earlier, less efficient design with a steering wheel whereas the Alphas are very close to the target production design.

The controls are fairly simple. On the right side of the handlebar is a switch for forward, neutral, and reverse, and a hand brake that activates the regenerative brake system. On the left side are controls for lights, the horn, and the turn signals. Behind the handlebars is a tablet-like display providing a digital spedometer, battery charge readout, and other basic info. At the right foot there is a break pedal for the hydraulic breaking system (the only traditional control remaining) and on the left there is a parking break lever. It only took ten minutes to really get a hang of the controls, and I have never driven a motorcycle or a quad. However, Selah (Arcimoto's social media wizard and my guide for this journey) had me out on the road in two.


My son approves of the SRK, but unfortunately, he couldn't come with me.
You wouldn't think that backing up a vehicle with one rear wheel would be much different than a vehicle than two. However, that assumption turned out to be woefully incorrect. There is a poorly-placed support post directly behind the back door to Arcimoto's shop near downtown Eugene, and my first task was to navigate around it. I pretty much embarrassed myself with an awkward 18-point turn that nearly had Selah jumping into the driver seat to rescue me. I finally got the hang of it, though, and we were off.

The next task was to navigate the awful gravel alley next to the shop. It was covered in potholes and puddles, but despite the SRK's low bottom, it handled it beautifully. When I made it to the entrance of the street, I was surprised to find that the regenerative hand break didn't hold when the front wheels rested on a decline. Selah explained that this is a limitation of the regenerative breaking system; when the vehicle is stopped, the battery is not active and the regenerative system doesn't function. This is part of the reason for the hydraulic foot break. It didn't take me long to learn to hit the hydraulic break when stopping on a hill. When not on an incline, the hand brake is easily capable of bringing the vehicle to a full stop.


I hit Record on my phone and stuck it in my poacket as I drove.
The video quality is awful, but watch it if you'd like.
(The high-pitched whine you hear in the video was due to a
technical glitch with the prototype that has since been resolved)
The foot break itself is the only issue I had with the control system. It was a little hard to press in the thick boots I was wearing, and it wasn't at the angle I expected [See Update 1 Below]. This made for some jerky stops as I missed the brake the first time I tried on a couple of occasions, but I eventually got the hang of it.

And that was my one and only complaint; everything else about the drive was fantastic. Once I got the hang of the controls, the vehicle was extremely responsive and just plain fun to drive. The small open-air enclosure gives you the feeling of being right there on the road, and the vehicle has a lot of power. So much, that the throttle is a little touchy; I found myself having to be careful to hold it back. The SRK just wants to move.

Midway through the excursion, I was directed to drive the vehicle up Skinner's Butte, a local hill that has a roughly mile-long access road with significant inclines. I took the rather steep road at 25 Mph, and it handled it very easily; I felt like I had the power to double that speed if I wanted the honor of getting the first speeding ticket in an SRK.


A promo video that includes footage of the Gen 7 prototype
navigating the same hill that I ascended.
Returning down the hill, the regenerative hand brake was able to slow me well enough on its own to safely make the descent. From there we took a shortcut back into town and pulled into the shop fifteen minutes after we started. When Selah plugged the power cable back in to the port below the driver's left mirror, I was pleased to see the display immediately switch from its usual readout to a timer informing us that it had 28 minutes to a full charge (note: it did not quite have a full charge when we started).

A couple of notes about the inline seating and open-air design: the shape of the roof made it extremely easy to communicate with the back seat. Everything Selah said came through clear as day, even with road noise around us. I was pleasantly surprised by that. I have also heard that despite the open sides, riders stay surprisingly well-protected from the rain. I was secretly hoping to test that, but alas, despite Eugene being one of the country's raniest cities, there was no rain that day.

Conclusion

The Arcimoto SRK is a truly exceptional vehicle. It reimagines personal electric transportation and combines it with several unique innovations to create a product that is not only affordable, but super fun to drive. It appears to fit most urban driving habits beautifully, and the low-maintenance electric design should prove to be very reliable and will save drivers money in the long run. The controls do take a little getting used to, not only because of the motorcycle-like handlebar, but because of the dual breaking system. However, I was really getting a hang of them just in the 15 minutes that I got to drive it. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product, targeted for release at the end of this year.

Disclosures: I reserved an SRK prior to writing this review, and I have provided services for Arcimoto in the past. Between updates 1 and 2, I became an Arcimoto shareholder, and I took over hosting offuvowners.com




Arcimoto SRK
Appearance:
Features:
Ease-Of-Use:
Reliability:
Overall:


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