ARCIMOTO CODE NAME: RED FIVE
In recent years there have been many changes in the Whiteaker area, especially on Blair Street. Business is thriving at establishments like Ninkasi Brewing, Sam Bond’s, Pizza Research and Papa’s Soul Food. But it’s not just about good eats, micro-brew and music venues. Blair Street is also home to Eugene’s own electric car company, Arcimoto. A business with a research and development team designing and building prototypes for a fully electric vehicle they call the Pulse. Mark Frohnmeyer, president, a native Oregonion and son to the University of Oregon’s past president, Dave Frohnmeyer, believes he can transform the way people think, and the way we commute. After meeting him, the thought comes to mind that if anyone can do it, Mark is probably the guy. He has pulled together a supurb team as on fire about this project as Mark himself. In fact, I’m reminded of eager 5th graders with a new Lego kit ; if those 5th graders were college grads.
Although all the focus and buzz is on tomorrows April 23rd unveiling, the Arcimoto team is looking beyond and staying current on the issues that will effect the early adoption of the Pulse and vehicles like it. There is discussion in the Oregon legislature about placing a per-mile tax on electric vehicles in use on Oregon highways to ensure the owners of these cars are contributing to infrastructure maintenance since they won’t be paying the gas tax at the pump. While the legislators are looking ahead to 2020 when there could be many more electric cars on the highways, “It’s early in the adoption cycle to introduce a tax on electric vehicles,” Frohnmayer says. “There needs to be a balance between market adoption, road maintenance and infrastructure build out.” Mark points out that the Pulse, like other electric vehicles, is half the weight of the average internal-combustion vehicles. “It would be a regressive tax to place the same burden on smaller electric vehicles as on fossil fuel vehicles.” Arcimoto is affiliated with an “industry cluster” for electric vehicles that is working out a strategy more favorable to the industry.
For such a small facility, this place buzzes with a creativity and excitement that is beyond its walls. Scribbled on the white board in the conference room, “stop procrastinating and reinvigorate, keep young,” lends itself to the atmosphere at Arcimoto. Even though the workload is heavy with long hours, they seem relaxed, driven, confident and focused. The team is gearing-up to show the world the fifth generation prototype, playfully named Red 5. There is nothing timid about this vehicle, which has caught the imagination of actor, Nathan Fillion (“Firefly”, “Serenity”, “Castle” and most recently in the independent film, “Super” with Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page), who claims, “I need a practical vehicle, but I don’t want to sacrifice speed, power or the cool factor. I need an Arcimoto.” Nathan was in town a few months ago to give the fourth generation vehicle (Darkwing), then in development, a test drive. He went for it, sending out a tweet, “This is my next car.”
EDN recently got an exclusive preview of the newest prototype, Red 5, and we understand Nathan’s enthusiasm for Arcimoto’s offerings. First off, all Arcimoto vehicles are zero emmission vehicles. This means is there is no internal combustion engine, no gas tank and no fuel needed. Nada. Many other “green” or “electric” vehicles, like the Prius, are hybrids; they run on electricity but also have a gas engine to power it between charges. Bio-diesel fueled vehicles have lower emissions, but are still burning some kind of fuel and emiting toxins into the environment. Even though these options are an improvement over the 100% petroleum based vehicles on the road today, Arcimoto is deeply committed to a non-fuel-burning engine. According to Mark, “We’re a petroleum dependent culture and the demand for petroleum production is going to hurt us in the end.”
Mark refers to rising gas prices as just one way our cultural dependence on fossil fuels has the growing ability to harm the US economy. “Look at how we transport everything. Gas prices are felt throughout the economic system. The ripple effect is atrocious.” Other advantages to eliminating the gas engine include the reduction in weight and size. The smaller weight means that there is less power required to reach top speed, which in the Red 5 is limited to 65 miles per hour to walk the balance between range and performance. With no fuel tank, the vehicle won’t ignite in a crash, and the smaller footprint results in less wear and tear on the roads. There are fewer moving parts with fewer worries about mechanical breakdowns. Mark firmly believes, “Cost and complexity favor pure electric vehicles.”
On the outside, “Red 5 is our own design on our own platform. This is the one that will be sold in the future”, says Mark. The design is versatile with the option of an open vehicle (open top and sides), or two different full enclosure hard shells. The computer model we saw has a partial canvas body similar to a Jeep, which once again, lends well to keeping the total weight low while still maintaining the cool factor. According to Mark, “It’s electric vehicle meets Jeep, but on steroids.” Oh yeah, and it’s red, as in Red 5. Part of Arcimoto’s forward looking planning included taking a page from the traditional automotive industry. Designed as a modular “rolling chassis”, other companies will be able to use the Arcimoto platform to develop its own models, and bespoke carriage works (bodies, interiors and trimmings). Many of us will remember the “body by Pininfarina” badges Cadillacs used to sport. Same idea. The Red 5 has a number of innovations including a newly designed proprietary transaxle, drive-train and electronics package.
One shortcoming of a pure electric vehicle is the dependency on batteries. The Arcimoto vehicles all use a series of lead-acid batteries that are heavy and mileage-limited between charges. Arcimoto made the decision to use lead-acid batteries because the technology is well established and the price low, helping achieve the goal of building an economical option for a commuter vehicle. “For the 20 to 30 mile per day commuter, why pay a premium for a 100 mile battery?” Extended range Lithium/Ion packs are available for those requiring longer cruising range. Mark revealed that Arcimoto plans to release the platform with a number of range options.
Once the fully electric car is widely adopted and costs come down, Arcimoto will have an already perfected platform ready to use future improved battery, motor and controller technologies. However, the concept for the Arcimoto vehicles is not to build a touring vehicle, but rather a commuter vehicle. The Arcimoto website states: “The vehicles are designed from the ground up to satisfy 90% of everyday drivers. Most of us drive fewer than 40 miles per day and usually alone…”. There appear to be many of us who wish we could manage a lifestyle that didn’t require dependance on fuel. “We took those parameters and set out to build the most efficient vehicle possible without sacrificing comfort, style or the joy of driving”, states the Arcimoto website. The idea of a completely emissions free vehicle appeals to the environmentalist in most of us. This same environmentalist is also concerned about electric use and the cost to the environment to produce more and more electricity. After all, if vehicles like Arcimotos are being used by millions, we’re going to impact demand on the power generation grid.
Even a star like Nathan Fillion wants to do better by the environment. He wrote to the Arcimoto team after test driving the Darkwing platform, “Recently the fact dawned on me that I pay oil companies for their finite, explosive, poisonous fuel just to burn it into another form of poison and pollution.” Is Arcimoto the answer to the dilemma of finding an alternative to fossil fuel powered, single/dual-occupant commuting? According to Mark, it’s a means to an end, “If you look at the state of the world, you can get enormously depressed or you can go out and solve the problem profitably. The goal is to get into the ballpark, then work to win the game.” He predicts two more prototypes before the platform is ready for the public. The computer models gave us an idea of what to expect, but of course, that can’t really replace getting to see, touch and sit in a finished model. Who wouldn’t want to be one of the first on the planet to lay eyes on another step in the evolution of a next Big Thing in the automotive industry? For those who want to be first in line, he’s taking orders with a $100 deposit.
Mark likes to cite the term, “source generation agnostic” to describe the fact that Arcimoto rides, and electric vehicles in general, will recharge on power generated from any source. That means that wind, solar, natural gas and any other kind of electricity will do just fine thank you. Thats a lot of options in an option limited field like transportation. The world is invited to the grand reveal of the Red 5 this Saturday at 5:30pm at “A Big Warehouse at 990 W 1st Ave in Eugene” (990 W 1st Ave. Eugene, OR).
RELEASE: Please join Arcimoto as we unveil our product prototype on April 23.
Code named ‘Red 5’, our fifth-generation prototype is the culmination of 3 1/2 years of experience designing, engineering, and building the everyday electric. The gallery reception will begin at 5:30 followed by the unveiling presentation at 6:45. Delicious eats from the Pizza Research Institute will be served.
by Lee Thompson for EDN