“It doesn’t look safe.”
The statement would follow me for days. Every time I mentioned I was on a test drive from Arcimoto A fun utility vehicle – an all-electric open-air three-wheeler – a friend or colleague would rush to say what, to them, seemed like a no-brainer.
After all, most cars have four wheels, not three. They also tend to have doors and airbags.
Arcimoto’s FUV (or Fooove as I choose to pronounce it) has something most of these fully enclosed sedans and subcompacts don’t: it’s fun to drive without feeling like a trap. deadly.
Legally speaking, the FUV is a motorcycle. I think of it more as an electric kart that hits 75 mph on the highway. If you are like my colleague Brian Heaterhowever, your first thought might be “Flintmobile.” Another colleague wondered if it was more of an ATV. While another friend later said that the FUV reminded them of Cozy Coupe from Little Tikes.
Whatever your first blush conclusion, one thing is certain: if you want to drive something that everyone will hastily make up their minds about, then oh boy, this is the car for you.
A quick 10 minute tour and tour of the block was apparently all the practice I needed before an Arcimoto staff member sent me into the FUV alone.
I picked it up at GoCar Tours Las Vegas, and that’s really the rub. FUV could be a nice little neighborhood cruiser, but in a city like Vegas, this three-wheeler screams sightseeing excursion. Arcimoto may as well have built it for soaking up the spectacle of the Strip, but I’d like to think the little guy introduced his own flavor to the otherwise SUV-dominated roads as well.
The FUV is equipped with heated seats and handlebars to offset the wind chill. There’s also a panoramic steel roof (which GoCar has filled with ads), hand and foot break (the former is regenerative), Bluetooth speakers and a projected range of 102 miles around town.
I adjusted to the handlebar throttle (and missing steering wheel) quicker than expected. At a traffic light, I queued up a few songs I felt comfortable subduing passers-by with, sank deeper into the front seat, and rode like I had some real errands to run.
I’m a regular, smug pedestrian and don’t own a car, but when I pulled into a drug store parking lot and pulled my tote bag out of the trunk (a small lockable “cargo box”), I thought, “Hey, three wheels are better than none.” I was riding high Pixies’ The Doolittle album and the novelty of it all, navigating virtually empty roads shortly before CES attendees and taxis clog Sin City’s thoroughfares.
Then the traffic came.
The FUV is tiny, but it can’t exactly squeeze through traffic like a conventional motorcycle. Still, there were times when I thoroughly enjoyed its small size and dodged sections of cars that took up half the lane waiting to turn.
Plus, I could park just about anywhere. It takes up so little space that reserving an entire parking space for the FUV seems almost pointless.
Riding with a passenger in the back was also a joy. You might not believe it, but the roof does a good job of reflecting sound, so I could easily argue with my colleague Nathalie Christian while she filmed from the back seat.
Having someone with you also means you’re bound to spot more reactions from pedestrians. In our case, they ranged from blank stares and nods to outright screams. It’s not easy to hear someone shouting from the sidewalk across the street ultra-wide streets, but I did some variations of “What’s that?” and “Is this new?!” (It is not. The FUV debuted in 2019.)
Then the rain came.
My time in Vegas was extremely wet, as rare storms dumped buckets on the city. I saw this as a challenge for myself and for FUV. I agreed to put up with a few days of icy fists and wet pants, as long as the clumsy little vehicle didn’t slip us under a big pick-up truck. This is not the case !
The rain wasn’t too difficult. Sometimes my hands would go a little numb despite the heated grips. (If I owned a FUV, I’d just keep a pair of gloves on my back.) Occasionally I dodged puddles. It was a little hassle to brush the rainwater from the headquarters and the roof has mostly done its job.
In a pinch, I sipped an iced latte and noted how cold I was. Why am I like this?
Other disadvantages of the FUV included the extra heavy steering. It really made me work around corners from a complete stop, behaving almost like a car without power steering. I was told when I picked it up that the latest iteration of the FUV fixes this issue and is lighter.
After a while, the attention also got old. I’m an introverted trans woman, so I’m not here for the stares that come with a visually loud vehicle. I don’t see that as a deal breaker, though – just an observation. I also like very goofy cars, so it’s more of a personal contradiction than anything.
The FUV is certainly clunky. However, in normally dry places like Las Vegas or, say, Los Angeles, I found it, dare I say, convenient. I’d prefer a small city car with doors and windows, and there are three-wheelers on the market that offer just that, including the Electra Meccanica. SOLO.
With room for a passenger (unlike the SOLO) and an overall airy riding experience on a single charge, I still think Arcimoto’s FUV is less silly than it first lets on.
The name gives the impression that this is a car best left to tourists; I would be happy to drive it around my neighborhood for light errands. It felt sturdy and reliable for the three and a half days I spent with it, and riding on three wheels felt as natural as riding on four. (Note: I took it on the highway, hitting around 60 mph, and it was a little too thrilling for my taste.)
There are many reasons to opt for an additional small vehicle, especially if you live in a dense area. On the one hand, smaller vehicles require fewer materials and smaller batteries, which, at least in theory, should result in reduced emissions. Small vehicles are also less likely to kill pedestrians.
If you have security concerns, you can Check out what Arcimoto has to say about it here. A company spokesperson told TechCrunch that “the steel upper frame of the FUV is FMVSS compliant. 216a Roof Crush Resistance Standard.”
The car also includes a crash sensor that disconnects the battery on impact and “double 3-point seat belts”. This means that you must fasten your seat belt twice when entering.
No shortage of FUN; literally out of funds
If you want to try FUV for yourself, you might want to hurry. After fire dozens of employees, Eugene, Oregon-based Arcimoto alerted investors in January that he lacked money.
“We have halted our vehicle production and will need substantial additional funding to resume production,” the automaker said.
Without fresh funds, Arcimoto warned at the time that he “would be required to cease our operations and/or file for bankruptcy protection.” The startup’s market capitalization was around $13.5 million when this story was published, a far cry from its peak of over $1 billion two years ago.
The FUV starts at $17,900 before subsidies, but the price jumps above $25,000 with upgrades like fancier seats, half doors, a rear cargo box and cupholders. Arcimoto also sells used FUVs; on its website, the company has one listed for $16,800.
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