“That doesn’t look safe.”
The statement would haunt me for days. Every time I said I was test driving from Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle – an all-electric open-air tricycle – a friend or colleague would come forward to say what seemed obvious to them.
After all, most cars have four wheels, not three. They usually also have doors and airbags.
Arcimoto’s FUV (or Fooove as I pronounced it) has something most of those fully enclosed sedans and subcompacts don’t: it’s a thrill to drive without feeling like a death trap.
Legally, the FUV is a motorcycle. I think of it more as an electric go-kart hitting 75 mph on the highway. However, if you’re like my colleague Brian Heater, your first thought might be:Flint mobile.” Another colleague wondered if it was more like an ATV. While yet another friend later said the FUV reminded them of one Little Tikes Cozy Coupe.
Whatever you conclude at first glance, one thing is certain: if you want to drive something that everyone will rush to form an opinion about, this is the car for you.
A quick 10 minute walk and lap around the block was apparently all the training I needed before an Arcimoto employee sent me into the FUV alone.
I picked it up at GoCar Tours Las Vegas, and that’s really the problem. The FUV could be be a neat little neighborhood cruiser, but in a city like Vegas this trike screams touristy excursion. Arcimoto might as well have built it enjoying the spectacle of the Strip, but I’d like to think the little guy has also introduced a taste of his own to the otherwise SUV-dominated roads.
The FUV has heated seats and steering wheel to compensate for wind chill. There’s also a panoramic steel roof (which GoCar has filled with ads), a hand and foot brake (the former is regenerative), Bluetooth speakers, and a projected range of 102 miles in the city.
I adapted to the steering throttle (and the missing steering wheel) faster than I expected. At a traffic light, I lined up a few numbers I felt comfortable submitting to passers-by, sank deeper into the front seat, and drove around as if I had real errands to run.
I’m a regular, smug pedestrian and don’t own a car, but when I pulled into a pharmacy 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 rode high Pixies’ Doolittle album and the novelty of it all, cruising down virtually empty roads shortly before CES attendees and taxis would clog Sin City’s arteries.
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Then came the traffic.
The FUV is small, but it can’t precisely move through traffic like a conventional motorcycle. Still, there were times when I really appreciated his small stature and steered around the cars taking up half the track waiting to turn.
Plus, I could park almost anywhere. It takes up so little space that reserving an entire parking space for the FUV seems almost wasteful.
Driving around with a passenger in the back was also a pleasure. You may not believe it, but the roof reflects sound well, so I could easily chat with my colleague Natalie Christman as she filmed from the backseat.
If you have someone with you, you will also see more reactions from pedestrians. In our case, they ranged from blank stares and upward nods to outright yelling. It’s not easy to hear what someone is shouting from the sidewalk across the street ultra wide streets, but I’ve come up with some variations of, “what’s that!?” and “Is that new?!” (It’s not. The FUV debuted in 2019.)
Then the rain came.
My stay in Vegas was extraordinarily wet, with infrequent storms throwing buckets over the city. I took this as a challenge for both myself and the FUV. I agreed to endure cold knuckles and wet pants for a few days as long as the crazy little vehicle doesn’t slip on us and shove us under a hulking pickup truck. It didn’t!
The rain was not too challenging. Sometimes my hands got a little numb despite the heated grips. (If I had an FUV, I’d just keep a pair of gloves in the back.) Occasionally I’d dodge puddles. It was a bit of a hassle to brush rainwater off the seat and the roof largely did its job.
In a huff, I sipped an iced latte and took notes on how cold I felt. Why am I like this?
Other FUV drawbacks included extra-heavy steering. It really put me to work getting through corners from a standstill, almost like a car without power steering. When I picked it up I was told that the latest iteration of the FUV addresses this and sends it lighter.
After a while, the attention also got old. I’m an introverted trans woman so I’m not here for the looks that come with a visually loud vehicle. I don’t see this as a deal breaker though – just an observation. I also like crazy cars, so this is more of a personal contradiction than anything else.
The FUV sure is goofy. In normally dry areas like Las Vegas or say Los Angeles, it seemed, dare I say, practical. I prefer a tiny city car with doors and windows, and there are tricycles on the market that offer that, including those from Electra Meccanica SOLO.
With room for a passenger (unlike the SOLO) and an overall airy ride on a single charge, I still think Arcimoto’s FUV is less crazy than it initially shows.
The name makes it seem like a car best left to tourists; I would happily drive it around my neighborhood for light errands. It seemed sturdy and reliable in the three and a half days I spent with it, and riding on three wheels seemed as natural to me as four. (Side note: I took it on the highway, going about 60 mph, and that was a little too thrilling for my taste.)
There are plenty of reasons to opt for an extra small vehicle, especially if you live in a densely populated area. First, smaller vehicles require fewer materials and are smaller batteries, which in theory should translate into lower emissions. Smaller vehicles are too less likely to kill pedestrians.
If you’re concerned about safety, you can see what Arcimoto has to say about that here. A company spokesperson told businessroundups.org that the FUV’s “steel top frame complies with FMVSS 216a roof crush resistance standard.”
The car also includes a crash sensor that disconnects the battery in a crash and “double 3-point seat belts”. That means you have to put on your seat belt twice when you get in.
No lack of FUN; literally running out of money
“We have halted our vehicle production and require substantial additional funding to resume production,” the automaker said.
With no new funds, Arcimoto warned at the time that it “will have to cease operations and/or seek bankruptcy protection”. The startup’s market cap was around $13.5 million when this story was published, which is a far cry from its high of more than $1 billion two years ago.
The FUV starts at $17,900 before subsidies, but the price creeps past $25,000 with upgrades like plusher seats, half doors, a rear cargo box, and cup holders. Arcimoto also sells used FUVs; on its site, the company has one listed for $16,800.
If you know anything about Arcimoto, please contact this reporter via email or Twitter DM.