LA Auto Show 2017: Arcimoto three-wheeler delivers electric mobility

Visitors check out an Arcimoto SRK three-wheeled electric vehicle at AutoMobilityLA, a day before the LA Auto Show opened to the public.

Several three-wheeled electric vehicles were being wheeled around the halls of the LA Auto Show in the two days before its Friday public opening.

On one side of the main entrance was the Ampere electric “sports car,” a $9,999 battery-operated three-wheeler, to be built in Riverside, that offered two side-by-side seats and a 100-mile driving range — up to 150 miles with an upgraded battery.

The Arcimoto three-wheeled electric motorcycle has a top speed of 80 mph with a range of 130 miles. The MSRP is $11,000.


On the opposite side was the three-wheeled Sondors, a $10,000 battery-operated three-seater offering a 5.8-second zero-to-60 mph acceleration and a range, depending on battery upgrade, of 75, 150 or 200 miles.

But out front, it was the Arcimoto electric that was getting all the attention. Through much of the Wednesday and Thursday press days, there was a steady stream of curious car people waiting in line for a test drive.

Years in the making, the Arcimoto sits two persons, front to back, like a motorcycle, and uses a motorcycle-style handlebar for steering. It has a roof, but open sides, with two front wheels and one in the rear.

Electric power is sent to the two front wheels by twin motors, driven by a battery pack at the bottom of the vehicle’s cab.

When fitted with the basic battery pack, the Arcimoto will cost about $11,500 and have a top speed of 80 mph and a range of about 70 miles. (An upgrade will raise that to 130 miles, at a yet-undetermined price.) They will require about six hours on a common household electrical plug to recharge.


Arcimoto representative Jesse Fittipaldi — who says there is a distant family relation to famed race car driver Emerson Fittipaldi — said the electric vehicle has done substantial testing and will be for sale, nationwide, late in 2018.

They will be regulated as motorcycles, but in most localities will not require a motorcycle license or a motorcycle helmet, Fittipaldi said.

Because they are motorcycles, they will be allowed into carpool lanes whether carrying one person or two.

“This is a disruptive product,” Fittipaldi said. “This is a low-cost transportation platform, and it’s necessary, because not everyone can afford a Tesla.”

During a brief test ride, I found the Arcimoto sprightly but not aggressively speedy, even with the pedal to the metal.

The “reverse trike” chassis, which puts two wheels in the front rather than two in the rear, felt pleasantly stable. Easy to drive, intuitive to steer, the Arcimoto maneuvered well, started and slowed manageably, and drew a lot of attention.

One sidewalk observer called out, “What the hell?”

Fittipaldi said Arcimoto users have to get used to a lot of that. He added that, in the couple of years that the company has been testing and test-marketing the vehicle, Arcimoto executives have had to change their pitch.

“We were always marketing the ‘green thing,’ as good for the environment,” Fittipaldi said. “But we noticed that everyone who took a test ride got out of the Arcimoto with these huge smiles. So we asked ourselves, ‘Are we selling this the wrong way?’”

More than 2,000 units have been pre-ordered, Fittipaldi said, from all 50 U.S. states and from such far-flung places as Singapore, Dubai, the Netherlands and Norway.

The ones being tested at the LA Auto Show aren’t for sale, and the first prototypes, Fittipaldi said, have already been sold. They went for $42,000 each, the first one driven home by Arcimoto founder Mark Frohnmayer.