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New way to go

Electric-assist trike sports solar panels, cover and a trunk

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Peter Talmage of Northfield and his Velomobile ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Peter Talmage of Northfield and his Velomobile ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Peter Talmage of Northfield and his Velomobile ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Peter Talmage of Northfield and his Velomobile ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Peter Talmage of Northfield and his Velomobile ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Peter Talmage of Northfield and his Velomobile ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Devorah Rosenberg of Greenfield with her ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Devorah Rosenberg of Greenfield with her ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Devorah Rosenberg of Greenfield with her ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Devorah Rosenberg of Greenfield with her ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.

  • On Wednesday morning, baker Dory Goldman of Amherst finally received her long-awaited velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, and used it to take her breads to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park. The pedal vehicle has an electric assist that cut her trip, mostly uphill, to ten minutes. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    On Wednesday morning, baker Dory Goldman of Amherst finally received her long-awaited velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, and used it to take her breads to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park. The pedal vehicle has an electric assist that cut her trip, mostly uphill, to ten minutes.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Peter Talmage of Northfield and his Velomobile ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Peter Talmage of Northfield and his Velomobile ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Peter Talmage of Northfield and his Velomobile ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Devorah Rosenberg of Greenfield with her ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Devorah Rosenberg of Greenfield with her ELF electric assist recumbent three wheeled bicycle.
  • On Wednesday morning, baker Dory Goldman of Amherst finally received her long-awaited velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, and used it to take her breads to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park. The pedal vehicle has an electric assist that cut her trip, mostly uphill, to ten minutes. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

It looks like a VW Bug. It pedals like a bike. And it can be powered by batteries — or the sun.

So when Devorah Rosenberg of Elm Street in Greenfield heard back in January from a friend about the Organic Transport ELF, she had to have one.

So did Peter Talmage of Northfield, an engineer who already had been electric cycling, but was intrigued by the Durham, N.C., startup company’s design for an electric-assisted bicycle with solar panels built onto the top of its weather-protective shell.

And so did Dorrie Goldman of Amherst, a bread baker who’d been frustrated trying to fit all of her bread loaves onto a bicycle trailer to take to farmers markets in town and in South Hadley.

All three found the ELF — which former Porsche, Audi and BMW designer Ron Cotter says stands for “electric, light and fun” — on the Kickstarter website and decided to contribute $4,000 to the company’s startup campaign in exchange for the alternative cycle.

Cotter sought to raise $100,000 in capital at the site, but raised nearly $226,000 from 547 backers.

All three of the area ELFs arrived Wednesday, and if sheer enthusiasm can power these “velomobiles,” it’s powered more than a hundred miles of travel by now, the new owners say.

“I looked at it and sad, ‘Yes! What a brilliant idea,” said Rosenberg, a retired Organic Trade Association bookkeeper whose mango-colored ELF was a 60th birthday present to herself. “I’ll be using this to go down to Amherst, Northampton, Hadley, Brattleboro, Vt. I figure 20 miles will take me an hour and 20 minutes. I’m really excited about it as a nine-month vehicle. If I didn’t already own a car, I would use a Zip car or a car share with a friend when I need to go farther than the valley, and I’d just have this. I’m not going to use my car unless it’s night or bad weather.”

The ELF, which comes with two cloth shopping bags to hang in a carrying compartment in the rear, weighs less than 150 pounds, carries a load of up to 350 pounds, travels up to 20 mph on battery power, recharges in less than an hour by charger or seven hours by sunlight, and has a battery range of 20 miles. Organic Transit’s logo on the back of the oversized tricycle even makes it look like you’re taking the T when you’re riding in it.

“You motor to work, you don’t get there all shvitzy, and on the way home have your workout,” said Rosenberg. “That’s the thought behind it. How brilliant.”

To get started, you climb in over the aluminum frame, which supports a recycled-plastic shell, and climb into a slung seat which puts the driver about level with automobile drivers. Since there’s no reverse gear, backing up means using your feet on the ground a la Fred Flintstone, then start pedaling and click on the battery to boost as needed.

Goldman, who also ordered her green ELF on Kickstarter, found Rosenberg and Talmage realizing that shipping the velomobiles in protective crates was seriously driving up their costs. She tracked down others that could be delivered to Pennsylvania and New England on a truck with the vehicles tied on back, and as soon as hers was delivered Wednesday, she loaded it down with bread for the Amherst market.

“It’s fun,” said Goldman, who on Thursday used it to get to the South Hadley farmers market, then to a concert in Northampton, and finally back to Amherst, learning the need to maneuver around potholes and bumps, for which her mountain bike is more forgiving.

Talmage, an engineer who’s had electric bikes to ride to his teaching job at Greenfield Community College, said, “The ELF offered the opportunity I could use in all sorts of weather. I’m amazed at what they put together, and at the completeness of what they offer.”

The trike comes with a 10 amp-hour, 48-volt battery, that’s one-third the weight of a car battery with a little less storage capacity, but should lasts 10 times longer, Talmage said. And the vehicle’s 60-watt solar panel is lightweight and replaces a roof panel “as a simple way to regenerate a lot of electricity while you’re just parked in a parking lot somewhere.”

Overall, Talmage said, “It’s very, very solid construction, and the design of the frame is very simple, very elegant, very rigid and strong.”

It might be made a little more winter-usable if there were side panels, Talmage admitted. But compared to his other electric bike, “The ELF has much more presence on the road and something that people will not miss. It’s got blinkers, stoplights and all that built right into it.”

Meanwhile, Rosenberg has already started turning gears in her head over how to get the North Carolina startup to consider setting up an assembly plant in Greenfield.

She’s already begun talking with the company, which operates out of a downtown Durham storefront, about solar-powered businesses on Wells Street, where the Franklin County Community Development Corp. could help get the eco-friendly vehicles put together closer to the Northeast market.

“I’d come out of retirement to see that happen,” said Rosenberg, wearing the Organic Transit’s circle-T shirt. “It would be a perfect industry for Greenfield.”

On the Web: http://wunc.org/post/organic-transit

www.organictransit.com

I would be more than enthusiastic to help bring an assembly plant for this machine to the franklin county area. With such a positive design and end result, I can't think of any way it would fail. Count me in!

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