Mark Frohnmayer and the crew of creative crafters at Arcimoto have spent years refining the three-wheeled electric vehicle they call the Fun Utility Vehicle. After eight major revisions, 3 new configurations, a vehicle rental scheme, and all the excitement of taking the company public, they are finally starting production of the first retail builds of the Fun Utility Vehicle.
The news comes as the culmination of months of testing by the Arcimoto team and will see three configurations launched in the months following the initial start of production this week. Before we dive into the details of the start of production and the projected ramp-up, let’s reflect on how exciting this is. Arcimoto was established in 2007 with a very simple plan: build a human-scale vehicle that enables people to get around, then scale that product to serve customers around the world.
It sounded so simple.
What started out as a very straight-forward plan turned out to be a journey of more than a decade to get Arcimoto’s vehicles designed, approved, and manufactured at scale. If they would have known at the time that it would take more than a decade to get the vehicles from concept into production, it’s doubtful that they would have even taken the first step. Earlier this year, Mark told Hyperchange TV (video) that, “When you close off all your escape hatches, you just have to find a way through.”
CleanTechnica caught up with Mark just before the official start of production and talked about the state of the company, the importance of the start of production as a milestone for the company, and the road ahead for Arcimoto.
Mark told us that the company had its manufacturing plan fully stood up, ready to produce the first Fun Utility Vehicles as soon as they were given the green light on a series of final tests. In early July, the structure of the Fun Utility Vehicles was put to the test for the second time. After some delays for weather in the Midwest, the brakes are being put through a series of rigorous test, and even the lighting is getting a tune up after Arcimoto discovered a few below-spec parts from the supplier.
Testing is a marathon of effort in which the company pays experts to try to break the components and the vehicle that was years in the making. It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride that pushes even the most optimistic of leaders to the breaking point. Apparently, Mark is some sort of superhero because he was as optimistic as ever in the final days or weeks of testing leading up to a report card full of gold stars.
Arcimoto used the funds raised from its initial public offering to build out its factory, though founder Mark Frohnmeyer still retains ownership of more than 40% of the company stock. The new factory is ready to go and the team is just itching to start welding, cutting, bolting, painting, buffing, and putting a polish on the first production vehicles from the facility.
The initial production ramp is understandably going to start slow as the team gets familiar with the new cadence of life as a production vehicle manufacturer. “We’re going to start at 1 per day for the first couple of weeks,” Mark said. “By October, we plan to be building 5 per day,” on a five-day work week. That translates to an instantaneous production rate of 1,300 vehicles per year and is only the beginning, according to Frohnmayer. “Our guidance from earlier this year is that we’re targeting to put more than 400 vehicles on the road by the end of 2019.”
The production ramp will continue to climb steadily through early 2020, with a big bump up in the production rate around the middle of the year. “We’re expecting to have a pretty graceful ramp up through the middle of 2020 and then in mid-2020, we’ll take a big step up in production rate as we look to a bigger production rate in 2020 and beyond,” Mark said. “The step up is going to happen once we have all the pieces in place. Where we have vetted the vehicle on the road in reasonable quantities where we are confident that we can take that next big step up in terms of production quantities.”
The near-term target is to produce 200 vehicles per week with a 5-day production week, or just over 10,000 vehicles per year. Longer term, Mark and the team at Arcimoto aim to produce hundreds of thousands of their compact, 3-wheeled vehicles per year.
Mark Frohnmayer started Arcimoto with the goal of building a fun, human-sized electric vehicle and scaling that up around the world. That’s neat, but it’s not inspiring. The true passion that catalyzed the founding of the company and continues to power it today is the need to develop a solution that helps people around the world combat climate change, to reduce the emissions coming from their daily routines. Mark wanted to build a vehicle that was sized appropriately for humans and let them do the things they want and need to do on a daily basis with a vastly improved carbon footprint.
The fully-electric Fun Utility Vehicle is the realization of that dream. It is not just another recreational vehicle nor it is simply another take on an electric vehicle. It is a solution, a much needed solution, to a critical, time sensitive challenge faced by humanity. We must act today and Arcimoto’s vehicles are helping humans around the world to effect change with their lives.
Different Problems, Multiple Solutions
With its new vehicle, Arcimoto has built more than a vehicle, it has built a platform. The Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle is extremely effective for humans to get around in their daily lives, but the team has also built up two other form factors to solve for last mile deliveries, including one for food delivery called the Deliverator and another for First Responders called the Rapid Responder.
Development of the Deliverator will lag slightly behind the initial start of production of the Fun Utility Vehicle. Fronhmayer said that, “we’re targeting to have the deliverator development done by the end of this year.” The first Deliverators will ship to customers in early 2020 where Frohnmayer expects them to be well-received by last mile delivery services and drivers.
Beyond these first two models, “we have a number of other vehicles in the works based on the same platform.” The key for Arcimoto is shared parts. The underlying platform that supports all of their vehicles is the same. “90% of the parts are going to be identical,” Frohnmayer said. That’s a key enabler for the new designs and allows Arcimoto to bring meaningful, late-stage product differentiation to the market in the form of relevant new vehicle types.
Let Them Eat Cake
As exciting as the days of electric vehicles have been so far, we are still very early in their development and roll out around the world. Arcimoto has brought a host of new solutions to the market and is now starting to churn them out of its pristine factory.
Mark said that the first vehicles would start going out to some of their nearly 4,000 pre-order customers on the west coast first. That keeps the delivery time short and the time to repair for any issues that surface down for early customers. After that, they’ll expand shipments to the rest of the country “as fast as we can” which is likely to be by the end of this year or early next year, according to Frohnmayer.
Much like Tesla’s reservation system, they will honor reservation holders’ place in the overall queue, while factoring in geography as the overarching strategy.
The start of production for Arcimoto is exciting and means that for the very first time, the world will start to see Fun Utility Vehicles, Deliverators, and Rapid Responders out on the streets in significant numbers. That means less trips will be taken by fossil fuel-fired vehicles and less emissions per mile for real humans, all around the world.
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