For those looking for a micromobility solution that has an enclosed cabin, a comfortable seated driving position, and space inside the vehicle to haul groceries, laundry, your work bag, or whatever you like, there have been a few fairly successful offerings, including Organic Transit’s pedal electric ELF models, which also have onboard solar for charging their batteries (and the company is now for sale, by the way).
But what if you don’t even want to pedal? That’s where tiny EVs that more resemble micro cars than e-bikes come in, such as the LEF from the Netherlands’ EV Mobility.
One of the concerns I’ve consistently heard from those considering ditching their car is that because riding a bike is essentially a full-body outdoors experience, where the rider is out in the weather and exerting themselves every second of their commute, the need for a change of clothing (and perhaps a shower for some folks) when arriving at work is big barrier to entry. And even with enclosed models, such as the ELF, pedaling is still necessary, so while the cardio work is great for the rider, the sweatiness that can come with it isn’t really great for folks going to work or to events where appearances (and scents) are really important.
What if there were more throttle-based “micro EVs” available with enclosed cabins, which would essentially be driven like a tiny car (though much slower), with no pedaling necessary?
The LEF (yes, it looks like a typo after just talking about the ELF, but that is the name of it) looks to be a decent option for local commuting with low-carbon emissions, at least at the “tailpipe,” with a maximum range of about 66 miles (90 kilometers) per charge.
With its integrated LED lights, turn signals, and mirrors, plus 50 liters (1.76 cubic feet) of storage behind the seat, the LEF could fit the bill for those looking for a single occupancy electric vehicle that can take advantage of bicycle infrastructure without being an actual bicycle (though I imagine there may be a fair amount of pushback in some places from analog bicycle purists about driving these vehicles in dedicated bicycle paths/lanes).
Measuring in at about two meters (6.5 feet) long and just over a meter (3.25 feet) high, and weighing in at 90 kilograms (198 pounds), with a total carrying capacity of about 200 kilograms (441 lb.), the LEF isn’t really something you want to tote upstairs each night for charging or storage, so it might not be a great choice for those without secure outdoor parking. And with its maximum speed of just 25 km/h (15.5 mph), it isn’t likely to tempt those who want higher speeds, but this e-NotABike (we really need a good name for these types of vehicles) comes from the Netherlands, where throttle-equipped e-bikes of 1 kW or lower are electronically limited to those speeds in the EU (but a license and insurance aren’t needed to operate one, so they may be a good option for some).
One obvious issue with low-slung vehicles such as the LEF is also one that has plagued recumbent bikes for years, namely their poor visibility by car and truck drivers. Many recumbent cyclists add a tall safety flag to the rear of the bike to increase visibility, so I’m kind of surprised that the LEF doesn’t already come with one, but the integrated lights and mirrors and turn signals are a step above what recumbent bikes often have, so adding a flag would be just one more small step.
The other potential issue is the price, as laying out €4380 (~$5300) for the base model with a 10 Ah battery and a 30-kilometer range, or €5130 (~$6200) for the 30Ah 90 km model, is quite a chunk of change, and one that could buy a pretty sweet used gas-powered car, so for the frugal person who doesn’t take into account paying increasingly higher fuel prices (plus maintenance costs) over the years it will definitely be a hard sell.
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It would certainly be interesting to see more of these types of micro EVs — with a much more powerful motor and battery pack — for use in the US (where we can go up to 20 mph, woohoo!) or for “off-road” purposes, and it would be great to have the ability to carry a passenger or two (which one of the ELFs does, but they cost about $9000). I guess that’s where Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) come in, although because they need to be licensed and insured and fully outfitted to be street legal, have a top speed of just 25 mph, and can cost the same as a full-sized (used ICE) vehicle, these
electric golf carts NEVs aren’t an easy sell to most people. Even though I love cycling and don’t mind pedaling my e-bike, I’d still love to see non-pedaled micro EVs become more of a thing, and perhaps even be convinced to buy one just for rainy day shopping with the kids.
If your Dutch is any good, there’s an article and video about the LEF at BC1 that may be of interest (the video is still worth a watch even if you don’t understand the language).
All images via EV Mobility.