Arcimoto Roadster review: An around-town electric three-wheeler
- EV Powertrains have opened a whole world of design possibilities, and because of that, we're seeing a lot of startups, including a startup out of Portland, Oregon called Arcimoto.
Now, a few years ago, we drove their FUV, their fun utility vehicle, at CES.
Well, the company is back, and they have something else-- this.
[MUSIC PLAYING] This is the Arcimoto Roadster.
Well, the name is a bit confusing because it's unlike a roadster you've ever seen.
But we also live in a world where four door SUVs are now called coupes, so let's just go with it.
It's a roadster.
Like the Arcimoto FUV, the Roadster is a three-wheeled EV meant for tooling around town, and, in this case, having an open-air experience while doing so.
It has a city range of 102 miles and a top speed of 75 miles an hour.
Now, the front wheel drive vehicle has two motors, one for each wheel, and has a combined output of 77 horsepower.
Unlike the Arcimoto FUV that has a sitting position, well, similar to a car, which includes seatbelts and all that, the Roadster actually sits like a motorcycle.
It's essentially a three-wheeled motorcycle, which means in some states, you're going to have to wear a helmet.
The driving or riding experience is different from the FUV, but it's also, well, not exactly like a motorcycle.
Sure you get all the fun EV torque that you would get from an electric motorcycle, but you also get this third wheel that adds some stability.
Well, sometimes it does add stability.
When you ride a traditional two-wheel motorcycle, when you hit a bump, it's an up and down movement.
You only have a wheel in the front and a wheel in the back.
On this, because you have two wheels in the front, in addition to up and down, you also get this side-to-side movement because each wheel is hitting different bumps at different times.
Initially that can be very jarring, and it's most pronounced at high speeds on very rough roads.
As the performance vehicle in the Arcimoto lineup, going fast is sort of the deal, right?
Well, that's the thing.
I found that this thing is way more fun at speeds far below its top speed of 75 miles an hour.
I took it on winding back roads and along straights to feel its EV power.
But where it really shines is just sort of cruising around town.
Got a quick errand?
Just hop on it, and head on up to the shops.
Or maybe after a long day of work, I'd hop on it for a relaxing ride without pushing it to the limit.
Plus, you can give a friend a ride.
You have a seat right here.
And it has a lot of storage.
You have storage, right here, you can put things in.
You got storage under the seat.
And it has this big cargo area that works great with, well, bungee cords.
I mean, it's just made for bungee cords.
And you can probably put a top box back there.
And Arcimoto showed off a little side car attachment that goes right here, that, unfortunately, they didn't give to me.
But I could totally put one of my dogs in here and just road around on this thing with my dog, I don't know, probably terrified.
But the actual riding and operation of it is still a little weird.
For example, to turn it on, I have to turn on the key, then I have to hold down this little button over here-- the Start button-- and then hold down the brake.
I feel a little bit like Furiosa from the Mad Max movies.
And this sequence-- Sometimes I don't get the timing right, so I have to turn it off and do it all over again.
Then, when you're riding, the majority of your braking is regenerative braking, which is smart because, well, that's how EVs brake, and also, you're putting energy back into the battery.
But it's a little different than what you would find on a regular motorcycle.
On a regular motorcycle, right here, you have this very large handle that you grab and pull back for the brakes.
On the Roadster, you have this little nub that you only control with your index finger.
Which while you're riding, it actually makes sense because you really kind of have to finesse the regenerative braking system.
And then, of course, there is the rear brake, which is the physical friction brake, and that's really just to sort of bring you to a complete stop.
This slows you down.
This brings you to a stop.
The steering also requires some getting used to.
There's no power steering, so it can be difficult to maneuver at slow speeds.
While you're rolling in the road, you really don't need to worry about rollovers because of the low center of gravity.
Instead, you have to make sure that you lean into a turn, especially a sharp one, while you're riding, so you don't feel like you're going to slide off the Roadster.
So yes, it does take a little bit to get used to, and after a few hours, you should be fine.
But I will say this.
Even if your state doesn't require you to have a motorcycle license to, well, ride or drive or whatever you want to call this thing, I recommend you get one anyway.
In fact, I recommend you get a motorcycle license if you're going to do anything with a scooter, motorcycle, or tri-wheel thing.
It's going to make you a better driver.
It's going to make you more aware of what's going on the road.
And in reality, even though this doesn't ride like a traditional motorcycle, there are elements that are going to carry over and make you better at riding this.
But regardless of how it rides, we do have to talk about the three-legged elephant in the room, and that is the design.
The front kind of looks like a robot.
It's got little eyes and some ears and a mouth.
Or maybe it looks like a hammerhead shark.
It's got this big, wide head and this long body.
But you know what?
People love sharks.
We have a whole week just about sharks.
And there's one thing I did forget to show you, and that's that it has a reverse mode.
You put it in reverse gear and sort of back up, which is actually quite nice, because this thing is so long and unwieldy, that if you try to do it with, well, your legs, you would just be like, [GROANING].
So the steering, the brakes, the ride-- they all take a little getting used to.
And, of course, it looks weird.
And yet, I dig it.
I like sort of just riding this thing around town.
It's a bit like a cargo bike.
It's a cargo bike for people who don't want to pedal-- lazy people like me.
But, not using my legs?
That costs a pretty penny.
It has a starting price of $23,900, which is a lot.
But the company is hoping, that as it scales production, it can bring that price down.
Still, at that price, I had hoped that, say, these physical buttons, here on the left hand side, didn't feel so cheap.
Meanwhile, the display is a bit washed out in the sun but overall easy to read, and you can actually touch it.
You can adjust it so it will actually charge up to 100%, or you can do things like change the miles to kilometers, in case you ever want to drive to Europe.
It also has an off button, here on the display, that you can tap.
And really, don't do that-- well, let's say you're at an intersection-- because it turns off the entire bike, which is great when you just want to turn it off, but not so great while you're in the left-hand turn lane, and people are behind you honking, and finally they pull around and ask, hey, what's going on?
Well, I'm trying to go through that whole start-up procedure, and I'm like, it's cool.
I'm not an idiot, which I am, though.
The company has had some success selling its vehicles to fleet companies in touristy areas like San Francisco and really, anywhere where there's a nice warm beach.
What's great is that regardless of the environment, the Roadster has heated seats and heated handlebars, which has been very helpful during my early-morning rides.
Overall, I like the quirkiness of the Roadster.
It's an environmental way to sort of cruise around town and take care of errands and have some fun, while also invoking some stares.
That said, it's very expensive for what you're getting, and it's likely to undergo some changes as time goes on.
Hopefully Arcimoto can sell a lot of these to resort towns and to first adopters, because as that happens, it'll likely bring down the price, which will make this a fun thing to have in your garage.
For more automotive coverage from very weird-looking, three-wheeled EVs, be sure to subscribe to "Engadget." [MUSIC PLAYING]