Upcoming electric vehicle marries automobile, motorcycle features
What if you could have the compact size of a motorcycle combined with the extra stability, comfort, safety and all-weather usability of an ordinary car? And what if it was inexpensive to buy and never burned any gasoline?
That’s the idea behind the Arcimoto SRK, designed by an Oregon startup and presented to prospective customers at Bethesda’s Westwood Shopping Center last week. It’s essentially an all-electric three-wheeled motorcycle with a roof and a rear seat, and Arcimoto promises it will begin production in late 2016 with a base price of $11,900.
Simplicity is key to the Arcimoto. Officials with the company say conventional automobiles are unnecessarily big for most trips. The Arcimoto’s body hugs the driver and passenger, barely wider than one person except up front where two wheels keep it from ever tipping over. A roof and windshield with open sides are standard; removable side panels to keep out rain and snow are promised as an option.
The driver and rear passenger sit straddling the Arcimoto’s electric battery, which runs the length of the vehicle. Each of the two seats has a backrest and four-point seat belt. The dashboard is comprised of motorcycle-style handlebars (with a twist throttle), a speedometer, a smartphone mount and a cupholder.
The recent test-drive event with two prototype vehicles stayed within Westwood’s expansive parking lot, but Arcimotos can also travel at speeds up to 80 to 85 mph. Base models are promised with a 70-mile range, and a larger optional battery would boost that to 130 miles.
Even at low speeds, the Arcimoto demonstrates the zippy acceleration typical of electric vehicles, and the rushing wind also adds an element of excitement to an otherwise ordinary drive. Yet there isn’t the same total exposure to the elements – and other traffic – that you’d feel in a bicycle or motorcycle.
There are some key caveats, though.
First of all, an ordinary car does offer a lot that an Arcimoto doesn’t. Airbags and air conditioning are two near the top of the list. Arcimoto beats a motorcycle for safety and protection from unpleasant temperatures, but even a little Smart car is like a climate-controlled tank in comparison – and meets tough federal crash standards that motorcycles don’t. Scrambling in and out of the Arcimoto’s seats requires more agility than just sliding onto the chair of a car. The handlebars are heavy to turn at low speeds, a potential annoyance while parking. And like any electric vehicle, range anxiety is a potential concern for more than long trips.
The other issue is that Arcimoto is a small company that hasn’t yet produced any vehicles for sale, and doesn’t yet have a factory in place to do so. And at last week’s presentation, Arcimoto officials pointed to numerous aspects of the test cars that they said would be changed before production – everything from the windshield to the battery.
Still, it’s a novel idea that may fit your commuting niche. Visit www.arcimoto.com to learn more or place a refundable deposit.
Nissan Altima midsize sedan prioritizes functionality over fun
In the popular midsize sedan class, many cars are trying to dodge the dull stereotype of everyday family-friendly comfort and utility, introducing more of a focus on style, luxury and/or sporty performance.
But if sensible transportation is more to your taste, choices do remain. One of them is the updated 2016 Nissan Altima, which wears a more aggressive grille than its predecessor but remains a snooze to drive compared to a Ford Fusion, Honda Accord or Mazda6.
The Altima has a straightforward dashboard with user-friendly controls; respectable interior room and rear visibility; and outstanding gas mileage: an EPA rating of 31 miles per gallon in mixed driving. And the 2016 updates also improved ride quality, reduced noise levels and introduced some new features.
In its niche of functionality over fun, the Altima is most closely matched with the Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry – and these models do have some key advantages over the Nissan. The Altima’s steering is heavy and dull; the Sonata and Camry feel lighter and more natural. The tested Altima’s four-cylinder engine is quick but produces an unfortunate droning sound under acceleration (a smoother, more powerful V6 is also offered). And the Altima’s in-dash technology looks and feels dated even on the tested, well-equipped 2.5 SL model.
Still, the Altima is generally comfortable, affordable and practical, making it a good option to consider if those are the traits you’d like out of your midsize sedan. Prices start at $23,335.