More than three years after Oregon’s Arcimoto let us drive a prototype version of its delightfully oddball three-wheeler, the electric vehicle is finally going into production, and deliveries are underway. The EV startup announced Thursday that it’s handing over the first Arcimoto FUV (for “fun utility vehicle” — it’s even the company’s stock ticker) that has come off the production line, and that customers who placed deposits in California, Washington, and Oregon are about to get their vehicles, too.
Arcimoto’s two-seater EV is driven using motorcycle handlebars, though company says people won’t need a motorcycle license to operate it. At a retail price of $19,900, it’s not exactly motorcycle-cheap, but it is a more capable and well-appointed vehicle than it may appear at first glance. It has a top speed of 75 miles per hour, a city-driving range of just over 100 miles, and comes with creature comforts like heated seats, heated grips, a phone mount, the ability to pair your smartphone to onboard Bluetooth speakers, lockable storage, a cupholder, and removable half-doors for some protection against the elements. The SRK also comes with a 3 year, 36,000-mile warranty.
The FUV is the result of more than a decade’s worth of iteration and refinement on Arcimoto’s part. Over that time, the small company kept making improvements to the design, the range, the weight, and more, before ultimately settling on the design I drove at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.
Between then and now, Arcimoto has been doing all the grunt work that’s needed to get a manufacturing operation off the ground. It locked down and outfitted a manufacturing facility where the FUV is being built. It finished off the design of the vehicle, and got it road ready. It wrestled with suppliers, and dealt with a few delays. And all the while, the company also built up an order book of more than 4,000 customers — though many of those people put down refundable deposits that vary between $100 and $10,100, according to a company filing. Arcimoto also started taking $5,000 non-refundable reservations earlier this year for the first production units.
The company says it wants to eventually price its vehicles at around $11,000, but like many other upstart vehicle manufacturers, Arcimoto believes the best path forward is to start with higher-priced, higher-margin versions.
Arcimoto also spent the last few years trying to build out other business models in case the direct-to-consumer approach doesn’t take off. The company has shown versions of the FUV that are more tailor-made for delivery drivers and first responders, and is also trying to get a rental business off the ground in “select key markets.”
There’s actually a fair amount of diversity in the niche-y three-wheeler space that Arcimoto is trying to break into, including offerings from some recognizable names. You’ve most likely seen, at some point, the gaudy Slingshot from off-road vehicle company Polaris. There’s also the Can-Am Spyder, which slots in closer to the many other three-wheeled motorcycles on the market.
Startups, meanwhile, have struggled to crack the market. Perhaps the most high profile example, Elio Motors, has been stuck in a years-long holding pattern while trying to bring an ultra fuel-efficient three-wheeler to market. Canadian company Electra Meccanica is a little bit closer with its Solo EV, though it still faces an uphill battle.
By making it to the production and delivery phase, Arcimoto is now at a crucial point in its history. It finally has a vehicle it can ship and sell, which will probably make anxious reservation holders happy. But more than ever, the startup needs to start bringing in money to fuel its ambitions.
Arcimoto isn’t trying to become the next Tesla, so it just needs to find the right people in the right places to build out a steady business. If I took anything away from when I drove the prototype back in 2016, it’s that the vehicle Arcimoto has built is a lot of fun to drive, regardless of whether it makes sense for your lifestyle. Now that the FUV is in production, Arcimoto can really put the ideas behind the vehicle to the test.
Correction: Arcimoto stopped calling its vehicle the SRK, and now only refers to it as the FUV. This post has been updated to reflect that.