EV Live Oregon Report

The latest in electric vehicle technology makes a stop in Portland


Portland International Raceway played host to the inaugural EV Live Oregon event, showcasing electric vehicles as “The Next Generation of Transportation.”

James Mast of Mast Collaborative, a consulting firm working with the TTXGP and organizers of the event, says of EV Live, “We want to give a sampling of what’s on the market now, as well as what people can expect in the future.” Electric vehicle companies from all over the country descended on the raceway grounds for an experience “completely different than walking into a showroom,” states Mast.

“Here, people will be able to touch and feel the vehicles. They can ask questions directly to the people who build them and in some cases, they’ll even have the opportunity to drive them.” The event was accompanied by electric motorcycle road racing sanctioned by the TTXGP, and yours truly was one of the competitors. Stay tuned for a separate article about my exciting weekend racing on the track.

James Mast

While most of the vehicles in attendance were of the four-wheel variety, four “motorcycles” were on display as well. We caught up with all four manufacturers and asked them about their contribution to the future of electric transport.

Ryno Motors

Some may call the Ryno Cycle a glorified unicycle, but don’t tell that to Chris Hoffmann, CEO of Ryno Motors. Hoffmann envisions the Ryno Cycle as the next mobility scooter. Similar in concept to a Segway, the Ryno Cycle is a battery-operated one-wheel electric scooter. Dual enclosed gyros allow it to self-level.

Ryno Cycle Prototype

An electronic throttle tilts the Ryno forward, initiating drive, while pulling a traditional brake lever electronically tilts the Ryno backwards and actuates a conventional disc brake. The seat articulates atop the single wheel, and steering is accomplished by leaning like a traditional motorcycle. “And since there’s no back wheel, you can turn along the same axis,” Hoffmann says.

Ryno Cycle Parked

With its motorcycle-inspired design, the Ryno Cycle is “half the size and twice the fun,” says Hoffmann. Its narrow footprint (it measures 16 inches by 34 inches, compared to the Segway’s 19 inches by 25 inches), electric power and 12.5 mph restricted speed limit (20 mph unrestricted) means it can legally traverse sidewalks like any other mobility scoot. Hoffmann envisions people scaling San Francisco hills with ease, then riding it onto the elevator of their apartment complexes, and parking it in the corner of their homes to recharge. “That’s what I do all the time,” he says.

In its current prototype form the Ryno Cycle’s range is 20 miles, and its lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePo4) battery takes 90 minutes to recharge. As battery technology continues to advance, those numbers will only get better. It has a wide array of uses, but Hoffmann has his sights on urban dwellers looking for an alternative to walking, or even government and industrial clients looking for fleet units (the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA police departments have already requested a few). Basically, anyone who would otherwise consider a Segway.

Ryno Cycle Police Trim

“A common accident among Segways is one of the wheels hitting a bump and throwing the occupant off-balance,” Hoffmann says. “Since they’re standing on it, they can’t put a foot down to catch themselves. With the Ryno Cycle, should you lose your balance for any reason, you can tap your toe down and you’re fine.”

But here’s the harsh reality: a projected price of $4500 is by no means chump change for the RC. However, it’s almost half the cost of a standard Segway. “And since you sit on a Ryno Cycle instead of tower over people like a Segway, it’ll naturally become a social experience,” says Hoffmann.

Of course, as technology progresses and production costs lessen, the price will go down as well. But Hoffmann’s dream will be for not, however, without proper funding. He says he’s continuously meeting with potential investors, and has some very strong potential backers, “but for now I’m just putting my head down and trying to raise money.”

If all goes to plan, production may begin as early as 2013.

Arcimoto

By virtue of its three wheels, the Arcimoto is technically considered a motorcycle in the eyes of the law. But that’s where the similarities end. It has a steering wheel, tandem bucket seats, and an enclosed frame, similar to the fundamental layout of a car.

Arcimoto Stripped

The brainchild of Mark Frohnmayer, an entrepreneur who graduated from UC Berkeley with an electrical engineering and computer science degree, the Arcimoto is a fully electric, front-wheel drive vehicle built towards achieving the company’s mission of sustainable transportation.

Arcimoto Front

Frohnmayer believes “a modern, gas-powered car is inefficient and largely overkill for most people’s everyday needs.”

We won’t dwell too much on the Arcimoto’s car-like attributes, but will instead make a quick mention of its powertrain. The Arcimoto is “battery agnostic,” says Frohnmayer, “so as battery technology advances, the Arcimoto will be ready to embrace it.”

A standard 144-volt lead-acid battery producing 8.9kWh, capable of an estimated 40-mile range and top speed of 65 mph, powers the base version. Two lithium-iron-phosphate batteries are optional, with one producing 17.6kWh and an 80-mile range, while the second makes 24.8kWh and can go 120 miles. Recharging takes anywhere from 2 to 6 hours via standard 110v or 220v wall outlets, or through a J1772 charging station.

This ability of the Arcimoto to adapt to the ever-changing and advancing field of battery technology poses an opportunity electric motorcycles can incorporate in the future. Imagine owning a vintage gas-powered motorcycle and being able to simply remove the old engine and replace it with something modern! Final pricing hasn’t been determined, but the target price is $17,500.

Green Lite Motors

Riding the wave of popularity the Toyota Prius has enjoyed, Green Lite Motors is adopting hybrid technology to three wheelers. Built on a Suzuki Burgman 650 chassis, the GLM’s 650cc Suzuki engine powering the rear wheel is assisted by an electric motor powering the two front wheels. This hybrid marriage is claimed to yield 100 mpg and a 250-mile range for the fully-enclosed vehicle.

Green Lite Motors Tim Miller

Unlike the Arcimoto, however, the GLM will lean into corners like a conventional motorcycle. It will also lock itself upright at a stop. Tim Miller, President and CEO of Green Lite Motors, sees his creation occupying a space in between that of personal mobility products like the Ryno and larger, commercial-oriented electric/hybrid products.

Green Lite Motors Rendering

“It’s designed for people in a metropolitan area that commute significant distances,” Miller said. “You operate it just like a motorcycle, except you’re fully-enclosed. There are handlebars, a twistgrip and brake levers like a regular bike. The production versions will even have heat, air conditioning and a sound system.”

Made to accommodate two riders, the GLM utilizes lithium-iron-phosphate batteries and can run solely on gas, electricity (for roughly 25 miles) or a combination of both. The battery can be plugged into a normal wall outlet for recharging (which takes 4-6 hours), “but because it has a gas engine, you don’t have to wait for the battery to recharge if you want to go somewhere now,” Miller notes. Top speed is about 85 mph.

Miller projects final pricing to be roughly $20,000. Expect that number to drop as time goes on and production increases.

Lit Motors

The only true two-wheel machine in this lineup, the Lit Motors C1 combines “the efficiency and romance of a motorcycle with the safety and comfort of a car,” says company founder and CEO, Daniel Kim. The fully-enclosed C1 is built on a proprietary steel frame and relies on dual gyroscopes located under the driver’s seat to maintain balance. According to Kim, “it would take a baby elephant to knock this thing over.”

Lit C1 mock up

Electric motors located inside each wheel are said to produce a total of 40kWh and drive each wheel. Lit claims a top speed of 120 mph and range of 220 miles per charge. Recharging will take 4-6 hours depending on the outlet. The design utilizes hub-center steering, and although it’s equipped with a steering wheel, it leans into turns like a two-wheeler.

Lit Motors Prototype

Designed with the commuter in mind, the cabin features tandem seats and conventional, car-like pedals and controls. But because the C1 would be classified as a motorcycle, it allows the freedoms of a traditional two-wheeler — occupying the express lane alone or filtering through traffic (in California, at least), for example.

Inside, the C1 will take advantage of today’s connectivity protocols to maintain internet connection. “Basically, it will act as one giant smartphone,” says Kim. The driver will have access to traffic and weather conditions, and, if necessary, the C1 will suggest alternate routes.

Kim predicts C1 production to begin in 2014, with pricing around $24,000 for the first run, coming down to $16,000 if/when production ramps up later.

Lit Motors C1 Wheel

A Glimpse At The Future

As exciting as these products sound, the big question mark surrounding all of them is funding. Currently, each company is relying on grants and angel investors to stay afloat, but is furiously working on refining prototypes in order to impress potential investors. Of course, like any startup, their money could run dry and the future is not guaranteed.

While we certainly hope each company is successful, what we can take away from the products seen at EV Live Oregon 2012 is the underpinnings of what will be a shift in how the general public views electric vehicles. They’re no longer toys, but viable alternatives to our traditional gas-powered lifestyle.

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