Ever wondered what it would be like to drive a three-wheeled electric car around New York City at rush hour?
It’s terrifying, and also awesome.
On Thursday at the New York International Auto Show, I had the opportunity to test-drive Arcimoto, a three-wheeled electric car that the company refers to as “the first fun utility vehicle.”
Pre-orders are already under way, with the first products rolling out to customers this fall. The base price is around $12,000, but you can ramp that up with various add-ons, such as a bigger battery or even doors (if you’re a wuss).
While Arcimoto looks like a three-wheeled smart car, its controls are set up like those of a motorcycle.
Technically it’s a motorcycle, the company told me, but you’ll be able to drive it with a regular driver’s license in most states. From a legal standpoint, Arcimoto’s motorcycle/car status is still being negotiated. States, like me, aren’t quite sure yet what this thing is.
There are handlebars where the steering wheel would be, a twist-and-go accelerator, a front brake on the right handlebar, and a rear brake on the floor. Bluetooth speakers are on the dash, and there’s a single windshield wiper, a defroster, a hand parking brake, and seat heaters. That’s pretty much it for features — this thing is built to drive.
Unlike a motorcyclist, you don’t need to wear a helmet to drive Arcimoto. Instead, you’re strapped in with seat belts that crisscross your body. It felt a bit cumbersome, but also like I was strapping into a space pod, so I was cool with it.
Buckled up (twice over) and ready to goImage: monica chin/mashableArcimoto can reach speeds of up to 80 miles an hour. So, while you can technically drive it on the highway, you probably shouldn’t. The base-level battery only has a range of 70 miles, and there’s little to no storage space, so road trips or vacations are out of the question.
Driving this thing in the city is another matter entirely. For one, it’s incredibly difficult to steer, at least when you’re first starting out. Moving it between lanes and swerving to avoid traffic had me huffing and puffing. I sincerely apologize to the many drivers who honked irately as I threw my back into swerving the Arcimoto through multiple intersections. And while I managed to avoid hitting any cars, people, dogs, phone poles, scaffolding, or traffic cones, I can’t say there weren’t a few close calls.
That said, I want to be back in the Arcimoto. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun while driving. The breeze whipped through my hair, I could smell street food as I drove down Sixth Avenue, and I could have reached out to touch cars on either side of me. Several pedestrians called from the sidewalk to ask what the heck I was driving, and I could actually answer them.
Arcimoto’s size makes it perfect for the narrow, congested streets of New York. Once I had somewhat figured out the steering, I could zip between lanes and cars and sneak in plenty of left turns without worrying about scrapes, accidents, or angry New Yorkers. It felt like someone had let my childhood go-kart onto the street.
Arcimoto won’t replace your SUV. But for short commutes or a joyride around the city, it’s a blast.