In 2013, a unique startup called Organic Transit in Durham, NC started manufacturing the ELF (Electric, Light, Fun) – a 3-wheeled electric vehicle/bicycle hybrid (classified as a bicycle). For a variety of reasons, Organic Transit went bankrupt in 2019, after selling only ~ 800 bicycles. They were intriguing, but pricy.

Anyway, someone donated one to the Durham Bike Co-op in June. A friend with a trailer helped pick it up and we brought it back to my house for evaluation.

In short, it’s a mess. Assessment:

  • Multiple cracks in the ABS frame
  • Both front fenders cracked with JB Weld attempts at repair making a mess
  • Both front ABS mounts broken
  • The motor mounts are damaged
  • The cable for the motor wrapped around the axle, destroying the cable, also shorting out the Hall sensors in the motor.
  • The electrical system (the Kelly controller) was shorted out (see above)
  • The previous owner reported that the battery was also dead
  • Rear shifting (for pedaling) was frozen
  • No key (which the owner later mailed)
  • The steering mounts are bent
  • The motor torque arm that prevents the motor from inappropriately spinning is also stripped (hence the cable wrapped around the motor)
  • The front and rear windshields are scratched
  • The rear brake is broken
  • The seat cover is torn

Additionally, I’ve learned that the early ELFs had a number of designs flaws (many of which show up above), and this is ELF #11! One design flaw is that the front kingpins (aka “antlers”) (upon which the front wheels rest) snap off! Those will need to be re-manufactured in steel. The seat mounts are known to break. There’s no suspension. Fortunately the ELF was made in Durham, and I’ve tracked down a machine shop that used to be associated with Organic Transit. Hopefully they can also help with the steering mounts and motor torque arm.

In other words, wow. My estimate for repair? $750-$2400. Still, I’m interested. The repairs require a blend of my skills (cycling, electronics). The co-op declined to invest in repair, so I purchased it from the co-op and now embark on a money pit.

Off to Lowe’s, Amazon, and other dark corners of the Internet. $125 later, I’ve replaced the cables for the shifting, started cleaning up all the JB Weld mess, replaced the front ABS mounts, and started cutting ABS for reinforcement. More pieces are inbound. I have a friend attempting to create CAD designs of the “antlers”. (No, not only is there no CAD design of this critical component, but apparently OT chose to keep changing the design; there are multiple designs out there).

The electronics are in pieces (even the motor is disassembled). The ELF is up on blocks in my garage. Who knows if it will ever come off them.