Driven! Arcimoto FUV Electric Three-Wheeler

  • Jeff Sabatini has written for many publications over his 20 years in automotive journalism, including Car and Driver, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Sports Car Market magazine. His lifetime car churn includes 30 vehicles: eight GM cars, five Ford products, four Toyotas, three BMWs, two Jeeps, two Chrysler minivans, a Miata, a Mercedes, a Porsche, a Saab, a Subaru, and a Volkswagen.

can be reached at jeffsab@gmail.com
  • Jeff Sabatini has written for many publications over his 20 years in automotive journalism, including Car and Driver, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Sports Car Market magazine. His lifetime car churn includes 30 vehicles: eight GM cars, five Ford products, four Toyotas, three BMWs, two Jeeps, two Chrysler minivans, a Miata, a Mercedes, a Porsche, a Saab, a Subaru, and a Volkswagen.

can be reached at jeffsab@gmail.com
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Fun fact: When the Pontiac Aztek debuted 20 years ago, General Motors called this future winner of the Ugliest Car Ever award a “hybrid.” Not a gas-electric vehicle as we now understand the term – GM meant it as a car-truck combination and didn’t want to say “sport utility” or “SUV.” Fortunately, this definition of hybrid didn’t stick. A few years later, the industry mostly settled on using the word “crossover” to describe these vehicles, although not until carmakers introduced other confusing and mostly meaningless acronyms, such as SAV, SUS, and XUV.

Which brings us to the Arcimoto FUV. What’s a FUV, you ask? Is this just more nomenclature nonsense to make a boring vehicle seem special? Not hardly.

  • The Arcimoto FUV is an all-electric three-wheeled motorcycle car that can carry a driver and one passenger.
  • Arcimoto began building the FUV in September at its factory in Eugene, Oregon.
  • It’s available in California, Oregon and Washington, with a starting price of $19,900.

Arcimoto FUVThe Arcimoto FUV has four (optional) doors, but each of its two rows has just one seat. (Photo: Ride/Jeff Sabatini)

What is it?

FUV stands for “Fun Utility Vehicle,” and it’s actually an apt descriptor of this weirdly endearing mash-up between a bare-bones electric commuter car and a motorcycle rickshaw. As we found out during an afternoon test drive, it’s definitely fun. We can also confirm after our factory visit that the FUV is, in fact, a real vehicle. As for its utility, well, maybe the vowel in the middle should have been changed to E for electric.

Arcimoto AMP FactoryArcimoto builds the FUV at its factory in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo: Ride/Jeff Sabatini)

What makes it go?

Two 25-kW electric motors power the FUV, one for each front wheel. A 17-kWh battery pack gives the vehicle a range of about 100 miles. Both the driver and passenger sit on fixed bucket seats, their legs straddling the pack, which runs down the center of the vehicle’s steel frame. Arcimoto says an empty battery can be recharged from a standard wall outlet in about eight hours, or half that time when using a 240-volt Level 2 charger.

The vehicle isn’t really a car, as it has handlebars like a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle. Speed is controlled by a twist throttle on the right grip, with regeneration activated by pulling a lever on the same side. Brakes are operated by a foot pedal, also on the right. The FUV has just half doors, made of either fabric or plastic. A small trunk at the rear can hold a couple bags or backpacks, or gives the driver somewhere to lock up a helmet.

Arcimoto FUVYou drive the FUV like an ATV, as it is steered with handlebars rather than a steering wheel. (Photo: Ride/Jeff Sabatini)

What’s it like to drive?

Upon climbing aboard, the first thought that comes to mind is “Please keep your hands, arms, legs, and head inside the vehicle at all times.” Indeed, the FUV resembles a rollercoaster in more ways than one, especially as a passenger, where your forward view is obstructed by the back of the driver’s seat. Just be sure to fasten both three-point seatbelts – there’s one for each shoulder for both driver and passenger.

Top speed is stated at 75 miles per hour, but we managed to hit 78 according to the FUV’s speedometer. We certainly didn’t want to go any faster, as the combination of wind buffeting and jittery steering was getting a little too exciting. Backing down to a more sedate 60-mph cruising speed was far more comfortable, and 45 mph was better still.

We can imagine commuting in a FUV, provided the trip doesn’t involve a lot of freeway time or very heavy traffic. The half doors don’t do a lot to ease the sense of vulnerability; driving the FUV puts you out there in the world nearly the same as riding a motorcycle. Legally, that’s what the FUV is considered to be in some states, which means that a helmet and motorcycle license may be required.

Arcimoto FUVAlthough the FUV has a heated seat and handlebar grips, it’s probably best enjoyed in warm climates. (Photo: Arcimoto)

Just how much fun is it?

This is the question we kept pondering. The FUV is certainly quick to accelerate, and once you master using the regeneration trigger rather than the brake to slow, it’s an engaging way to zip around town. But when it comes to performance, the FUV feels more moped than motorcycle, a vehicle designed less for the driving and more for the getting there.

The learning curve isn’t as steep as any two-wheeler, but the FUV has other quirks, like a non-adjustable seat. There’s plenty of gear whine from its drive motors. It can also be challenging to steer, in part because the handlebars offer considerable resistance, but also because the turning radius at speed is quite wide. With the separate electric motors up front, Arcimoto says true torque vectoring can be implemented with a software upgrade, an improvement it should fast track.

Arcimoto Deliverator and Rapid ResponderThe Rapid Responder and Deliverator are designed to build fleet business, which could lower the entry price of the FUV. (Photo: Arcimoto)

Who’s it for?

With a starting price as much as a good small car, the Arcimoto FUV isn’t going to appeal to too many mainstream buyers looking for green commuter cars. The company acknowledges that the initial price is higher than it would like, and hopes to one day offer a “base model” for around $12,000. But first it has to ramp up the volume from today’s one-a-day manufacturing pace.

To that end, initial sales have included tour operators who will use the vehicles as rentals. Arcimoto has also developed a prototype “Deliverator” delivery vehicle with a cargo box instead of a rear seat, and a “Rapid Responder” version for paramedics or fire departments.

Regardless of it market success, the FUV already proves that not every vehicle on the road need adhere to the same paradigm. As electrification continues to make inroads into the conventional auto industry, we hope frontiers will open for transportation machines of all sorts. Even if that means having to decipher new acronyms.


About the Author

  • Jeff Sabatini has written for many publications over his 20 years in automotive journalism, including Car and Driver, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Sports Car Market magazine. His lifetime car churn includes 30 vehicles: eight GM cars, five Ford products, four Toyotas, three BMWs, two Jeeps, two Chrysler minivans, a Miata, a Mercedes, a Porsche, a Saab, a Subaru, and a Volkswagen.

can be reached at jeffsab@gmail.com
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