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Durham company may be the future of urban transit

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Comedian and avid car collector Jerry Seinfeld checks out an ELF at the Organic Transit headquarters in Durham. Comedian and avid car collector Jerry Seinfeld checks out an ELF at the Organic Transit headquarters in Durham.
DURHAM, N.C. -

Imagine cutting your gas bill, and getting into shape at the same time.

Meet ELF: the future of urban transportation created by Durham-based Organic Transit.

Part bike and part gas-free buggy, ELF is a solar/pedal hybrid vehicle suitable for commuting, deliveries and other local transportation needs. As the company explains, "This three-wheeled, electric-assist velomobile fills the niche between a bicycle and a car and offers advantages over both."

The vehicle is built in downtown Durham, and is made out of 45 percent recycled aluminum, all made in North Carolina.

The idea for ELF came from CEO and Organic Transit founder Rob Cotter's desire to create a car that would move him around town and save him on gas.

The ELF has a "continuously variable transmission," Cotter explained. "Kind of like an '80s speed bicycle -- it has electric power; lithium iron phosphate battery."

Development of the ELF took four years of planning and prototypes, and in November, Cotter launched a Kickstarter to fund the first batch of ELFs. Within 24 hours of launching the project, it was 25 percent funded.

In addition to scooting its passenger around town at a max speed of 30 miles per hour, the ELF also has a trunk that Cotter says can hold up to 350 pounds of cargo -- which is where its electric motor comes in handy.

"The whole time, the solar panel is charging up your batteries," Cotter said. "If you're peddling and using solar panel together in combination, you should be able to go about 30 miles."

With nine patents in place, Cotter says there is no other vehicle like it and safety is not an issue. The ELF's dashboard features gauges, LED lights, and side- and rear-view mirrors.

And because the ELF is electric and runs quiet, Cotter built in sound effects -- including a motorbike, a Jetson's car or horse galloping -- to alert other vehicles and people around.

The ELF can be ordered through the Organic Transit website, with the base model costing $4,000.

Melanie Sanders

Melanie anchors the 6 PM news. Her "What's Next" series features an engaging approach to storytelling and highlights the leaders in innovation who are shaping our future. Check it out HERE! More>>

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