Ditch Your Car, Get a Bike… It’s Good for Your ‘Elf!
One of the things visually impaired people miss the most is the independence of being able to get around and do simple things like shop for groceries, meet their friends and go for coffee. Not being able to drive makes doing everyday tasks like these much more difficult and can result in a serious loss in quality of life.
Enter the Elf… The Elf is a vehicle designed by Organic Transport. It was spotted by our own Tom Perski as a potential tool for people with low vision to use to gain back some independence. The Elf is at heart an electric bike, however around the bike has a chassis making it look like a small car even including wing mirrors, head and tail lights, indicators and a horn! To drive the Elf you use handlebars which control the two front wheels, and the rear wheel keeps the whole thing balanced. On the handlebars is a throttle for acceleration, and a shifter to adjust the gears for the pedals. If you want to relax and drive put your feet on the pedals and hit the throttle, if you want to get some exercise use the shifter to adjust the pedals to the correct gear for the speed you are traveling then let back on the throttle and start pedaling!
The Elf is legal to drive in bike lanes and on the sidewalk, and could be a great mode of transportation for those with a visual impairment. Charging the battery is easy and can be done either by plugging it in (around three hours to a full charge) or via the solar panel found on the roof of the vehicle (seven hours to a full charge on a sunny day). The top speed is 20 mph and you can travel up to 40 miles on a single charge so you can get around at a decent speed and distance and the bike always feels stable and easy to drive (if sometimes a little bumpy). The starting price is a little steep at roughly $6,000. However, considering its features, the price makes sense, and if it gives some much needed independence back, then it’s worth every penny.