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What the Elf is this - bike or car?

What the Elf is this - bike or car?
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Could an original-looking tricycle developed by an American inventor in North Carolina be the commuter's dream vehicle?

According to its developers, the Elf is the future of sustainable transportation. Part bike and part electric vehicle, it has a gear system designed to maximize and balance the energy output between pedal power and a solar-powered electric engine.

Its inventor – American designer Rob Cotter – calls the Elf the perfect marriage between man and machine power.

“An Elf used on the road a lot can mitigate about six tonnes of CO2 per year. So you would have to have a 100 percent solarised home to equate to that and this is at a fraction of the cost,” he says.

The Elf can travel at 48 kilometres per hour carrying 160 kg. On days when a rider is feeling lazy, the Elf can travel 27 kilometres on motor power alone, which is further than the average US commuter travels each day.

And, Cotter says, that is not all: he has a new version up his sleeve: “Autonomous Elfs. So you are waiting for your Elf to come, I am supposed to have an appointment, if I want to go somewhere, ‘Oh here it comes now!’ and you hop in and go, and also [they can be used for] making deliveries as a small drone.”

Cotter and his team are now designing the Elf’s big brother, the Ox, which will be able to carry close to 400 kg.

While the innovative vehicle has garnered positive reviews, one sceptic did question its size and weight, saying it could be difficult to manoeuver in a bicycle lane but could represent a danger in a normal car lane due to its relatively slow speed.

Questions were also raised over how to improve its poor suspension system without making the vehicle heavier and bulkier.