I toured Arcimoto’s new 250,000 SQFT Manufacturing Facility and was blown away by all the innovation
8/12/2022 Breaking News : Arcimoto Appoints Jesse Fittipaldi as Interim Chief Executive Officer
We have been watching and reporting on Arcimoto for several years. Greg visited with them back when he was the publisher of the Southern Oregon Business Journal and he left Eugene feeling inspired and excited by what he saw, and passed that excitement on to me.
The Arcimoto FUV (Fun Utility Vehicle) is nerdy and cool enough to make me want one and there just aren’t that many public manufacturing companies in Southern Oregon, so we have included news about them several times over the years.
They are definitely a company to watch and learn from.
I reached out to see if I could talk to someone about how the business was doing and they set me up right away with a factory tour and an offer to test drive one.
I met with Jesse Fittipaldi, Arcimoto’s Chief Strategy Officer, at Ninkasi’s Better Living Room experience and got a tour of the Arcimoto cool “high-tech startup” feeling admin office space, on the second floor. Then we walked over to the rental facility that shares the parking lot with Ninkasi and we looked over all the FUVs available for well… rent.
People just show up and rent them by the hour or for half the day for cruising around Eugene. They have been selling FUVs to rental companies in several states that cater to tourists. Hawaii is being set up right now.
Seeing them all lined up, I realized how cool it would be to bring my teams here for a company “retreat”. We can ride for an hour and then rent a meeting room inside Ninkasi’s Better Living Room experience for ½ a day, which by the way, is an awesome venue.
What is a FUV? It is a 3 wheel electric vehicle that is fun to drive. At least that is how they promote it. I had no real world experience with it although I did see one in the wild in Roseburg once.
After the tour of the rental facility, we boarded Jesse’s personal FUV, “Milky” and he drove me around the neighborhood to check out the new manufacturing facility and other supporting buildings scattered around the industrial area of Eugene.
After you double buckle in like a race car driver, you find yourself sitting in a comfortable seat, straddling the battery well and looking at the road below you as there are no doors.
It’s not a motorcycle, so you do not need special endorsement or a helmet. The roof is clear so you can see the clouds and you are surrounded by thick looking roll bars like on a dune buggy.
Jesse drove me around and did not have to yell to speak to me as we went, because there was no engine noise. You just hear the hum of the tires.
I found myself smiling as he whipped casually around the neighborhood. As a passenger it was definitely “scary fun” like a roller coaster. I could not stop smiling.
I’m not a motorcycle guy like my dad and brothers, so this open air ride was different for me but very enjoyable. I felt very safe and very cool.
Like a Tesla, the acceleration is there if you need to get out of the way and you just plug it in when you park for the night.
Jesse drives this FUV everyday rain or shine to work. He keeps a towel, gloves and seat cover in the trunk if needed.
We stopped by the new and massive 250,000 SQ FT factory space they just acquired and have been moving into for the last several months. This “RAMP” (Rapid Assembly of Money Making Products) space will allow them to manufacture a lot more FUVs per day and easily add additional assembly lines as the demand grows.
The facility used to be owned by M&K Development and housed the world leader in corn husking equipment. That’s a fascinating story in itself and one I’ll save for another time.
Jesse joined Arcimoto in 2015 and has grown with the company, as it has grown. He freely interacted with fellow “arconauts” (that’s what they call themselves) on different projects and topics at each stop along the way of our tour. I could see that they have a lot of respect for him but more importantly, I could see that he respects everyone he interacted with for all for the creativity, commitment and passion they bring to the operation, even as some pushed back on his ideas.
From Robotic Welding to large scale Vacuum Forming stations, I saw innovative manufacturing layers being introduced on top of the original inspiring innovation of the FUV.
They are clearly ramping up for large-scale production. The RAMP is a template for future scale replication, globally.
Last year they bought Tilting Motor Works. A company that created the patented TRIO tilting trike steering system.
I saw a stunning Honda Gold Wing roll off the assembly line at TMW with its newly installed tilting front end.
Arcimoto has also been incorporating this technology into a new product they call the Mean Lean Machine.
Mean Lean Machine is an electric three wheel “cybertrike” that you can lean into as you turn.
I found myself wondering hard about what they are doing and the directions they are taking the company. The FUV is an electric “autocycle”. The Tilting Motor Works technology is a patented steering system retrofitted onto motorcycles and they are incorporating that technology into a 3 wheel electric bike.
Can you be a “vehicle” company, a motorcycle steering company and an electric trike company? Or does it all load into the next version or iteration of what the company will become and produce?
I wonder who the customer is. It left me a little confused at first.
Disruptive companies do that.
They show up with a bang and make you question all of your beliefs.
I saw this with Brammo years ago. They started with a car and moved to the electric motorcycle. It was awesome but they didn’t have enough funding to scale so in the end they sold the assets to Cummins and Polaris and they eventually discontinued manufacturing. Maybe they were too far ahead of their time.
Arcimoto has already surpassed Brammo in manufacturing scale and product diversity.
Arcimoto has done a good job developing an idea into reality.
They have gotten themselves ready for growth.
They are using the rental business to market the product.
They are developing new products and FUV improvements while the marketing happens.
They just need to get a TV show like “Magnum PI” to make this the iconic ride of the main character. I’ll start working on the reboot script right away. I wonder if I can still grow a mustache.
They have been focusing on manufacturing but it will be interesting to see if the hipster investors that all seemingly bought in early thinking this is another Tesla will give them time to grow into what they can be.
I looked at the website for Segway, another personal mobility company, and was surprised to see that nothing they sell looks like the original product. It’s all fun stuff now. Toys for rich kids from what I can see.
Arcimoto has a vision. They are building the dream of a sustainable transportation system. They are building out the plant. They are bringing in outside talent where they need it and elevating within as well. They are acquiring patents and creating new products in their R&D lab (which I was not allowed to visit but saw some cool videos of, on their website) and they are one of Southern Oregon’s only public companies. It will be interesting to watch them over the years.
Will they be able to maintain the Eugene Quirkiness while playing on Wall Street?
Founder and CEO Mark Frohnmayer jogs or walks dogs during his weekly video updates for investors sometimes followed by an entourage of arconauts that many times sport impressive civil war style beards.
He is definitely busy growing a company, calming investors while inspiring new ones, all while trying to change the world.
Arcimoto leads by example and uses virtual machetes to cut their own path.
Even locally, as they manage the 300+ employees and growth of a cool manufacturing company in Eugene, they are asking the city to understand their idea, of the future of transportation while they fulfill the demands of planning departments and transportation committees that might be in conflict with what they want to do.
They are working on a concept to possibly run by the city of Eugene to see if they can reduce the parking lot size requirement of the factory.
They envision every employee parking their personal FUV into non-car size parking spaces (The FUV uses about half a normal car space from what I can tell) and convert the rest of the parking lot into a park. That sounds great and simple, but I know from working with planning departments myself, they want big black top parking lots for off street parking to match code requirements.
Just like a city changes its municipal code to facilitate tiny homes, it will be cool to see if they can get tiny vehicle parking to count as well.
Arcimoto is a company to watch and learn from.
Not just because they are creating a future forward product, but because they are asking the states and cities to change with them to allow more and more adoption and innovation.
Jesse had to run to another meeting and he tossed me his keys and showed me how to safely start it, drive it and park it.
I sat in the driver seat and studied every button and control for several minutes. There is a seat warmer for each seat, handlebar warmer, wiper blade and wash, Bluetooth speaker, windshield defrost and a couple of buttons that I couldn’t figure out at first glance of their icons.
I didn’t want to push them to see what they would do, as this was his way home after work.
I drove around the parking lot first to get my bearings on all the controls. I wasn’t worried about me or the FUV. I was worried about the other cars. Will they see me and respect my space?
I exited the parking lot and found a nice quiet street that was a dead end and took Milky from 0 to Really-Really-Fast in a matter of seconds. I then tested out the braking system and steering while braking. I felt safe and in control the entire time.
I slowly made my way around the neighborhood waving at people like I was some kind of royal rock star.
Unfortunately many of the people were homeless and didn’t wave back.
I pulled back into the Ninkasi parking lot and followed all the steps to park correctly and stood back and admired the cool points of the FUV.
- It’s electric.
- It’s open like a motorcycle but drives kind-of-almost-like a car. It has handlebars but the two wheels in the front make the handling feel different from what I expected.
They have the Fun Utility Vehicle (this is an appropriate name), the Deliverator (perfect for last mile meal delivery or my internet service installers), the Rapid Responder (Campus Security), Flatbed (for the farm and ranch), and the Cameo (for filming me as the star in Magnum 3.14159).
- There is a certain thrill to the ride.
If you want a motorcycle like thrill ride they have the Roadster, which does require a helmet and endorsement to operate.
- It’s made in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
- They employ 300+ Oregonians.
- It can go over 100 miles on a charge.
I live 5 miles from town so it’s perfect for my daily commute. If Jesse can do it, maybe I can too.
It can go freeway fast, but that will burn through the battery faster. But I have to go at least 55 on the highway for 3 miles to town. It can do it, but I’m curious how much power that will take.
It should be able to handle my granite driveway and I’m curious how it will do up the steep hill.
And I can get it in Red and Black and it would be perfect as my new Southern Oregon University tailgate ride.
I want one.
And I might become an investor too.
Find out more Arcimoto at https://www.arcimoto.com/
“They just need to get a TV show like “Magnum PI” to make this the iconic ride of the main character.”
TV star Nathan Fillion was customer #1 of Arcimoto, getting the first “Signature Series” vehicle off the production line. He regularly drives it to industry events, Comic Con, etc. I’m slightly annoyed he hasn’t featured it on any of his TV shows yet. (Castle was already off the air by the time he got his, but The Rookie? C’mon, it’d be perfect for him! His character could claim it belongs to the rich friend whose house the character stays at.)
Being open to the elements is a problem and an issue for growth. A much bigger issue is their finances – they may not make it financially much longer. Frohnmayer recent situation does not help – kind of signals that something is going very wrong.