Eco-Friendly ELF Enchants

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman June 15, 2017 14:34

This story is one of three that appeared in “Dreams of the Open Road” in FAN’s Summer 2017 issue. Read the other two at these links: “Reclaiming the Joy of Travel” and “Model T Rides Again.”

Winslow takes a spin around his Sonora neighborhood

Rollin Winslow’s ride looks like the result of a cross-breeding experiment involving a bike, a tricycle, a vintage VW Beetle and maybe a golf cart.

It’s as if Gyro Gearloose, Professor Irwin Corey, Ralph Nader and Al Gore smoked a little weed, then went to work. The result is the ELF, a one-passenger, electric-pedal hybrid with a top speed of 25 mph and a gawk factor of 100 percent.

“I can’t go anywhere without people stopping me,” says Winslow, 74, a retired banker. “Everyone thinks the ELF’s really cute, and I get a lot of questions.”

Here are a few answers: The Sonora man discovered ELF on the Internet and “thought it looked interesting.” He test-pedaled a model in San Jose three years ago and bought it for $5,000. He says his is the only one in Tuolumne County.

Winslow rides it daily from his home to Sonora Elementary School, where he is a kindergarten volunteer. The ELF’s 600-watt electric motor has enough oomph to take the pain out of pedaling up the hills on his five-mile round-trip.

Although bright orange, Winslow’s 150-pound ELF is greener than any Prius: Its motor can be recharged by solar panels on its roof (eight hours) or by any AC outlet (two hours). Organic Transit, its North Carolina-based manufacturer, says the ELF gets the equivalent of 1,800 miles per gallon. There’s no registration bill – just pay the DMV a one-time fee of $20 for a license plate that’s good forever.

There is a learning curve involved in juggling the ELF’s electric motor and leg power, but Winslow has mastered it. “It’s fun to ride,” he says, pedaling out his driveway, zipping down the block, swinging into a wide turn and gliding back home.

His wife is less enthusiastic. “Barbara rode it once, and that was it,” he says. “She sticks with our Toyota.”

Winslow’s kindergarten charges, however, pick the ELF every time. “They just love it,” says Winslow, happy his ride has become a campus attraction. He became a classroom volunteer after suffering a stroke nine years ago while living in the Bay Area.

“Back then even third-graders could read better than I could,” laughs Winslow, who has since recovered his literacy. “So I picked kindergarten in Milpitas and kept at it when I came to Sonora four years ago.”

One ELF caveat: Don’t buy one if you’re a hermit – which the affable Winslow is definitely not.

“I love saving all that gas money,” he grins. “But with everybody asking about it, I sure don’t save any time.”

Copyright © 2017 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman June 15, 2017 14:34
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