Stacy Rathbun gets attention while driving the black and yellow Arcimoto Evergreen FUV (Fun Utility Vehicle) that she’s nicknamed “Bumblebee.” She uses a gray fedora to keep her blonde hair from the wind and a jacket to keep warm, since the vehicle has no doors.
Some people stare at her, some ask questions (“This your ride?”) and others simply comment, “Cool car.” The FUV Evergreen is an electric three-wheeled motorcycle with no doors, two seats and a trunk. It has a 100-mile range and is made for daily commutes.
Seven years ago, Rathbun put the first $100 down to join the list of possible FUV Evergreen buyers. When the time came to purchase the car, which retails for $19,900, she became Arcimoto’s eighth buyer, and, four months ago, one of the first to get it delivered. After 12 years of the company’s existence and more than a year of compliance tests, Rathbun wasn’t sure she would ever get her Bumblebee.
A personal friend of Mark Frohnmayer, Arcimoto’s founder and president, and of Joe Morgan, the company’s customer experience manager, she was one of the first investors in the new company.
When the time came to buy the FUV, Rathbun says she and her husband had a serious conversation: “Should we go forth with the idea? Yes, let’s do it. Let’s have faith in our friends and in the technology and basically in the future.”
Arcimoto’s mission is to be a catalyst to a greener future, which is one of the reasons why Rathbun now drives her Bumblebee.
Arcimoto dreams big. “The point, from the beginning, has been to find a solution that works at a large scale,” Frohnmayer says.
And even though Arcimoto is still a small player with big plans in an expanding EV market, it still faces challenges.
The EV market is heating up, according to Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2019 report. By 2040, the study predicts that 57 percent of all passenger vehicle sales and more than 30 percent of the global passenger vehicle fleet will be electric.
Former state Rep. Phil Barnhart also says that EVs are the future.
The EV market is reaching a point of rapid expansion, Barnhart says, and the next 10 years will see a significant increase in EVs over gas-powered vehicles. This year alone, long-time automakers such as Volkswagen and Toyota have been investing in electric vehicles. In total, with all the automakers announcing new EVs, more than 40 new brands of EVs will hit the road by 2025.
This is a great opportunity for Arcimoto but also a challenge for a small player that is still expanding.
Not only does the company have to counter longtime automakers that are entering the market but also Chinese EV companies such as NIO. Founded in 2014, NIO is a 4-wheel SUV EV brand with a market capitalization of approximately $2 billion. Arcimoto has 0.5 percent of that volume.
The automobile industry is capital intensive, which makes it difficult for smaller companies such as Arcimoto to compete on the same level as long-time automakers and younger companies that count on venture capital to succeed.
Fundraising has always been a challenge for Arcimoto. It was founded in 2007, right before the Great Recession.
“It was hard to raise venture capital for anything, let alone a vehicle company,” Frohnmayer says.
Arcimoto went through financial strife in the beginning. Many times, Frohnmayer says, the company was “out of juice” and had to lay off employees. And for many years, he says, Arcimoto depended on angel investors — friends and family.
“It’s the classic startup story,” he says. “Had to make new friends, and family stopped answering phone calls.”
Things started to look up in 2015 when Bill Hambrecht, a venture capitalist and president of WR Hambrecht + Co., began investing in Arcimoto.
But even now, Arcimoto spends much time, perhaps too much time, looking for investment, says Morgan, the company’s customer experience manager. “Fundraising is challenging, and it requires a lot of energy and effort,” he says.
Since 2017, Arcimoto has been getting investment mostly through selling stock. Its most recent direct offering, in October, of more than 1 million shares for $2.25, was to raise money for speeding up production.
“The purpose of our last fundraiser was to push forward and get the vehicles out there,” Frohnmayer says.
Arcimoto produces one car per day at its Arcimoto Manufacturing Plant (AMP), and it has recently announced that its production would not increase as much as expected by the end of 2019.
This is not the first time Arcimoto introduced direct offerings in order to raise money.
In 2017, when Arcimoto went public, it raised $19.5 million in its initial public offering. But its net losses started as soon as it went public. In 2017, Arcimoto reported more than $3.3 million in net loss, more than double compared to 2016. In 2018, Arcimoto reported $11 million in net loss.
The spike in Arcimoto’s stocks occurred February 2019 when the stock prices hit $7.35. As of the time of this reporting, the stock prices were $1.62, nearly an 80 percent decrease from February.
Still, Arcimoto can be considered a more straightforward company than most young EV automakers when addressing its costs, says Sean O’Kane, senior reporter for science and technology site The Verge.
According to the initial public offering report concluded by Zacks Investment Research, the company also took a different approach to its financials. “Arcimoto has displayed a conservative commitment to minimizing its costs.”
Arcimoto has been expanding. It has been selling more of the FUV Evergreen and is now distributing cars to a rental service facility in Key West, Florida, the first rental franchise for Arcimoto.
Arcimoto also has an asset that attracts West Coast eyes: Frohnmayer’s own connection to the state and to Eugene. He is the son of the late David Frohnmayer, former Oregon attorney general and former University of Oregon president.
Raised in Eugene, Mark Frohnmayer says that Arcimoto will always be tied to Eugene. The AMP will not go someplace else, nor will they move the company headquarters from Eugene’s West 2nd Avenue. But Arcimoto nonetheless wants its FUVs to go abroad.
“We certainly think the Arcimoto is well-suited to certain overseas markets,” Frohnmayer says. “Basically anywhere there are narrow roads and congested cities, the Arcimoto is arguably a better solution for a lot of people than a car.”
Even on big roads in the U.S., the Arcimoto gets attention. Rathbun now uses her Bumblebee to drive to work every day. She has no problem talking to strangers at stop signs or when traffic has stopped.
As she is driving down from Spencer Butte on a cloudy day, 10 students turn to her and her Bumblebee and yell. Rathbun laughs and keeps driving. It’s a normal day in the life of the Bumblebee.
“To have something like this that could be part of the future — that is part of the future but it’s happening right now,” she says.
As the eighth owner of an FUV Evergreen, Rathbun says she is driving the future. But the road is still long before Arcimoto can become the mass transit option that Frohnmayer dreams of.