Bike/car hybrid combines functions, makes commute fun

Powered by sun and sweat, they are showing up in cities across the country. The $5,500 bike/car hybrid is called "The ELF."

They're hard to miss in Durham, N.C. Commuter Lori Bush loves turning heads.

"Oh, I get a lot of funny looks," she said. "Sometimes I'll see people with the kids in the back and they're waving."

The egg-shaped machine is called an "ELF," short for Electric, Light and Fun.

"It's a great mix of a car and a bike," said Bush.

enarenas03085.jpg
The ELF, which combines elements of both a bicycle and a car is increasing in popularity. CBS News

It's actually a backwards tricycle fueled by a bike pedal and a tiny solar powered motor that can carry passengers and cargo up to 550 pounds.

It is the brainchild of inventor and former race car technician Rob Cotter, CEO of Organic Transit.

"This is a huge game changer," said Cotter. "What we're looking to do is take the bicycle experience and integrate it with car-like functions."

The ELF requires no insurance or gasoline and is pollution free. It does 20 miles per hour with straight pedal power. Add the motor and the ELF can do 35.

In a demonstration, Cotter stopped pedaling and the ELF went on its own power.

It's estimated that the average ELF driver could eliminate three tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year.

In 18 months, Cotter has build and sold 450 ELFs and plans to triple that this year. He is poised to scale up to mass production with sales at resorts, senior centers and in developing countries.

"Most of the planet, they don't have automobiles," Cotter says "They don't have cars. Some of them hardly have roads."

Charlotte Clark is a staffer at Duke University, where up to a dozen ELFs park each day.

"I don't even own a parking pass anymore," she said. "I've only put about 5,000 miles on my car since I've had the ELF, which is way less than half of what I used to."

It may not be ready for the interstate but the ELF is making inroads in local neighborhoods where people like Charlotte Clark or Lori Bush hit the road every day.