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A man and his ELF

It’s orange, has a name that reminds you either of Christmas or Lord of the Rings, and will definitely get your attention when you see it in action.

The ELF.

ELF stands for Electric, Light, and Fun, three things Jeff Heck, Interim Reese Library Director, said caught his attention.

“My wife saw a news report about it while we were at an airport,” Heck said.

Soon, Heck placed his order, and a few months later a truck arrived with his very own ELF – and another reason to look forward to going to work.

“It makes it more enjoyable to drive. I feel like I’m accomplishing something and not using so much gas,” he said.

The body encompasses a solar-powered electric battery, with the panel on top of the vehicle. It has brake lights, headlights, and some storage space in the back.

But the rest of the pod-shaped vehicle is more like a bike: Handlebars instead of a steering wheel, brake levers instead of a pedal, and bike pedals with two bicycle chains attached – one turned by you, and the other by the electric motor.

Ideally, you’ll first get moving by putting a little effort into those pedals, and then engage the electric motor once you’ve picked up a touch of speed. The result? A top speed of 25 miles per hour, with a convenient assist from electricity to help get up those bothersome hills.

Heck lives just a few miles from the Summerville Campus and takes Lake Forest Road to Lombardy Court to avoid most of the traffic. In a car, the trip would take about eight minutes; in the ELF, it’s only a couple of minutes more, but he doesn’t have to wonder where he will park.

“It’s classified as a bicycle, so I pull it right up to Reese Library and attach it with a bike lock,” Heck said.

In fact, once he hits the one-year mark, Heck will take his ELF to a local bike shop to have the chains and cables tightened.

ELFs come in a variety of colors and have multiple models from Durham, N.C.-based Organic Transit, which raised over $200,000 through a Kickstarter that ended in January 2013. The company’s website equates 1,800 miles in an ELF for the energy equivalent of one gallon of gas.

So one question remains: Why orange?

“I wanted to have increased visibility [when on the road],” Heck said.

It certainly does the job.