Tiny EV Vs. Big Hill Rematch! Will This Electric Tuk Tuk Make It Up A Colorado Mountain?

A new battery pack promises better performance and charging times

About a year ago, a local outfit named Echo3 Energy invited us to test one of their three-wheeled electric vehicles. This EV “Tuk-Tuk” had six motorcycle batteries and was built as an urban runabout. In that test, I especially liked its simplicity and how easy it was to drive. It was also extremely spacious for one and could technically hold three adults in a pinch. 

This is the Echo3 EV Tuk-Tuk we drove last year, where we looked at it against our vastly more expensive Tesla Model X. [Photos: TFLcar]

Vehicles like this were developed for densely packed cities like Beijing or Mumbai, not suburban spreads like we’re used to here in the U.S. However, it could be a sweet little commuter for retirement areas and small enough to be used on a variety of campuses. 

Unfortunately, our hill test — driving it over 30 miles from Echo3 Energy’s HQ building in downtown Denver to Buffalo Bill’s gravesite — wasn’t a resounding success. That older unit lacked the necessary power, and it was crawling up the hill leading to the grave. 

Still, it almost made it the trip. 

This new version, featured in the video above, is a new animal given its updated powertrain.  Just about everything else is the same, save some improvements including AC and heat as options. To keep the test similar to the last one, we opted to keep the conditions the same. So, I avoided the stereo and AC. 

This new setup has a 500 watt electric motor powered by a 75v lithium battery pack. This is supposed to help with overall power retention, range and quicker acceleration. It appears to do just that.  

Here’s my take on this new-ish EV Tuk-Tuk. 

The good: 

  • It’s affordable. With a base price of about $7,000 for the base model (like the one we first tested) and about $9,000 for the new, more powerful model, it’s not too expensive. Echo3 Energy has some nifty insensitive programs for buyers that can make ownership extremely cost effective. 
  • The interior is not too bad. Surprisingly comfortable to sit in. If you suffer with any leg injuries/issues, this is a very easy vehicle to drive. 
  • Cheap to keep. Insurance and licensing are just a few bucks (this is registered as a scooter in many states and a motorcycle in others). 
  • There is a trailer available. Pricing is TBA, but Echo3 has developed their own, unique trailer that is easy to use and will be on the market soon. Check that out below:
  • A snap to drive. It’s easy to maneuver and takes a day to get used to: In large cities, this thing has no problem in traffic. It’s very narrow, so it fits through tight allies and fits in motorcycle parking spaces. 
  • Charge and range. It is rated between 45 and 55 miles per charge. That depends on the battery you buy. The 110v connection plugs in anywhere. The Echo3 can fully charge in about four-to-five hours with the regular batteries and about three and a half hours with the lithium. 
  • Almost like a car. It is fully enclosed, like a car. Along with that, it has power windows, a windshield wiper, Bluetooth stereo and a popup sunroof. It has storage nooks, a sliding front seat and you can get a tiny trunk on some models. 

The not-so good: 

  • No fast charging. You can’t use any modern charger that you would normally use on an EV. Just 110v workes. 
  • It’s not a car. That means, you can’t hit the highway – ever. It also is tippy if you charge into a turn at full speed. It rides more like a scooter than a cushy car as well. 
  • Used EVs are roughly the same price. At the time of this writing, I found several used EVs (Nissans and Mitsubishis) that cost about the same as the new Echo3. While these used EVs had old batteries, and compromised range, they wold still out-perform the Echo3 in nearly every way.
  • No regenerative braking. This was a bummer, but it was somewhat understandable. The Echo3 is inexpensive tech, adding something like regenerative brakes (and all the computing components needed) would be pricey. Still, I can only wonder how much better it would perform with regenerative-brakes. 
  • The battery usage/supply readout is not very good. According to the representative, the graphic that shows power only works when the vehicle is at a standstill. I guess I could understand that, but I noted that it showed a full battery after 31 miles and a hill-climb… at a standstill. I think it needs a few tweaks to be easier for the average driver to understand. 

This little runabout is not going to be right for a majority of you. Still, there may be a handful who could use something like this. You never know! Let us know what you think in the comments below.