PEBL versus Elf

Give credit to the Elf for pioneering the concept of a solar-powered trike that can replace gas-guzzling cars for commuting and shopping locally.

A few years later, the PEBL was created as the Elf competitor. Last spring, however, Elf shut down their production and is currently seeking a financial rescue that may or may not come. Since hundreds of Elfs were sold over the past six years, it’s not difficult to find a used one on the Internet, often at a fraction of the $10k cost of buying a new one. The Elf started at half that price, but the cost kept rising as improvements were made and features added. Although the Elf is bigger and wider, remarkably, it weighs much less than the PEBL, which means it’s also easier to pedal. In fact, if the battery gives out, and you don’t have an outlet to plug into, or time to let the solar panel refill the battery (something that takes hours and hours), it’s not that difficult to operate the Elf on pedal power alone, something that would be far more difficult with a PEBL. My Elf also came with a variable transmission that’s far superior to the standard 8-speed transmission on the PEBL.

But on just about every other feature, the PEBL blows away the Elf, mostly due to its suspension system. The Elf works fine on flat level roads with no potholes, but the ride can be bone-jarring over bumps. The antler arms can also be difficult to wrestle over bumps. Not so with the PEBL, which is easily steered with one hand. The Elf has a more recumbent position, while riders are more upright in the PEBL. I prefer upright, but some others may prefer a more recumbent posture.

You won’t find many used PEBLs for sale, and the trike probably holds its value better, although if you are bargain hunting, it’s easy to locate a used Elf for a few thousand dollars, a great deal since many two-wheel ebikes cost over $5k. The PEBL battery is easier to charge and holds more juice. Also, the Elf has an open floor and unfinished interior, while the PEBL is fully enclosed and carpeted. The PEBL is more narrow and has a shorter turn radius, but that may also make it more susceptible to rollovers.

The PEBL is a four-season bike easily ridden through rain and snow, unlike the Elf which is designed for warmer weather. Remarkably, the price between the two was not very far apart, which accounts for the PEBL being a better value for the money, as well as a better-built bike.

As for modifications, I replaced the Elf mirrors with larger ones that folded in completely. On the PEBL, I put Batman logos over the BB logo on the front and seat. I’d urge BetterBike to explore a better logo. The Elf logo was stylized letters for Organic Transit, but many see it just as a “T” for “Tesla.” The PEBL also needed a strip of clear tape on the rear hatch hinge because it leaked rain water into the cabin.

Update on March 1, 2020: PEBL was nice enough to come pick up the trike to fix the leak in the roof so I had a bigger handlebar and NuVinci rear hub installed, both of which were big improvements and now available as add-ons.

Update on May 11, 2020: I flipped my PEBL after hitting a bump while turning. I was leaning the wrong way at the time. It’s super important to lean your weight into the turns. This forced me to ride the Elf again after a long layoff. I put a backseat pad in the Elf and it made a world of difference. Makes up for the lack of rear suspension. Since used Elfs regularly come up for a few thousand dollars, and the price of the PEBL continues to escalate, a used Elf is the affordable option. But I highly recommend getting this pad:

2 Replies to “PEBL versus Elf”

  1. Thanks for this article, but more specifics would be nice. What are the actual weights of each as outfitted? What are the gear ratios available with each drive train? Motors the same or different Watt rating? Both have adjustable power assist or not? Stock batteries compared by amp/hr would be great to know too. Lights are important, which vehicle has the best lighting inside and out? Thanks for all.

    1. The weight of the PEBL depends on what size battery you install, but it’s much heavier than the Elf. I have installed NuVinci transmissions in both bikes at this point. The motor is bigger and stronger in the PEBL. Both have throttles (not pedal assist). The PEBL has better interior lights, but both have adequate exterior lighting. It’s a bit of a moot point since you can’t buy new Elfs anymore, but can buy PEBLs, so you are stuck with PEBL (the better one) unless looking for a used Elf. I seldom see a used PEBL on the market.

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