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 over 800 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 a completely dead battery (something that can take around six hours with a 60-watt panel, although faster with a 100-watt). It’s not that difficult to operate the Elf on pedal power alone, something more difficult with the much heavier 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. Unfortunately, the pedal set-up on the PEBL is inferior and I find my knees too close to each other for maximum thrust power.
You won’t often find a used PEBL for sale, which could be a testament to customer satisfaction. I recently saw a fully-loaded model going for $7,000. At the present, there are two used Elves on the market, one for $3,000 and the other for $4,000. Since many two-wheel ebikes cost over $5k, the used Elf is typically a great bargain. I expect these bikes to eventually start increasing in value as they become more famous.
Because it is charged while in the bike, the PEBL battery is bigger and easier to charge. It also holds more juice. The Elf battery can be removed, or left in place to charge, but the connection and position of the battery makes the operation far more difficult than it should be.
The Elf has an open floor and unfinished interior, while the PEBL is fully enclosed and carpeted. For use at the beach, the Elf makes more sense and is easier to sweep clean of sand. The PEBL is more narrow and has a shorter turn radius, but that may also make it more susceptible to rollover.
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 great value, even with the recent price rise.
As for modifications, I replaced the Elf mirrors with larger ones that folded in completely. On the PEBL, I put a Batman logo over the BB logo on the front. 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 logo for a futuristic vehicle like this should be simple and iconic, like the Tesla in my opinion. The PEBL also needed a strip of clear tape on the rear hatch hinge because it leaked rain water into the cabin. This did not solve the problem, but PEBL was nice enough to come pick up the trike and fix the leak free of charge. I also installed a better, wider handlebar with cork handles, front derailleur, and NuVinci transmission, all 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. I highly recommend this pad and ended up putting one in the PEBL as well.
After riding both trikes for hundreds of miles, I found I prefer the Elf in summer, but need the PEBL for the cold months. I added two small mini coolers to the Elf to keep the dogs out of the wheel well, and also use small boogie boards as doors to keep them from jumping out during stops. I also put battery-powered electric fans in both vehicles. I’m currently experimenting with various tinted film to put over the windows on both vehicles in the summer. The Batbike will likely be mirrored all around, while the front windshield on the Elf will be clear but still heat-blocking.
If you are considering using this vehicle for commuting you’d probably be happier with a PEBL, but if you are using it primarily as an exercise machine, you might be better off with a used Elf, especially at one third the price.
Update July 2020, the new PEBL 100 looks amazing, and they took my advice on the front logo. This is now the model to have as it has numerous upgrades over previous models.
Update September 2020: Covid really slowed down PEBL deliveries, and some who ordered Spring of 2019 are still waiting. Meanwhile, it’s been reported that the delays are a result of difficulty getting essential parts out of Europe. The owners are presently planning to move the factory to Europe, which will likely result in a big increase in shipping charges and more delays. However, they may have a few refurbished models ready to ship now. Meanwhile, if you want either an Elf or a PEBL anytime soon, better stick with a used model. Hopefully both Elf and PEBL will be back up and running soon.
Update February 2020: formed a bike club in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, for Elf and PEBL riders. The club is called Riders du Soleil. We have some really cool gear for the members.
Update November 2022. The PEBL team in Germany has posted pictures of PEBL 2.0 that look fantastic and it appears the updated trikes may soon be shipping. Since some buyers have been waiting over two years, this is really good news.
24 Replies to “PEBL versus Elf”
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.
The weight of the PEBL depends on what size battery you install, but it’s much heavier than the 150-pound Elf. 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, but can buy PEBLs, so you are stuck with PEBL unless looking for a used bike. I seldom see a used PEBL on the market.
Hello, I am VERY UNHAPPY with the COMPANY Better Bike, the PEBL. For some time I have been interested in the Pebl, BUT , calling SEVERAL TIMES, they NEVER call back. GREAT WAY to do business! Send Better Bike, thousands $$$$$ and then????A
I waited close to a year and that was before the pandemic hit.
Steven I see you removed a comment from another concerned person without answering, which is your prerogative, your page, etc. But censorship like that just furthers my suspicions about your motives here. Please find and delete all of my posts so I will not receive any more notifications and you won’t have the thorn of truth and openness hindering what you and Debbie are attempting. Thanks for the limited forum anyway, Ed Brown
Your comment was incorrect and claimed the Elf was not going to have a second life. I have two, my friend has two, including one of the first off the line, all are running fine. If you post here and say misleading things, I will decide whether the comment deserves to be shared. That is my right, and also my responsibility.
Steven, I never claimed that used ELF bikes could not be maintained; certainly I have refurbished three myself. (but watch out for the faulty frame design, when the front members break off, great damage can be sustained to the frame, the body and everything in close proximity). What I said was that ELF, as a product in limbo, will never again be produced. Any intelligent investor would avoid the license fees, any patent restrictions and production limitations and just take the idea back to the drawing board. Similar circumstances happened when NEVCO, maker of the Gizmo in Eugene OR, went into receivership and all they had was their designs as assets; nobody bought it, it died. I have, since the 1980s, participated in the growth and aftermath of four electric vehicle companies, and their stories are all too similar. The ELF cars made, and maybe some of the parts in stock, go on as long as they last, and just like the Corbin Sparrow, you will still see them around, but the brand is gone. Right now there are just too many options available for far less $, including Pedelec recumbents and great new electric assist bikes like my new Bolton belt driven 1000W, to fully electric minicars and three wheelers, and even a two wheel rocket with stabilizing wheels. When you see Honda, BMW and Mitsubishi invading the small vehicle space, you know the end is past for little producers. Enjoy your ELFs and please, delete all my posts. Thanks for your considerate action, Ed Brown
I agree Giovanni. I have been going through the BBB of MA to get Better Bike to answer my emails. I have waited 1 1/2yrs and paid in full for the PEBL. Something is wrong and I am going to get an answer
Personally, I think both the Pebble, and Elf are both nice Velomobiles (e-bikes). Bigger mirrors, also it would be nice to add review mirror in the side of both vehicles; just like automobile. Real doors wood be nice on both Pebble. Wider tired for both vehicles to increase hill climbing capabilities. Stronger faster rims to hold heavier weight. Plate holders, 4 wheels would be nice and make the bikes more balanced and stable so the don’t flip over. Four wheels will also make the back seat wider to hold at least to adults 3 kids. Seat belts would be nice upon request. Built in generator to help recharge the battery just like a car. 1200 watt motors for United States markets off road or hill climbing use only (off road switch Or hill climbing switch). Dual batter system with transfer switch so if one battery dies theirs a back up battery.
Can’t have four wheels because then it’s no longer a bike, but a motorized vehicle. Same thing with bigger motors. They made doors for the Elf, but not wood, just the same material as the body. The PEBL already has two batteries, and they are always connected….no need for a transfer switch. No need for a generator either. Most of the time I only charge through the solar panels.
Clayton, you miss the point – adding all those options adds weight and energy requirement. It is not meant to be a car, it is meant to be a lightweight vehicle that outperforms a car in many ways, but not all. It is not meant for long commutes, but there are some who might push it that way. The whole point is to reduce gasoline vehicle miles because the dominant and list polluting trips are those under 25 miles in cities. And if you want to add mirrors or seat belts anywhere on either ELF or PEBL, there are plenty of options in bike mirrors or after-market car mirrors and parts.
What does “PEBL” stand for? Thank you.
Not sure. Possibly pedal electric bike something or other.
Decent article. There is good used ELF market out there. I’ve selling them now for almost a year and find lots of takers. I also have some support available along with work-around parts. Soon the ELF may be back into production! Time will tell but in the meanwhile, check out https://www.ELFEBikeConnection.com
Yes, the brokers have been swooping in like vultures on every ELF put on the market. They have jacked the price to satisfy themselves and frustrated owners who would have gladly settled for less but for their contract with a broker. Middle people never make things cost less when it comes used items, and their share of an Elf sale is enough to repair an Elf in many ways. Go direct and save – brokers aren’t making anything easier except parting with your hard earned cash.
Pretty harsh, Ed. For experienced bike mechanics rehabbing used Elfs and PEBLs is no big deal. However, a lot of buyers are novices, are not mechanically inclined, and need guidance on price versus condition, as well as finding a qualified mechanic for any rehab. Since Debbie worked at Organic Transit, she can be a valuable source of information and her love for the vehicle is what keeps her in this game in my opinion, not some predatory desire to make us pay more. In my opinion the used prices are low, but that will likely change if manufacturing of new vehicles doesn’t pick up. What’s going to lower price is mass production, and we’re a long way from that. Now, if Elon Musk would decide to make solar powered trikes, I’m sure he could find a way to get costs way down.
Steve, thank you for writing this column, too bad Ed is such a jerk (not sure the proper word but that will suffice)? and can’t abide with disagreement, he hasn’t dealt with Debbie, I have, certainly for her time helping owners she would want to be compensated but as you said, I think she is in this business to keep the Elf alive not make a ton of money.
I think you have EVERY right to censor negative and unhelpful comments such as Ed is making. When one does not know much about a vehicle it is helpful to find someone who knows about it and with her questioning of the owner she can vet the product, though unfortunately she is NOT a middleman and one can’t pay her to hold money in escrow until product is delivered to send to owner or work in conjunction with a local bike shop that knows Elfs and can certify that it’s in the condition that the owner states that’s it’s in as kind of a guarantee. I have wanted to buy one for a couple of years, problem is of me getting up there to check it out from where they are being sold, finally was able to make an arrangement this week and this bike I had been checking on for months had just been sold, those on the west coast go quickly. It could be in the cities they are sold in, the climate is much more mild than on the East coast where they don’t seem to be sold as quickly.
Also Ed and Clayton in different ways talk about things that do NOT pertain to the type of vehicle that an Elf/Pebl is, Ed wants it to be more like a regular bike and Clayton like a car, I am interested in the Elf and before problems I had dealing with BB about the Pebl, because it is an exercise vehicle but providing a shell for protection. If U.S. was similar to Holland where the bike lane is part of the sidewalk (where I live in Southern CA, there are dedicated bike lanes protected from traffic in Long and Redondo Beach) too bad in this country with the importance of gasoline and their taxes we won’t build that kind of infrastructure and thus I would feel more safe (people NEVER wear bike helmets and transport kids in trailers there), and would not need to consider an Elf or Pebl type of bike, it’s more complicated and if Clayton wants all those things that weigh it down and engines to move it, he might as well get a car. In a cold climate I probably WOULD get a regular car and save bike for warmer weather (which is why I would never move to a cold place.)
Is your bike club still in existence I googled it but nothing came up.
You can find us on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ridersdusoleil
I wish you had an edit, didn’t proof well, and what I said about Better Bikes, didn’t make sense but to amen to what someone else said with BB is that once I paid the deposit it was very difficult to contact them again and the salesman got extremely upset when I wanted to cancel the deposit and order because of that.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with the ELF and PEBL. We are for a “vehicle” that our daughter to use for her commute to work since she can’t drive a car. Would a used ELF (in good condition, but less than half the price of a new PEBL) be a good way to tip our toes into this world? I like the upgrades the PEBL offers (esp. for foul weather), but am hesitant to jump in that deep not having any experience.
I love the bike. I would buy either one, but not new ones. If you buy used, you can have your bike the next day. People that paid in full for PEBLs a year ago, are still waiting. At least that’s what I see on the web.
I would say go with used Elf, the person who runs the resale site once worked for Organic Transit, she knows a lot about the product, knows businesses near you that can repair it and she has a checklist of things that an owner needs to check before she allows it to be sold on her site and unlike what a particular nasty person stated on here, although she charges the seller a fee, it’s not a high one (and I don’t see Elfs listed for sell elsewhere.) She also gives people her cell phone number and she answers calls quickly (about the sale or service places ) but if you have questions about the vehicle than you need to contact the seller.
If you read on Pebl facebook page and other sites, people who have tried to contact them or put down deposits (like I did) once you have, it is VERY difficult to get in touch with them, when I changed my mind and wanted a refund ( and I can see there wasn’t much incentive for the person who sold me the item TO get in touch with me) and when he finally did he was very annoyed saying it took him a long time to build an invoice (he added extra things I didn’t want), I felt if they were like this BEFORE they got my payment what would it be like if I had a problem after they received all my monies. Also, it takes OVER three months to get it (after I paid the deposit I was told it would take more than the 3 months I was initially told) 5-7 months, the delay partly due to the fact that it is now produced in Europe and because of Covid there may be delays in shipping, if you put it on CC and not get delivery you can not dispute it after 3 months, do you want take that risk and also though the headquarters are in the U.S. it is manufactured abroad which may mean if you have consumer issues you may not have as good legal protection for defects as if it was produced in the U.S. Another thing is many companies that produced similar products (such as the Elf) have gone out of business so think of that risk if a product takes long to produce. Get the Elf first and then later on if people put their Pebls on sale (and they will, it took a long time but people are selling the Elfs now) get a Pebl then.
Thanks, Evan. Someone else pointed me to the ELF resale site and I’ve made contact. That does seem to be the quickest and most cost-effective way to move in this direction. I appreciate your recommendations. Thanks for sharing!
having researched until eyes and brain are blurry, all I can glean is that too many people are asking for too many “features” that weigh more and cost more; I thought the original concept was “last mile” transportation and solar power/human assist, not “I could build it cheaper in my shop”, or “a recumbent can go +80mph” or “since it’s a tricycle, has it been crash tested?” it just makes me tired
only seldom do I hear questions relating to the practicality of the vehicle and for what it was originally intended; and for those of us who may no longer want to try to safely balance a bike on a busy street, or cannot pass a licensed driver test being age exempted or some other way “disabled” and want to carry a couple of bags of groceries (no hill climbing stunts, 0.8g turns) a total solar (pedal assisted) vehicle seems eminently feasible with zero emissions, “zero” operating carbon
you can forget the air-conditioning or heater, stereo, interior lighting (other than your smartphone) a bicycle has none of that, while an enclosed floor, doors that lock, etc. headlamps, clearance lights all around (stop lamps, turn signals, hazard light) all LED and a must for safety, a horn ! !
why is this so difficult? we are not competing in the cross Australia race, climbing the Alps we are only asking for a solar shell for that “last mile”; it doesn’t have to be 3D printed, AI, nano-fiber, vegan, etc. and it can cost enough for someone to fill the need without trying to be the next Elon Musk or Ford
and for this . . . . evovelo is angry at me for wanting, just one Mö