ELF brings magic to campus


Paulette Washko, director of research compliance in the Division of Research and Sponsored Programs, commutes to campus using her solar powered battery bicycle the ELF car.

Nathan Havenner

A different type of vehicle has been commuting to the Kent State campus lately.

When Paulette Washko, director of research compliance in the Division of Research and Sponsored Programs, decided to seek an alternative way to commute to her job, she decided on an ELF.

The ELF, which stands for electric, light and fun, is a solar-powered battery assist vehicle manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, N.C., which was funded through Kickstarter.

“I had decided about seven or eight months ago that I was going to try and reduce my carbon footprint for at least one year and see what it would be like to commute by using a bicycle,” Washko said.

She said she realized that a bicycle was not the best option for her to commute to work at Kent State because of the unpredictable weather in Ohio.

“With the weather being so bad this winter, I started thinking about how was I going to be able to do this,” Washko said, “and get to work in the morning looking halfway decent for my meetings.”

She then started looking at the different ways to add a cover to a bicycle for protection from the elements when her husband happened to watch a show that featured the ELF and recorded it for her to watch later.

“I watched it, and I jumped out of my chair and said, ‘That is exactly what I need,’” Washko said. “I thought ‘what a great invention, this could really change the world and change my world.’ ”

Washko said she was on a long distance bicycle ride with her best friend when they stopped in Durham, N.C., last January to order the ELF car.

Some people, Washko said, have said that the ELF car, which retails for $5,000, is too expensive.

“For me it’s not because it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I don’t have insurance, parking costs, maintenance costs, and I don’t have to buy gasoline. “For me it is emotionally satisfying that I’m reducing my carbon footprint.”

Washko said she travels a little more than 4 miles to work each day and it takes her about 16 minutes to get to Kent State from her home in Stow.

Freshman exercise science major Noah Washko said he was not too surprised when his mom decided to look for alternative vehicles.

“I was a little surprised thinking it would be weird that she wouldn’t have a car, but at the same time, I wasn’t too surprised because it seems like something she would really be into,” he said. “She tries to do whatever she can do to help out with the environment.”

Noah Washko said his biggest concern about his mom driving the ELF car is how other drivers will react to it out on the roadway.

“I was less worried about her actually in it than I was how other drivers would respond to it because it is so radically different than what people are used to seeing out on the road,” he said. “I don’t think it has the same safety features of a car, so I was more worried about her as far as interaction with other drivers.”

Washko said that she is happy she has gotten so much media attention with the ELF car because she hopes it will contribute to people being more aware of how to give back to the earth.

“For people that are environmentally conscious like myself,” Washko said, “it really is a simple yet genius design that helps me contribute a little something back to the earth.”

Contact Nathan Havenner at [email protected].