Electric vehicles are beginning to spread onto the mass market, but one of the limiting factors in these early days is a high-cost compared to their gas-burning equivalents. Electric scooters and motorcycles are considerably cheaper, but not everyone is comfortable on two wheels, or likes being exposed to the elements. Here's an alternative type of EV that costs less than six thousand dollars, is stable on the road and will protect you from wind and rain. It's called the BugE, and there's just one catch to it – you have to put the thing together yourself.

The almost-fully-faired three-wheeler was invented by Mark Murphy, of Creswell, Oregon. In the past, he has worked as a designer on concept projects for companies such as GM, Chrysler and BMW. He has sold about 50 of his BugE kits to customers around the U.S. since 2007, and has now started exporting them to Japan and Europe. His design criteria was for "a simple, low cost personal mobility vehicle that could function in a four-season environment on city streets." If that philosophy sounds at all familiar, it might be because Murphy thinks of his vehicle as "a Model T for the 21st century."

The BugE is propelled by a 17 bhp DC series motor, which is powered by four M34 lead acid batteries that take around eight hours to recharge. It has a steel box chassis with a composite body, an acrylic Lucite canopy, and has an empty weight of about 350 lbs (159 kg). The vehicle's top speed is 50 mph (80 kph), with an approximate range of 30 miles (48 km) at 30 mph (48 kph) – Murphy noted that this can be expanded considerably if users swap in lithium batteries.

"The BugE is an entry level street legal EV suitable for errands, school or work commutes within the community," Murphy told Gizmag. "It needs no special infrastructure since it plugs into 110V outlets using the existing electrical grid... it offers basic stability, performance, wind and rain protection and capacity for local use at a price comparable to a Vespa motorcycle. Four BugE's can fit in one parking space."

Buyers can choose between three kit options, depending on how much they would like to tweak their vehicle with custom parts. For US$3,850, they'll get the parts necessary for a rolling chassis. An additional $325 will get them the lighting and controls, while the power train will cost an extra $1,412. It adds up to a total of US$5,587, plus shipping.

"By selling kits we can reduce the cost of the vehicle, allow for hobbyist experimentation and modification, and create a local build and sell opportunity without requiring a factory and the high start up costs," said Murphy.

"The BugE has huge potential and we are only scratching the surface."

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