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Meet the OTC: Mark Frohnmayer, new commissioner and transportation entrepreneur
5/24/2012
News and Events
Step inside the Arcimoto office in Eugene, and you’ve stepped into a movie scene: one of those crazy films from the ‘90s where the workplace breathed innovation and brilliant young men and women flitted about the room in a whirlwind of bright ideas and world-changing visions. The company dog sleeps on one of the earlier inventions, giving licks of support and offering a soft belly for rubbing when needed. It’s all meant to encourage creativity.
 
Welcome to OTC Commissioner Mark Frohnmayer’s world, where you can find creativity by the truckload— or by the electric vehicle load, that is.
 
Arcimoto, founded by Frohnmayer in 2007, is devoted to developing “ultra efficient mobility solutions: vehicles, electronics, software” with the ultimate goal of promoting the shift to a sustainable transportation system.
 
Frohnmayer was named to the OTC in June 2011. A graduate of University of California Berkeley with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, he started his career as a “gamer.” GarageGames enjoyed enough success that he sold the venture and decided to focus on the electric vehicle industry. In 2009, he served on Governor Kulongoski’s Alternate Fuel Vehicle Infrastructure Working Group and was peer-selected as one of the Pacific Northwest’s clean technology “Pivotal Leaders.”
 
Clearly, innovative approaches to transportation are not new to Frohnmayer. He’s especially excited about the realization, slowly but surely coming, that the idea of one vehicle serving all your needs is outdated. 
“A vehicle is really a tool, and you use it for different things,” he said. “Zipcar is an example, where you share the kind of car you need, depending on what you need to do.”
 
Originally, he explained, we bought one car for everything. Now, we have one car for every person, or sometimes two: an SUV for the mountains, a sedan for the family, a truck for yard work, a high-mpg car for long trips, etc. The cycle is coming back around now, with people renting out their individual cars and auto-sharing services cropping up in many places.
 
So how does an electric vehicle fit in? That’s easy: it’s the perfect vehicle for running errands around town – which turns out to be something most of us do, most of the time.  
The challenge, he said, is the cost of batteries. However, innovation is so high in this area that Frohnmayer believes affordable EVs will be here sooner vs. later.
 
Frohnmayer is anxious to contribute to the success of Oregon’s transportation system, and he acknowledges the work of his colleagues on the commission and ODOT employees.
 
“To see Gail’s (Achterman, former OTC chair) push for least cost planning, the way the commission is looking to the long term, and the good discussions about putting in processes and practices that will get us through – to see all this be embraced and see the department making active strides – it’s all very inspiring,” he said.
 
Frohnmayer recently gave a presentation on his vision for the future of transportation at the TEDxConcordiaUPortland event.  A video of his talk is available on YouTube.