By on August 28, 2014

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It seems that most of the media coverage of automotive startup Elio Motors and their proposed $6,800, 84 mpg reverse trike can be sorted into two groups: general media outlets that have taken a bit of a credulous gee whiz attitude, and automotive folks who have cast a more skeptical eye on the enterprise. I’m as skeptical and as cynical as the next guy but unlike many in the automotive community I actually think that Paul Elio and his team have a decent chance of at least getting their vehicle to production. Also unlike most of the critics, I’ve actually taken the time to talk with members of Elio managment along with one of their major backers and I’ve spent time with their prototypes. Perhaps because I’ve tried to give the project an even break the people at Elio have been pretty forthcoming with me and now they’ve let TTAC be the first automotive publication to have an extended and unsupervised test drive of their latest prototype. They figuratively tossed me the keys and literally said, “bring it back when you’re done.” That takes some confidence.

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I was free to drive it as long as I wanted and I ended up spending more time with the Elio prototype than I would have with a car at a typical media ride & drive. There were some restrictions, however. When I asked about speeds, I was told to try and keep it under 45 mph, avoid some of Michigan’s deeper crevices and potholes in our roads, and to make sure that I could always see the cycle fenders over the front tires, so I wouldn’t run into curbs. Other than that, I could drive it as I saw fit. I first headed to a nearby industrial park to shoot video of the trike coming and going. The cul de sacs also made nice impromptu skid pads to check cornering grip. Then I cruised up a 45 mph county road to see how I felt driving the Elio in traffic. Finally I ducked into a residential subdivision whose winding roads let me check how tossable the trike was.

As with the previous prototypes, the latest Elio, P4, is powered by a Suzuki G10 carburetted three cylinder engine out of a Geo Metro. The Metro’s automatic transmission is also used. The production Elio will use a proprietary 0.9 liter triple, designed by IAV, that will put out the same 55 horsepower that the Suzuki engine had when it left the factory more than 90,000 miles ago. Those were likely not easy miles because the engine was tired. Still it motivated the trike just fine for a commuter car. While the power ratings of the prototype’s engine and Elio’s production motor are equal, I was told that Elio’s triple will have significantly more torque than the G10. Elio’s engine will also weigh less than the Suzuki powerplant in the prototype, which should help lighten up the steering at low speeds.

The Elio engine has an aluminum cylinder block and head and is an undersquare design with a stroke longer than the cylinder bore. Induction is via multi-port sequential fuel injection, a bit of a surprise at a time when many engine manufacturers are embracing direct injection. Elio Motors has spent a good deal of their marketing emphasizing the car’s $6,800 price. Using proven, if not cutting edge, technologies is one way of keeping costs down. Another way of keeping costs down, at least for consumers, is the use of conventional 5W-20 motor oil with standard 3,000 mile change intervals. No synthetic oil required and no premium high octane fuel either. To reduce maintenance costs and increase durability, the single overhead cam engine will have a metal timing chain running that camshaft, not a rubber belt.

As it stands today, they’re aiming at 55 horsepower but the final power rating will be contingent on that 84 mpg (highway) target. In the current configuration they can increase power by about 10% if needed.

A number of companies use the Woodward Dream Cruise to gauge consumer reaction to concept and production cars and this year was no exception, with journalists and celebrities running Hellcat Challengers up and down the famous cruising boulevard. Elio has been drumming up interest in their three-wheeler by taking it on an extended road tour, displaying it at events with large crowds. With a million or so people walking up and down Woodward as they watch the movable automotive feast go by, it’s not surprising that Elio brought their road tour to the WDC, though their car has one less wheel and about 652 horsepower less than the Hellcat. Of course, Elio is going after a different market segment.

The publicity seems to be working. At the Dream Cruise display there was a constant stream of people checking it out, seeing if they could fit. I convinced a rather large man to climb into the back seat and once he got back there he fit just fine. Another girthy guy needed no convincing to try both tandem positions. He’d driven the 100 miles or so from Toledo just to see if the car fit him before putting down his reservation money. He was very happy with what he saw. With about 29,000 reservations in at this point, Jerome Vassallo, Elio’s vice president of retail operations, told me that a growing number of people who show up at their road show stops are already familiar with the trike or even have put down money to reserve one.

Vassallo also updated me on Elio’s retail plans. Since they will be selling directly from factory owned stores in about 60 major U.S. markets, they understand that they may be subject to the same obstacles that Tesla’s factory outlets have faced due to state franchise laws and opposition by dealer groups. They’re hoping, however, to  use the trike’s legal status as a motorcycle to piggyback on the exemptions given to factory owned Harley Davidson and Suzuki dealerships.

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Mockup of Elio’s three cylinder engine, designed by IAV. Full gallery here.

Like I said, the PR seems to be getting the word around. While we were shooting video in an industrial park near lunch time, a couple of people walked over to ask us about it and mentioned Elio by name.

What’s it like to drive? Pretty much like any other small front wheel drive car. At first you feel like you’re driving a cross between a small airplane and an open wheel track car, but fairly soon you start to feel like you’re just driving another car. Well, till you again notice people craning their necks and checking what you’re driving in their mirrors. From the outside it looks like nothing else on the road but from the inside it looks very automotive. Yes the fuselage is narrow, but the cockpit is fairly roomy for one person, and there’s even more hip room for the rear passenger than for the driver. I’m not a skinny guy but I had plenty of room.

The car itself is skinny, you can hold both hands out both side windows at the same time, but the cockpit has a Goldilocks feel to it. If the car was wider, visibility to the rear might be an issue since there is no rear window, just a hatch for putting in groceries or a bag of golf clubs. There’s no rear view mirror mounted on the windshield, unneeded because it would just give you a view of your own face. The small side mirrors, which will likely be significantly enlarged on the production version, gave me an adequate view of traffic behind me.

As I said, it handles pretty much like you’d expect a small FWD vehicle to drive. If they didn’t know it had three wheels, most drivers probably couldn’t tell from the driver’s seat. I tried to hang the rear wheel out and get the trike to drift like a Morgan 3 Wheeler can but between the tired Suzuki 3 cyl and the fairly decent contact patch (much fatter tires than on the Morgan 3 wheeler) the back end stayed firmly in place. It understeers, but with a bit more power you might be able to get the vehicle to rotate quicker. Since the Elio trike has a classic double wishbone front suspension with coilover shock/spring units (and a trick pull rod to get the dampers out of the air flow) it can probably be adjusted for more aggressive handling. When cornering hard I didn’t notice much body roll – don’t worry about the inherent instability of three wheelers and their tendency to lift the inner wheel in a turn. Not gonna happen here. To begin with, reverse trikes are more stable than three-wheelers with one wheel in front, and as long as weight is sufficiently biased to the front tires, both of them should stay on the ground.

Steering wasn’t as quick and there was less feel than I expected from manual steering in a 1,200 lb vehicle. I was told that the production trike will have a different steering rack than the prototype. To help with the steering effort, the steering wheel is relatively large. That gives you more leverage over the  non-power-assisted steering. I understand the need for keeping weight down but I’m not sure how many Americans will go for the non-power steering.  Unless the weight penalty would keep the trike from the 84 mpg goal, I’d go with a smaller steering wheel, a quicker rack & pinion ratio and some kind of power assist. It’s not so hard to steer that you can’t almost palm the wheel when parking, but it takes much more effort at low speeds than most drivers are used to. Once going, though, the steering lightens up and I was able to place the Elio trike precisely on the road. I never felt like there was a shortage of grip. The ride wasn’t plush but it wasn’t uncomfortably firm either, again, about what you’d expect in a small car. Suspension movements seemed well controlled.

Mr. Elio told me that there were three basic design objectives: a 0-60 time of 10 seconds, 84 miles per gallon on the highway, and a top speed of at least 100 mph. I’d be interested to feel how the Elio trike handles at speeds higher than 45 mph.

I’ve said that if the Elio trike does go on sale, it could be embraced by car enthusiasts as a poor man’s Morgan 3 Wheeler, which starts at around $45K. If they meet their price point the Elio will also be about a third of the price of the new Polaris Slingshot reverse trike. With a 2.4 liter GM Ecotec engine, and extreme styling, the Slingshot is more explicitly targeted at the go-fast crowd. Having driven the prototype Elio trike I can now say that it does have enthusiast potential, even if it isn’t quite sporting right now. Once they’re up and running, more powerful versions of the Elio are likely. The engine has been designed by IAV with a turbocharger in mind. Paul Elio told me that Comau, which is providing the machinery and automation for the assembly lines at the Shreveport plant, has left a spot on the line empty for the time being so that a turbo installation station can be added later.

It’s indeed a prototype. Some parts are handmade and show signs of wear from not fitting perfectly. The hinges on the cargo hatch interfered with the rubber weatherstripping. At first I thought the A/C controls, by Vintage Air, were dummies, but under the hood there were A/C components so I fiddled with the knobs and eventually got some tepid air to blow through the two eyeball vents on the dashboard. The prototype had one of Continental VDO’s Flexible Smartphone Docking Stations mounted on the dashboard. That’s how Elio is going to offer in-car infotainment. Below the FSDS is a USB port and a 12 volt power tap. There’s also a 12 volt receptacle in the back for the passenger’s use. That passenger will feel less claustrophobic than in the previous prototype as the profile of the rear side windows has been modified.

You can’t judge build quality or possible durability from a prototype. There were a few rattles and clunks, but in general it didn’t feel flimsy.  Still, other than the drivetrain and steering rack, the prototype is close to how they want the production vehicle to be so an extended test drive will yield usable data.

Company founder Paul Elio says that he first dreamed of starting a car company when he was eight years old.

Company founder Paul Elio says that he first dreamed of starting a car company when he was eight years old.

Paul Elio said that production will start in the second half of 2015. With Job One only a year or so out, the design has got to be close to being finalized as tooling and supplier contracts have to be in place by then. Elio said that he expects production will start in Q3 or Q5 of 2015. When I asked him if there was anything that would keep them from going into production, Elio told me, “Funding”. When I later asked him to clarify he said that it was a matter of getting their investors to participate in another round of funding. He stressed how they were happy with their existing investors, who themselves are happy about the reservations. Nearly half of the projected 60,000 first year units are already theoretically spoken for. Elio also said that at this time they aren’t looking for more investors.

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As for progress, Elio told me that castings for the first Elio engine have been delivered. It will take four to eight weeks for them to be machined and then a few more weeks for assembly. Assuming that all goes well, they will then build about 30 complete validation cars. Five will be used for crashworthiness and other destructive testing, the other 25 will undergo road testing and will also be used as press demonstrators.

They’re aiming for a 0-60 mph time of around 10 seconds. I didn’t use a stopwatch, but based on the fact that the rather tired (90,000 miles +) Suzuki triple was originally rated right around the 55 hp that Elio’s proprietary IAV designed 0.9 liter engine is supposed to put out, from the prototype’s performance I’d say that they should meet their target. While it’s not fast, I didn’t feel unsafe in traffic.

Concerning safety, since three-wheelers are considered motorcycles as far as federal law is concerned, the Elio trike won’t have to meet the automotive part of the FMVSS, so Elio will likely not submit it for NHTSA crash testing. Paul Elio said that they likely will have the trike privately tested instead and then make the results public. While the Elio will feature air bags and has Barenyi style crush zones front and back, I suspect that most of what protection passengers will receive will come from the fact that the main structure of the vehicle is essentially a full roll cage.

That brings me to a topic that when I brought it up, Jerome Vassallo laughed heartily. If, as Jack Baruth reported after driving Alex Roy’s Morgan, the Brit trike has almost magical powers to attract women, the Elio trike might be a big more like a guarantor of celibacy for young men who drive it. While I was able to talk a fat man into the back seat, I’m not so sure many young women would climb back there and ride tandem with a date, talking to the back of his head. It may be legally a motorcycle and the prototype may have a Suzuki engine but it’s from being a sexy Hayabusa.

Speaking of women, I’d be interested to see some of the results of Elio’s market research and how women perceive the little three wheeled car. One reason why SUVs and now CUVs have been popular with female consumers is the high driving position and the perceived feeling of safety driving a substantial vehicle. At the Dream Cruise showing, while I was there a number of women stopped to look at the car and ask the baseball jersey wearing Elio reps questions, but I did overhear one woman expressing concerns about the Elio’s safety in a crash. Perhaps I’m wrong about the celibacy thing since none of the women seemed repelled by the trike. Their questions were practical, not about styling. Maybe they think it’s is kind of cute. To my eyes it looks more modern than dorky, more Lotus Seven than Aptera.

Elio’s confidence in the car was well placed. I’m not damning it with faint praise when I say that it’s a real automobile, albeit of the three wheeled variety. The prototype may drive like a regular car but building four prototypes is a far piece from churning out 60,000 cars. Between now and the third quarter of 2015 a lot of things could happen but I’m optimistic. It takes a lot of confidence to just hand someone the keys to a prototype, particularly when that someone is associated with a publication known for steely eyed skepticism. When I first became aware of Elio and their trike though I understood why those who said it was vaporware said so, my own initial reaction was, “it’s not rocket science, they could very well succeed.” Now that I’ve driven their latest prototype I’m even more convinced about their chances for success.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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148 Comments on “Exclusive Capsule Review: Elio Motors P4 Prototype...”


  • avatar
    JCK

    Seems like a good deal as a second car solely for commuting, assuming you’re not, say, on the 405 in LA.

    How is this regulated safety-wise? Are there airbags, or is this considered a motorcycle?

    • 0 avatar

      Three airbags, one center, two side curtains! A more important question, will the car come without a fugly ‘child safety seat warning sticker’ on the visor!?!? I asked on twitter, but they didn’t answer that question yet.

    • 0 avatar

      It has to meet FMVSS for motorcycles. The passenger cell, crush zones and air bags that Elio says will be built into their trikes are not legally required, which is why the Morgan 3 Wheeler and the new Polaris Slingshot don’t have them. Polaris specifically says that they don’t have airbags because it’s not an automobile.

      I think that Elio is smart to build it to what appear to be automotive safety standards. As mentioned, one of the people looking at the prototype at the Dream Cruise was concerned about safety in a collision. I have a recollection that early on they said the Elio trike would meet NHTSA’s 5 Star crash testing standards, but since NHTSA doesn’t test motorcycles they’ll have to market the vehicle’s crashworthiness some other way. Here’s a company produced animation of a frontal impact’s effect on the chassis:

      http://direct.eliomotors.com/_v1/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Frontal_Impact_Animation_3_small.gif

  • avatar

    I like the fact that Elio does make a serious attempt “to fill the void” – that big, gaping hole between automobile and motorcycle. And chose for sleeker and lighter. However, if you look at it from a user’s point of view, then you will notice that the Elio has the footprint (160″ by 70″) of a compact hatchback, but without its carrying capacity. Only two can be accommodated, one behind the other. The other downside are the vulnerable, exposed front wheels/front suspension. They will easily shear off upon impact. And without anything to compensate for lateral forces, Elio will likely oversteer in corners, especially when roads are slippery. No special rear- or side-impact precautionary measures either, except for its tubular frame. But then again, three-wheelers don’t need to meet NCAP crash safety standards for regular (four-wheeled) cars.

    • 0 avatar
      JCK

      But, if they can meet their price goal, you’ll be able to get two of these for the price a cheap compact hatchback.

      I don’t disagree with your points, but a lot of the downsides you mention are compensated for by the price.

      Safety to me is the biggest concern. How much better do these things do than a motorcycle in crash tests?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        A standard motorcycle in a crash test? Seriously? This has a steel cage around you, airbags, and crumple zones. It is probably MUCH safer than a compact car from the ’80s.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      I hear you out but I suspect most sales are going to be as a 2nd commuter car. That’s my plan at this point. Just buy it to drive it to campus and replace the xB with something larger for hauling and such. The cost of insuring and gas should be negligible.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      If it comes to market at their quoted price and mpg it could be the third and/or forth car for a commuting couple. Gas savings alone would pay for the vehicle. During rush hour 90% of the cars are single driver and unless you’re picking up/dropping off kids on your route the number of seats are largely irrelevant. The only obstacle I can think of is the every increasing ride height the American consumer has seemed to need in its daily driver.

      I haven’t placed a deposit, but the day it actually goes on sale I’ll buy one. My solitary 50 mile round trip commute will recoup the cost of the vehicle very quickly.

  • avatar
    threeer

    They are working across all 50 states regarding safety regulations in the hope that a motorcycle license (and hence, helmet laws) won’t be required. A manual trans will also be offered, as will certain aesthetic options like open fairings for the front wheels as some of the first prototypes had. It is an interesting proposition…given my driving needs for about 90% of my time when I live in the US, this would certainly be all that I’d need. We’ll see if it comes to fruition. Regardless of if I ever buy one, I certainly applaud them and hope they are very successful.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    More Elio nonsense, I guess it’s true: there’s a sucker born every minute. This particular lawn mower will never make it to production and it’s not investors that will kill it (although they will), it’s the complete lack of customers. It will never be built.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      29,000 people say otherwise.

      • 0 avatar
        jdash1972

        29,000 people are stupid, and out their deposit. And deposit does not equal sale.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          jdash,
          Any chance you were listening when your mother told you what to do when you don’t have anything positive to say?

          I all in favor of a good argument, but it’s hard to argue with someone who is so negative. Maybe you were a Fiskar investor and got burned?

          • 0 avatar
            jdash1972

            I think some ideas are bad enough to be self evident. He obviously can’t build it for anything close to $6800 and I believe the potential consumer base is quite small. Production is always a year (or more) in the future, but never gets closer. He doesn’t have the capital, the engineering, the market research to validate his proposal, he doesn’t really even have a facility – maybe the promise of an empty building but little else. This is not a vehicle manufacturer, it’s a website with a home made prototype constructed from used parts stripped donor vehicles. What’s there to be positive about? It’s a scam. Point to one concrete thing he has, other than 29,000 deposits that he has already spent…, on his own salary? He needs 250,000,000 dollars by his own words. Do the math, how many of these things dies he have to sell at 10k each at, and let’s be generous, 25% gross margin, to even cover the debt? Answer: more than all of North America has an appetite for.

          • 0 avatar

            “It’s a scam.”

            Jdash,

            At the SAE World Congress I spoke to an engineer at IAV’s booth. I specifically asked him about Elio being a scam. He was familiar with the project and he didn’t think so. Engines don’t get designed for free and IAV surely has resources invested in their work for Elio. Either Elio has already paid them for the engine design, or IAV believes they’ll get paid down the line. My guess is that the deal involves a per engine royalty in addition to design and consulting fees.

            Likewise with their Comau deal concerning body shop and assembly line automation: Comau has costs involved in the relationship.

            Why would IAV (which is controlled by Volkswagen) and Comau be involved if it’s all a scam? Is getting their name on a press release worth being associated with a fraud?

            Maybe it is all about a paycheck for Paul Elio and the other people involved for as long as they can play out the string, but in the year or so since a reader here at TTAC suggested that I check out Elio’s project after I wrote about a cheap Chinese reverse trike they’ve made progress. I’ve watched them refine the design and build a fourth prototype. The rate of people making deposits is accelerating. They’re moving ahead with their own engine. The rest of the process is pretty transparent and we’ll know at each step if they’ll get to the next challenge.

            From what I was told, the first IAV/Elio engine will be test fired by late fall. We’ll see if they release video of the prototype engine running. We’ll see if new machinery and tooling is installed in the Shreveport plant. Then we’ll see if they actually build those 30 validation cars.

            Until they fail, it isn’t a failure and unless we hear reports of people’s refundable deposits not being escrowed and refunded, we can’t say that it’s a scam.

            From the outset I’ve said that the people who are skeptics have good reasons to be so. The real estate deal for the GM factory started out as Elio’s backer buying and then leasing to them and ended up with the county buying the factory, leasing it to the backer who is subleasing to Elio.

            Then there are things that evoke previous scams and failures. Trying to raise money on the fly (Tucker), building a three wheel vehicle with a composite body (cf. Dale), promising a region of employment (Bricklin, DeLorean etc. etc.), or taking deposits on cars not yet fully designed (Tucker) give one ample reason to be a skeptic even before you look at the financials and the cost of making the car.

            Still, until they fail or are proven to be scoundrels I’ll keep my mind open to the possibility that it isn’t a scam.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            “It’s a scam.”

            This sounds familiar:
            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/11/question-of-the-day-is-tesla-doomed-to-imitate-tucker%E2%80%8F/

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            The production delays are probably attributable to issues with DOE funding through the ATVM loan program. Under Secretary Chu, Elio had little chance of acquiring funding because neither the vehicle nor the manufacturing techniques are particularly green. Moniz has promised an all-of-the-above energy strategy, which may help Elio acquire funding. The company filed a new application about 2 weeks ago for $200M in ATVM funding.

    • 0 avatar
      shipping96

      People are going to remember this post. Prepare to eat crow.

    • 0 avatar
      liquidwindows

      Well let’s see. I saw it, and put money down on one (#5,750 ish). I showed my wife, and she insisted I buy one for her also (#13,000ish). I showed it to a few friends down at the coffee shop and four other people put money down on one. From my personal experience so far, I would say they will have far more customers than they can handle for a while. At the exponential rate the pre-orders are coming in, they will have far more orders than they can produce for the first two years until they can get production up. If the thing turns out to have very few problems, there might just be more of these on the road than anything else in a few years. They make sense, and are affordable – good combo.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I can see the appeal of this car, especially as a second or third vehicle in your household used strictly as a commuter. There was a piece on the Elio on CNBC which prompted me to do a little independent research, but found very little. This article provides a pretty good deal of information compared to what I found….thanks. Since it will be classified as a motorcycle and not subject to federal automobile safety testing/standards, my main concern would be how it would hold up in a crash….with a car or truck. I could see the Elio being a frequent blind spot victim. I would want to see Insurance Instutue testing or something similar before commiting to it.

    Even though I think its a great idea, it is probably not for me, or maybe I should say that I am not ready for it.

    • 0 avatar
      SlowMyke

      Do you have the same reservations about motorcycles? Those are even smaller and will offer less protection, regardless of helmets. And given helmets are not mandatory in many states, this thing will be many times safer than a motorcycle, given that it’s enclosed, will have airbags, and should be much more stable through emergency maneuvers. People damn small vehicles like this as being unsafe, but being a vigilant driver and adjusting how you drive (ie where you position yourself in relation to other vehicles) will go a long way to keeping yourself safe.

      I hope this thing sees production, especially since I see things like can-ams running around somewhat frequently. I personally lust after a Morgan trike, and more affordable and livable options would only be a good thing in my book.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        Yeah I have the same reservations about motorcycles, you wont catch me on the road riding a motorcycle. After being rear ended by a pickup truck this week for no apparent reason other than the driver wasnt paying attention my concerns are only reinforced. So many people think their driving skills are going to protect them, but that only takes you so far, you encounter hundreds of other drivers on the road each day, any one of them has the potential to kill you, one moron is all it takes and he had my number earlier in the week unfortunately. I will take my chances in a car with airbags, etc. States with out no helmet laws are simply speeding along the process of natural selection. I hope the Elio sees production too, but in order for me to ever consider it, it would have to be proven to stand up to what I would encounter on the road in a car is all I am saying.

        • 0 avatar
          SlowMyke

          I get what you’re saying. I was just asking. It seems like a lot of people ask about the safety in relation to a motorcycle, accepting the risk of the bike but putting down products like this because of it. I fully agree, you’d never catch me on a motorcycle, I’d be too afraid of other people our even myself doing something dumb. And I know that driver skill and awareness only get you so far, at some point, all vehicles will fail safety-wise under the right circumstances. It’s just a matter of what point you’re comfortable with, add the safety of this is obviously below that of larger vehicles.

          That said, I wonder how much energy from a rear-end crash would just move you forward? Assuming there’s not another vehicle in front of you to squish you between…

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            Motorcycle safety and Elio safety are not comparable. Most riders use motorcycles for pleasure, and the perils of riding are determined by the road conditions, time of day, weather, and route. Elio is a commuting car, which means it will be driven into the heart of the vehicular war zone in all weather conditions at the worst time of day.

            It is reasonable for motorcyclists to question small commuter vehicles, even if Elio seems far more safe to on-looking laypersons.

        • 0 avatar
          don1967

          Do you have reservations about crossing the street without a helmet? Every year thousands of pedestrians are killed by idiot drivers, and yet nobody considers walking to be dangerous.

          How about diet and exercise? The 250-pound guy sitting in the McDonald’s drive-thru might be 3 french fries away from a heart attack, and yet everyone considers him “safe” because he’s doing it in a Volvo.

          Just sayin’ that everything in life involves risk, and the most obvious risks are not necessarily the most dangerous. It’s the ones we don’t think about that tend to get us.

        • 0 avatar
          Charliej

          Nothing is 100 percent safe. I rode motorcycles for over fifty years with two crashes on the road. Once I got a flat tire and fell in a turn. The other time a woman ran a stop sign and I hit her in the drivers door. She went to the hospital, I was shaken and bruised. Some people on this site, seem to believe that riding a motorcycle is a suicidal act. It is not. Pay attention and you will most likely be OK. In my years of driving cars, I had one crash, 49 years ago. The last ten years of my working life, I drove about fifty thousand miles a year for business. Add on another twenty thousand miles per year for pleasure driving and riding. I don’t think that it was luck that kept me going. I paid attention to the traffic around me and adjusted my driving or riding style to match. Driving a larger vehicle is not the answer, I have seen what happens when a cement mixer rolled over in a turn and crushed a Suburban. No survivors. You control what happens to you, most of the time. There are some events that are not survivable, why worry about it. If it happens to you, you probably will not even have time to say “Oh shit”.

  • avatar
    grinchsmate

    Any word of a RHD version?

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    I’m not skeptical that they can produce it, I’m skeptical that they can sell it at a profit for $6,800. That’s make-believe land.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’m skeptical it would get up to appropriate highway speeds with two fat Americans in it!

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      With automation, they’ve got a chance. If you take a look at a Versa sedan and start subtracting, it starts to seem doable. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a $1k increase after the first year.

      • 0 avatar
        DeeDub

        I’m trying to do the math comparison from the other direction and don’t see how it adds up. Motorcycles made in Thailand and Taiwan sell for more than this. The Can Am, which I think of as the closest equivalent to this, *starts* at $15K.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Everything on a motorcycle has to be pretty compact, and thereby use more expensive materials and design techniques. Using the highest common denominator of car parts is a much cheaper route.
          Without actually researching for a cheaper price I can find a brand new GM LS 5.3 long block for $3,500. That’s probably even with the cost of some modern motorcycle new engines.
          Now imagine using technology older than an LS engine on something less than half its size.
          Even with auxilary features I bet the engine setup is cheaper than your average motorcycle setup.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            Not always. Lighter weight means you can go with lower cost components. Lighter weight means lower cost equipment for assembly. A lower parts count makes it cheaper to assemble.

            You don’t have to use more expensive materials in motorcycles – in fact it’s the opposite. In terms of volume, if you look at the volume of motorcycle parts worldwide, it’s probably greater than the automotive market.

            I’m in the middle of spec’ing out some heavy duty wheeled robots and have been focusing on wheels, spindle assemblies, bearings, and axles this morning, so it’s fresh in my mind.

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          Can am is simply hitting people up because they can. Production cost on an elio should be between 3-5K. The Can-Am costs closer to 5-8K assembled, but they know the market they want and see no reason to leave 3-5K on the table.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          The Can-Am Spyder is an over-computerize, incredibly complex vehicle. Way overly complex in my opinion. And I’m the guy who handles the warranty and recall claims for the local dealership.

        • 0 avatar
          RoadNoise

          I think the Can Am has more complex stearing and braking, more custom work.

        • 0 avatar
          liquidwindows

          Here is a good way to think of it. It’s built at about the same quality as other cheap small cars that start around 13,500. It is half the weight, so half the materials, it will take half the manpower per car, half the paint etc. The company will cap the executive pay to far less than half the industry average. They are designing the thing to use tried and true parts that have been on the market for a long time wherever possible, so no effort and R&D wasted redesigning the wheel – many of the parts are off the shelf and already mass produced. They have experienced automotive engineers and have included every decent American parts manufacturer they can in the project – all of whom have a vested interest in the success of the venture. This has been smartly conceived and when you put the pencil to paper to do the math, it works out about right.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      You can buy a Seat Mii (sister of VW Up!), a Citroën C1, Peugeot 107, Dacia Sandero and maybe some other small cars for that price in Czech Republic, if you exclude VAT.

    • 0 avatar

      The $6,800 price is for manual transmission and no cruise control. Figure 1000$ for auto tranny and 500$ for cruise if those are “must have” items.

      Still well below $10k with taxes & license fees. Considering the Hyundai Accent is now $14,635 or whatever MSRP instead of the $9999 they used to advertise the base model at, for a commuter or IT service vehicle, the value looks pretty attractive.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Comparing to Chinese-sourced motorcycles of similar displacement and adding in the extra features, the price seems implausibly low. And those likely don’t include much in the way of recouping capital investment.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      Yeah, I have an MBA and I develop new products for a living, and both experiences tell me that Elio not only SHOULDN’T have announced pricing so early, but also NEEDN’T have.

      Unless they’re going for a moon shot (huge viral campaign with make-it-or-bust pricing). Which to be honest, is the only way any car company started in the last 30 years has succeeded.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I don’t develop new products for a living, but I do have an MBA. And I would say that in this case, it is probably necessary to do what one can before the fact to know how the market will respond to a given price point, before all of the investment dollars are committed.

        It’s hard to know what people would pay for this or how many of them are willing to pay it, since there aren’t many other useful proxies that can be used for the sake of comparison. An equity investor should want to know this, and random guesswork based upon prevailing motorcycle prices and demand wouldn’t cut it. The ability to collect deposits based upon those projected prices might provide some confidence that there is a niche market here (although I personally remain skeptical.)

    • 0 avatar
      liquidwindows

      Half the materials, half the weight, half the production time, half the cost. I’m sure they will soon make a high end sporty version with more power and a higher profit margin. Also, they will be capping the executive pay, which is where an awful lot of the money in the car biz goes – also, no dealership middlemen taking a cut. It actually does work out when you put the pencil to paper. It will not be a high profit margin, but it will be possible for them to get up and running on this.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Is that a Ford steering wheel? It seems familiar enough but I can’t exactly place it. I think it has previous gen Mustang vents though.

  • avatar
    Wraith

    Something needs to be fixed here:

    “Paul Elio said that production will start in the second half of 2015. With Job One only a year or so out, the design has got to be close to being finalized as tooling and supplier contracts have to be in place by then. Elio said that he expects production will start in Q3 or Q5 of 2015.”

    Missing word:

    “It may be legally a motorcycle and the prototype may have a Suzuki engine but it’s [far] from being a sexy Hayabusa.”

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I would not want to try and reverse this thing at night (or at any time in a parking lot/garage), relying on mirrors only.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Night makes reversing easier because other vehicles have their headlights on. I’d hate to reverse the Elio in a congested shopping center parking lot, with lots of mid-day pedestrian traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Better than backing up a car with a bunker slit for a rear window that’s blocked by a rear spoiler – then having to stop because the passenger decides to adjust the climate control via the touch screen and kills the rear camera display.

    • 0 avatar

      As I mentioned in the in-car video, backing up is a little weird at first but as others have pointed out, plenty of truck drivers manage to pull back into loading docks with vehicles many times the size of the Elio trike using just their side mirrors. As long as you can see pedestrians and motorcycles in the mirrors it shouldn’t be an issue. I can see, however, Elio offering a backup camera as an option. Not sure where they’d put the screen, perhaps make a faux rear view mirror and mount it up on the windshield.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    Interesting thing. I wonder whether they have any chance of selling it in Europe, with small cars here being as cheap as they are.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I agree with voyager’s concerns above.

    This vehicle cuts a path down the road just as wide as a compact car, so it won’t be as maneuverable as a motorcycle. Also, it will take up just as much space in your garage as a regular car.

    Basically, there is no way people will drop $6800 for a 3-wheeler with outriggers, pretending to be a car. The more-costly Can-Am Spyder is better-looking, and it looks like a more-stable motorcycle, rather than an unstable car. So there is a huge marketing difference between these vehicles.

    84 mpg? Even if it happens, that doesn’t seem compelling enough for just two passengers.

    Sorry, but I think it has the same snowball’s chance as the Aptera.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Guess I’m nobody. I was thinking this morning about looking for a new job, but it’s likely I’d be looking at a hundred mile commute round-trip. The Elio would make that much more workable, I’d save $1600 per year compared to your typical 35 mpg compact. It literally pays for itself.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Smart sells 5000-10,000 fortwos a year at about twice the price with less of a mileage benefit. No doubt a chunk of those customers alone could consider switching.

      Also, unfortunately, the maneuverability benefits of a motorcycle mostly only exist in California. If you can’t lane split, you might as well get something with a roof unless you’re committed to a bike (I totally am).

    • 0 avatar
      RoadNoise

      I’ll take the air conditioned Elio on a hot Summer day, in stop and go traffic, any day over the Can-Am Spyder. I’ll take the air conditioned Elio on a muggy, hot, rainy day, in stop and go traffic, any day over the Can-Am Spyder. I’ll take the seat belt, roll cage, and air bags, any day over the Can-Am Spyder, when going 60 mph on the freeway, a 60 pound iron do-hickey falls off the truck in front of me. And even though the Elio is small, I’m hoping the roll cage and light weight of the Elio will result in kinetic energy when t-boned by an SUV instead of resulting in crumpling and maiming…one can only wince at the results of the Can-Am being t-boned by an SUV.

  • avatar
    TW5

    The Elio’s raison d’etre is easy to understand. Average vehicle occupancy per mile in the US is roughly 1.3 persons; therefore, a majority of US miles are driven as single-passenger commuter miles. Furthermore, the US imports about $200B of oil for consumption, about 50% of imports are used to fuel light-duty passenger vehicles. Since national gasoline price average is about $3.50, specialty commuter vehicles in the sub-$10,000 price range, can pay for themselves after 3-5 years of commuting service, depending upon miles driven and projected resale value. In essence, Elio is a free vehicle, bought with funds that would otherwise be spent on oil imports. The Elio is an “and car” in substance, not just marketing rhetoric.

    The trouble with Elio is their exposure to competition and storage problems resulting from the “and car” ownership model. Several manufacturers have already developed tandem seat prototypes or single-seaters (the most famous is probably the Volkswagen 1L), but they’ve not put them into production, despite favorable economics, because the auto industry is a conservative corrupt oligopoly, with no real incentive to improve the lives of its customers. Paul Elio wants to change the industry, but what’s the end game? If Elio is successful, a manufacturer like Toyota could come over the top with a similar product, offering less NVH, and a 1.0L atkinson-cycle engine. The Toyota would be superior to anything Elio could offer.

    It seems that Elio’s only protection is the low MSRP and the lack of spare production capacity at the major auto manufacturers. Tenuous business proposition, though I hope they succeed.

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      They’re also vulnerable to even-more-disruptive technologies. Check out the Lit Motors C-1. It’s an all-electric enclosed two-wheeled two-seater that drives like a car thanks to gyroscopic stabilization. The up front cost is much higher ($24K before electric vehicle tax rebates) but the energy cost is miniscule – claimed to be 0.6 cents per mile compared to the Elio’s ~4 cents per mile.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        It looks cool, but at $24K its not much threat to the Elio. According to my math, the fuel savings will take almost 500,000 miles to make up the $17,000 price difference.

        • 0 avatar
          DeeDub

          I agree, but don’t forget Uncle Sugar’s tax credits, plus state ones as well. Plus I don’t really believe that the Elio will cost less than $7K. I think the real price difference will end up being less than $10K.

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        C1 and Elio exist for different reasons. The C1 exists to provide the coolest fuel-efficient urban vehicle on the planet. The Elio exists to provide commuters with a car that eliminates negative cash flows, or, at the very least, offsets its cost with fuel savings, while reducing environmental pollution and trade deficit.

    • 0 avatar
      RoadNoise

      If Elio proves to be viable and successful, they could compete with the Toyota since Elio will be established or they could ripe for being bought by GM or Ford etc. I think they will change the automotive industry substantially and still have life afterwards.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I agree with SCE to AUX and Voyager. In every picture all I could think about was how the elio looks like the same size as a c-segment car across the front wheels.

    So it’s no easier to park than a car and it can’t split lanes (where legal) like most motorcycles. It offers more protection than a motorcycle, but you don’t have as many means to escape an accident in the first place as you would on a motorcycle. I also think it will be harder to notice on the road, being lower and likely quieter.

    A cheap, fuel efficient vehicle that protects you from the elements has its merits, but I think this thing loses too much functionality. Why this over a $5k-$7k used car? Is a warranty worth that much when you lose two seats and half your luggage space, all while occupying the same footprint on the road?

    Other attempts at cheap motoring (eg, Mitsubishi Mirage) can at least say that with the warranty they meet minimal safety standards and don’t give up anything to a similar sized “real car” when it comes to carrying people and stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      As a commuter vehicle, its advantage over a cheap used car is much better gas mileage, and possibly HOV lane access if it’s classified as a bike. Motorcycles have these same advantages, plus lane splitting, but they suck in the rain and in winter. (I know, I commute 100 miles/day round trip on a motorcycle year round). The Lit Motors C-1 that I mentioned just above has the all the advantages of both, but costs a buttload more. No vehicle hits all the marks of cheap, efficient, comfortable and traffic-bypassing.

    • 0 avatar
      SlowMyke

      There are plenty of vehicles that offer no true quantifiable advantage over competitors. There’s a lot of other factors like subjective qualities people would choose one vehicle over another. Frugality is huge for some people and they will withstand a lot of inconvenience to get it. Motorcycles are a good example. People still driving the original insight are another. As pointed out above, the market size will be the biggest question. But as a two vehicle couple myself, I can say I’d be a member of this possible market. Most of the time I don’t need more than two seats, a small amount of storage, and meager power. It’s not like you turn directly onto the highway, you’ve got an on rank to accelerate and at least half my driving is to and from work, or visiting someone with my wife. The elio fits those needs just fine.

      And I’m not too worried about horrifying safety. I’m sure there will be safety features and a lot of crashes that would injure me in that would also injure me in a car. Gotta live your life.

      • 0 avatar
        Charliej

        Motorcycles in the US generally are not ridden to save money, they are ridden because they are fun. Riding a bike is like skiing. It is a fun activity that rewards skill, in that if you are skillful, you get to do it again tomorrow. That is the reason that small capacity motorcycles do not sell well in the US. Here in Mexico, where I now reside, small capacity bikes are everywhere. The reason is that here bikes, are first and foremost, for transportation, not pleasure. The number of motorcycles and scooters on the road is orders of magnitude higher than in the US. Also, here everbody rides. Old ladies, mothers with children, the whole family on a scooter. And amazingly enough, the number of crashes is fairly low in my little part of the country.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Elio is supposed to be a specialty vehicle, owned in addition to another vehicle with more utility for multi-passenger use. It is unlikely the car will ever be cross-shopped with $5,000-$7,000 used vehicles, except by young single drivers, maybe.

      If people drove specialty commuter vehicles for their mundane workaday chores, we probably wouldn’t be dealing with CAFE standards and other disruptive regulations.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        As enthusiasts, we all love the idea of specialty vehicles for every purpose. Unfortunately, I think most of us have limited space and need our cars to do multiple tasks well.

        I don’t mean to imply that the elio has nothing to offer; I’m sure there is a market for it. I just have my doubts that the market is big enough for sustainable sales at a profit. I am glad someone is trying it though. Always nice to have variety and choice.

        • 0 avatar
          TW5

          It is true that Elio fails to address the problems associated with automotive storage; however, specialty vehicles, in general, are not necessarily ignorant of storage issues.

          Smart Fortwo, for instance, could be parked nose-to-tail in my 22ft garage. If Elio were as wide as the 1L, perhaps side-by-side parking would be possible.

      • 0 avatar

        One market that they are going for is the large number of people who are driving 15-20 year old (or older) beaters that get less than the US fleet average of ~27 mpg. They spend money on gasoline and repairs because they have to get to work tomorrow and can’t afford the up front costs of a car with a warranty (you’re not going to find many CPO cars in the $5K-$7K range). Elio’s selling point is that for what you’re currently spending on gas, you can have something new, with a warranty. We’ll see if they start production and if they meet their price point.

    • 0 avatar

      There is a way to create a ‘transgender’ between motorcycle and car. Even a best of those two worlds: the maneuverability and space/energy efficiency of a motor scooter and the comfort and safety of an automobile. Have the three-wheeler bank during cornering to prevent it from side-sweeping. The front track needn’t be that wide. By making the body wider than Elio’s, you can even create a third seating position, and the wheels can be housed within the body. Check out: http://smartforthree.blogspot.nl/

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    More power (so to speak) to ‘em and I hope this takes off.

    I’m all for a motoring world that looks like a mechanized Ice Age North America – room enough for snowshoe rabbits and short-faced bears alike.

    I just hope this thing doesn’t do a market-faceplant because of something stupid like the nancies deciding it shouldn’t be allowed on the road because the driver would have to be wet-vacced out of the thing after a T-bone with a Freightliner.

  • avatar
    madman2k

    What kind of manual transmission does it have? Sequential like a motorcycle or a regular car type?

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      The prototypes appear to use the manual or the (awful) automatic from the same donor Geo Metros that gave the engines. The website ( http://www.eliomotors.com ) describes an automotive type five speed manual, with an option of an automated manual, but I haven’t seen any specifics about the development of either.

    • 0 avatar
      RoadNoise

      In one video I saw, the driver was shifting like a regular car standard transmission.

  • avatar
    mcs

    This enclosed cabin tuk-tuk pickup is only $650 US in large quantities – a tenth of the Elio’s price.

    http://cqjuyun.en.alibaba.com/product/602626621-219753343/Tricycle_with_Cabin_Loading_Cargo_hot_sale_Tricycle_HL200ZH_5B.html

  • avatar
    Daniel Latini

    Great stuff, Ronnie, especially as a TTAC exclusive

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Paint some white stripes on it, and call it Nemo.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    When I explain my Leaf to people, they usually reply with “you mean it takes no gas at all?” Those with range anxiety become disappointed.

    When people see the Elio P4, they’ll think it’s electric. Those who expect goofy-looking cars to be electric will be disappointed.

    I think I’d rather have the Geo Metro at 50 mpg than the P4 at 84 mpg.

    “http://www.ebay.com/itm/Geo-XFI-1992-Geo-Metro-XFI-runs-and-drives-nice-rust-free-body-50-mpg-simple-and-fun-/121419571062?forcerrptr=true&hash=item1c452b9f76&item=121419571062&pt=US_Cars_Trucks”

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Oops, just watched (and *liistened*) to the vid of him driving it.

    What could be more damning?
    Sorry, Mr. Elio.

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      The engine noise in the prototype is excessive, but could surely be brought down for production. They probably didn’t want to invest too much in reducing that until they had their own engine to work with. They could have made a better impression with the squeaks and rattles, though.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I noticed it too, but as Ronnie states, it’s just an old carbed Geo Metro motor jammed in there to make a running prototype. It’s not the actual production engine.

      When I first started listening to it, I thought it was an old Chrysler 2.2L from that characteristic clacking.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I want one of these, but not for the reason most would. I’ll take mine with the Turbo Metro motor and a manual trans. Better yet, a ‘busa motor. A sturdy hand brake that can easily lock up the rear wheel would be appreciated.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    So if these are treated as motorcycles, would they be treated as motorcycles for HOV lane access?

    If the answer to that is yes suddenly an electric of series-hybrid when the cost structure makes more sense makes little sense for my personal situation.

    Free HOV access, climate controlled cab (kind of important in soggy Seattle) and seating for two with room for cargo, AND under $10K.

    Huh – go Elio go!

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      I see a problem registering this as a motorcycle. In Texas the steering wheel vs handlebars and the seat vs saddle make it a car if I remember correctly. That isn’t the only criteria IIRC but I think it is enough. States differ but I don’t think the feds can dictate.

      If I were to buy this I would want a front end that was a little more solid. Works fine as is but as a commuter I think reliability would suffer. I think it would be a lot of fun and hope he makes it.

  • avatar
    probert

    I wish them great success but I see a couple of marketing issues:

    Americans are conformists- it will be hard to convince them to do something different that makes them stand out from the crowd.

    Low income people don’t want to be targeted as such – given the vicious politics of poverty I don’t blame them.

    Who buys it then ?

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I think marketing can spin this into something not obviously low income. The Mirage is clearly a poverty-spec car, where the Elio could be presented as only buying as much car as you need to get to work. As others have mentioned, it might end up as a specialty tool for commuting in addition to at least one other vehicle.

      I think it has plenty working against it to find buyers, but I wouldn’t expect the marketing to be a problem.

  • avatar

    I think “taking up the same space” as a compact car is less important than how much budget space it takes up. Lots of suburban commuters have room for a third vehicle, but rarely does it make sense to spend the $15-25k that most new compacts cost on a dedicated commuter in an attempt to save money. At $7k, that changes.

    I would seriously consider one if I had a longer commute, but I’d hold out for the performance version. I’d gladly trade 20-30mpg to upgrade to a 5s 0-60.

    I see a lot of risk on how it hinges on hand-waving and loopholes as a motorcycle:
    1) Helmets and motorcycle licenses might be required
    2) It’s obviously not a motorcycle, so after a few high-profile fatal accidents efforts will begin to change laws.
    3) Said laws vary by state, so now Elio has to have a legal team herding 50 cats.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    So production starts in a year and they don’t show a vehicle with a prototype of the intended engine and trans? Well that certainly cuts lead time to new levels of “fast”.
    I would have asked if anybody had cut chips on powertrain die cast dies yet.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Haven’t any of you seen the Top Gear episodes where Clarkson drove and reviewed the Peel P50?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peel_P50

    Later on, he tried to build and drive his own updated version.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Very interesting. The mere fact that it’s different than what is out there is interesting.

    In some cases I could see these as really filling a niche in North America.

    Say you commute to the downtown of a major city:

    Economy car – 25 miles in traffic = 1 gallon each way ($8) plus $15 for parking. Total daily outlay is $23.

    Elio – .33 gallons each way ($3) plus $7.50 for parking (share a spot with another Elio). Total daily is $10.50.

    If it’s unique and fun to own… plus if it’s relatively safe and a reasonable price the wives may approve.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    I don’t doubt that they could probably get this into production, somehow, given adequate funding (which doesn’t seem certain).

    My doubts are:
    – that they will be able to do so in the timeframe stated, given that they don’t yet have a running engine and transmission, and that doesn’t leave a lot of time left for proper validation testing (they’ve already missed previously-stated dates)
    – that they’ll be able to do it at their stated price and be profitable (most motorcycles cost more)
    – that they’ll meet their fuel economy target. The engine has late-1980s level of sophistication. No direct injection, no variable valve timing. I’m thinking it’ll also have late-1980s-econocar fuel consumption. 50 mpg, perhaps – maaaaybe 60 under exceptional circumstances – but not 84.

    I’d be more optimistic if they were claiming 60 mpg for $10,000 …

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I’m waiting for them to raise the hatch so it’s parrellel to the ground. Fill in that great big void with some sheetmetal and some glass. Have a hatch opening way out back. Viola! A true small, cheap delivry/work truck for good ole USA. Or Sergio could work a a deal with Vespa and get the”Ape” federalized.

  • avatar
    wmba

    If someone approached me to invest in this Elio outfit, I’d have a few questions to ask before sending in my deposit.

    1. What is the effect of having open front wheels on aerodynamics? The Lotus 7 and its derivatives have conclusively shown the effect is terrible aerodynamically, let alone open wheel racecars which are roughly as efficient as a barn door in this regard. 80mpg at 20mph might be achievable. Of course, there is always a Trifecta Tune.

    2. Why spend money on a new out-of-date two valve per cylinder engine design, with combustion chambers not dissimilar to a BMC A engine from 1950?

    http://www.technologytell.com/in-car-tech/9277/get-inside-elios-head-least-engines-head/

    The description of “fuel injection targeting” is reminiscent of Doctor Pardoe’s Magic Elixir For All That Ails You list of remedies. The head features Buick Nail Head size valves, while omitting any holes for head bolts. Rubber bands will do the trick.

    Then we see the block.

    http://www.technologytell.com/in-car-tech/9422/heres-elio-didnt-just-build-new-geo-metro-engines/

    Look, IAV is a competent consulting engineering outfit, but obviously doesn’t mind accepting money from the apparently hare-brained. Since they are 50% owned by VW, in the end they’ll probably give Elio a 3 cylinder EA211 Polo engine from the 1980s.

    There must be a host of engines already available for sale from reputable manufacturers, like the new 1 litre Ford 3 cylinder sans turbo. But no, these zany airheads want to make a brand new obsolete one. Not a clue.

    Like any manufacturing company, gross margin would have to be at least 50% in order to cover overhead fixed costs. If they can manufacture that thing for $3500 in parts and labor, I’ll eat my pie-in-the-sky hat.

    No doubt about it, there are legions of “hopefuls”, 29,000 so far, who believe in the tooth fairy, and want to stick it to the man by sending in their hard-earned money deposits to finance a dream.

    Good luck to ‘em is all I can say.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      i think it comes down to cost

      you have to license these motors and i bet ford didnt want to sell

      the car is $7.000… they want the cheapest possible motor

      that seems to be a chinese made sohc triple

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      I’d be more likely to buy an Elio if it DID have a retooled Metro engine (Suzuki G10) and transaxle rather than a new/old IAV design. It would be nice to know that if the company went tits-up, I could find drivetrain parts at the Pick-n-Pull, RockAuto, or any FLAPS, the way I could if I’d bought an old Metro.

      Unless Elio is thinking that yestertech = reliability and longevity (like a Buick 3800), wmba is spot-on here.

  • avatar
    niky

    To say I am jealous of this exclusive would be putting it lightly.

    Even if I am still skeptical about the business model… even if I think that it’s a basically stupid idea to build your own engine for such a low volume product… I think it’s a fairly cool little car.

    Also… regarding economy targets… direct injection and downsized turbocharging sound great on paper… but nothing really trumps lightness, a small cross-section presented to the wind and low rolling resistance. If the actual engine is anywhere near as efficient as an actual Suzuki 1.0 in something with such a narrow and low body, 84 mpg EPA highway is perfectly possible… and much more is possible in the real world.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    For a commuter car and running short errands this car would work for me. I would not want it on the Interstates driving longer distances. I would definitely want this vehicle in a bright color so it can be seen. I will take one in canary yellow.

  • avatar

    Beauty and ‘something special’ is in the eye of the beholder. Avoid marketing a three-wheeler as a poor man’s car with compromised passenger safety. Like processed food that’s cheaper but less nutritious than the ‘real thing’. If people perceive the three-wheeler as the latest toy, my guess is that they are happy to pay even more than for a BMW Mini. If the three-wheeler turns out to consume considerably less fuel, they can easily win that back over time.

  • avatar
    drnoose

    Having owned and driven a Messerschmitt KR200 in traffic, I would like to add my .02 cents worth to this discussion. Three wheeled cars with the two wheels in front under steer like crazy. It takes much more force to convince them to turn. Backing up, even with a passenger is not difficult simply be a use it is so easy to see out of both sides. I was also a me to do 60 easy in that car with only 12 horsepower, so the Elio should feel like it is a hot rod!

    • 0 avatar

      It all depends how the engineering turned out to be, but in principle turn-in in a three-wheeler (two in the front, one in the back) is sharper and more immediate, because the vehicle sort of swivels around the single rear-wheel. With normal cars the steered front wheels need to overcome the rear wheels’ natural tendency to plow on in not just one, but two straight lines.

  • avatar
    pbxtech

    I’ve got to commute anyway. I’d like a commuter vehicle that served double duty. If these are fun, why the hell not? If the they aren’t fun they don’t have a chance.

  • avatar
    arthurk45

    I have been following the Elio story from way back, not so much as a prospective buyer (although a turbo version of this car, with motorcycle fenders and alloy front wheels woud be my first choice should my Buick GL need replacing). This car strikes me as very very similar in many respects to both the Model T (due to its practicality and low cost) and th Model A, due to the prospect of hot rod versions that will strike a perfect match with younger males, less affluent but with speed ambitions. My turbo Elio acceleration estimate, based on the performance of the current Morgan, which has an 82 HP engine on an identically weighted 1200 pound chassis (zero – 60 in 5.8 seconds), leads me to confidently predict as good, and probably better peformance from the turboed Elio. That would place it amongst the top 1 percent from a speed standpoint and probably above that in terms of handling, having seen the Elio zip around corners with the greatest of ease in previous videos. That would make for several very large market segments – the low income, on the basis of price and fuel economy and insurance rates and warranty and unique Elio no down payment financing as one pays for gas. The young and restless (and also low income male), college and otherwise, who would go for the open fendered alloy wheel turbo version in, oh, about a heartbeat. And the fixed income retirees, who never number greater than a two person couple. And finally, all those commuters who can watch their fuel gauge move as
    they speed down the interstates, wearing out perhaps their best famiiy vehicle. Or perhaps their only family vehicle, making the Elio all the more attractive. And, apparently, the Elio quifies for restricted lane access (which it fully deserves) making it even more attractive for commuters. All this leads me to believe that : 1) the first year’s production (which will be less than their steady state ,
    250,000 year rate) will easily be sold out before the first car rolls off the assembly line in Shreveport. 2) this will become the highest selling vehicle in history. Period. It’s a whole lot easier for people to understnd and embrace this design than it was for folks to embrace the VW Beetle way back in the 1950’s. And look at how well that car sold, crappy car that it was, and without the price advantage the Elio
    enjoys. Then there is the international market. I foresee and predict that Paul Elio will be searching for another assembly plant before the end of the first years production.

  • avatar
    Uncle Wainey

    I thought the Geo Metro I-3 had throttle body fuel injection?

    Yeah I’m fun at parties.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Lots of strong opinions about this car! I for one love it, I really hope they can pull this off and I see the value proposition. If you take it at face value, you have a brand new car for about $8k OTD that will get 85mpg. The price is nearly half the cheapest car you can buy in the US, and the mileage is nearly double.

    I would buy one as a commuter, to get the best MPG for the lowest possible price. It would be parked outside, while my thirsty muscle car or classic car or truck or exotic sports car or whatever I have that I do not want to drive every day is parked in the garage.

    Why not buy a used car? I like new cars, I know everything that has ever happened to my brand new Elio. Why not just one car that can do everything? With this car being so cheap I can afford to have both… the right tool for the job. Why not something more expensive but more practical? Double the price, double the gas usage. I want to spend as little as possible on my commuter to free up funds for my fun car. Why not a $1000 beater? I want to drive a new and reliable car.

    All that being said, even though I see the market for this clearly, I do not have a lot of high hopes they can pull it off, at least not for the price and MPG promises. But if they do, I will buy one.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    It seems like a lot of “visionaries” underestimate the cost and difficulty of building a new vehicle from the ground up. So, I’m wondering why this guy assumes the substantial additional burden of designing an engine rather than buying one off the shelf. At this weight, state of the art technology (GDI, VVT, forced induction) is probably not necessary to achieve nice fuel economy figures; and the marginal return from the extra cost of those things is likely very small. What no one has mentioned is the considerable skill required to go from a bumpy, noisy prototype that sounds and rides like an enclosed motorcycle to a finished product that meets consumer expectations for quietness and smoothness on the road.

    I see the “outrigger” front wheels as being extremely vulnerable and the source of an expensive repair even in a moderate crash that leaves the driver uninjured.

    And most people are going to be scared to death to take this thing on a highway. 10 seconds to hit 60 miles per hour is going to be perceived today as frightening. There aren’t many people around who remember what is was like to driver a Mercedes 240D, which — while slow — at least had a feeling of great solidity on the highway.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’ve been following the Elio story for a while also. I really like the concept, and if marketed correctly, could be a hit. Not that I’m an engineer, but I think that there’s enough safety margin in a vehicle like this, relative to similar ones and other used cars for that matter, that I would feel comfortable driving it myself. The one thing that does interest me is why they didn’t spec an off-the-shelf motor and transmission. It’s possible that maybe none of the majors wanted their equipment associated with this project.
    In a way I see it as the successor to the wave of super cheap subcompacts that arrived in North America during the late 1980’s (i.e., Yugo and Hyundai), but with at least the promise of better reliability. Granted, that’s a complete unknown right now. But the low price of entry got butts in seats and made a big splash. If they can promote the car as an everyman’s ride, this is where Elio may succeed.
    Someone further up the thread mentioned the possibility of making a van-type of vehicle out of this thing, not a bad idea. I could see commercial versions of the Elio, as replacement for some of the vehicles that are used for lighter/smaller loads. Additionally, utilities, cities and municipalities could buy fleets of these things for parking enforcement, meter readers, zoning inspections, etc. I would have to imagine something like this would be pretty easy to maintain and fuel, maybe a few less headaches for the fleet manager. Maybe Elio motors could work a tie-in deal with a rental company to rent an automatic and A/C equipped P4 for $30/day in major markets.

  • avatar
    baburgie59

    I went to the taste of Colorado to see one up close, sit in it and ask questions. I had put down $250 refundable and after seeing it I went home and changed it to $1000 nonrefundable…..I’m feeling it. What the heck it’s adding jobs and American made.


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