The Texas DMV has refused to register the new Polaris Slingshot, saying that motorcycles must be ridden from in a saddle, not driven from on a seat. The Slingshot and proposed Elio trike are both being marketed as motorcycles, as three-wheelers do not have to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for automobiles. Elio has told TTAC that they’re exempt from the Texas standard because their vehicle has an enclosed cab. We asked them if they’ve had discussions with the Texas DMV about their status. Elio’s vice president for governmental affairs, Joel Sheltrown, told me in an email,
Yes.. I confirmed this with TX DMV. Also the helmet and m[otorcycle] license exemption. We qualify in every instance to be registered in TX ..as a motorcycle. We will easily meet their requirements.
The makers of the spate of reverse three wheelers now on, or about to be on, sale including the Morgan 3 Wheeler, the proposed Elio Motors vehicle, and Polaris’ Slingshot, now just arriving at dealers, have used the fact that their vehicles are legally considered motorcycles, not cars to ease their passage through regulatory waters. As some critics of the Elio project have pointed out, those that live by their legal classification as not-cars, may also find legal realities that get in the way of selling their “motorcycles”. For example, will drivers be required to wear helmets in those jurisdictions that require them on motorcycle riders? With some already considering the Elio to be a form of birth control for single guys, having to wear a helmet inside it would make it even dorkier. Elio claims those problems are moot. Perhaps so, but just as Polaris is launching the Slingshot, a reverse trike starting at $20K, powered by a 2.4 liter GM Ecotec 4 cylinder engine, they have discovered that the State of Texas will not let the vehicle be registered there. (Read More…)
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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.
Since we last looked at Elio Motors, the startup that plans on selling an 84 mpg, $6,800 tandem reverse trike to people looking to replace 15 year old beaters, there have been a number of developments involving the company. To begin with, the start of production has been pushed back until the beginning of 2015. Though Elio had originally announced that production would start in Q4 of this year, there were delays in finalizing the real estate deal for the former General Motors assembly plant in Shreveport, Louisiana where Elio plans to build their vehicles, including assembling their own engines (whose preliminary specifications have been announced). There have also be some changes to the car’s design as it gets closer to production, with a fourth prototype being introduced. Finally, Elio has announced how they will market and service the vehicle. Like Tesla, they will be setting up factory owned stores to sell directly to customers. Those stores, though, won’t be providing service.
I’ve been fascinated by reverse trikes for a long time. As young teens, my older brother and I made a reverse trike go-kart (he designed the frame and the drivetrain, I did the brakes and steering) because we didn’t have the money for a proper live axle setup in the back. The first hard turn taught us something about the inherent instability of three wheel vehicles. The inside front wheel lifted about 18″ off of the pavement (maybe that’s why I like the photo of Jim Clark’s Lotus Cortina cornering on three wheels so much). It took a bit more than a “dab of oppo” to settle it back down. I don’t remember if either one of us ever completely rolled it, but it was exciting to drive. Now comes word that Morgan’s revived 3 Wheeler, a car that seems to be able to drift and donut effortlessly while still keeping both front wheels planted firmly on terra firma, has become their best selling vehicle, prompting word of expanding the 3 Wheeler line. With that success my attention has once again been drawn to reverse trikes. I’m not the only one. Based on design patent drawings, it looks like Polaris will be soon introducing the Slingshot, a side by side reverse trike powered by a GM Ecotec 2.4 L four cylinder. From the styling the Slingshot looks to be aimed more at Ariel Atom fans than the traditional stringback driving glove set, so I don’t think the Morgan will lose any sales to Polaris, but either way, I think the Polaris will increase the popularity of three wheelers in general.