By on August 24, 2013

Elio Motors is one of those automotive startups that raises all sorts of flags that makes some people think that it’s a scam, or at least on shaky financial ground. Almost every bit of news from Elio has been greeted with some skepticism, understandably (here, here, and here). They’re planning on selling a three wheel vehicle with a composite body that gets amazing gas mileage. Those facts alone remind people of the Dale scam, and the failed Aptera venture. Also, they’re taking deposits on a vehicle whose design has not been finalized, a year away from production, and that evokes memories of Preston Tucker, who had his own problems. Then there’s the financing plan that Elio says will allow people currently driving beaters, the working poor if you will, to get a new car with a warranty just for what they’re currently paying for gasoline. When you buy the $6,800 tandem two seater reverse trike, whatever balance there is after your trade-in and/or deposit is applied will go on a credit card. Monthly payments will be required to pay down the balance but the way Elio is pitching it, when you use that credit card to buy gasoline (and some other purchases) instead of being billed for the actual cost of the gas, you’ll be billed 3 times that amount and the difference between the actual price and the billed price will be used to pay off the car.

Why 3X the price of gas?


Elio Motors is aiming for a city rating of 49 mpg and a highway rating of 84 mpg. The average fuel economy of all new cars and light trucks sold in the United States in 2012, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, was 23.8 mpg. Assuming that their customers are lower on the socio-economic scale, that means they probably are driving older cars that get even poorer gas mileage than 23.8. If you’re getting three times the gas mileage you used to, paying three times the price of gas means you’re still paying the same amount of money every month for gasoline. Now no promotional materials from Elio will ever use the word “free”, but that’s pretty much how the car will be marketed: for what you used to pay just for gasoline, driving an old, unreliable beater getting poor gas mileage, you get a new car with a warranty, and once it’s paid off the savings over that old beater will be significant.


Unusual car financing aside and scarlet flags aside, I’m not convinced that Elio is a scam. Unlike just about everyone else that raised an eyebrow about Elio, I decided to see for myself. Elio says they will start building their car in the former GM assembly plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, but the company will be headquartered in Troy, Michigan, outside of Detroit. Elio Motors is promoting the car in an interesting way, sort of a grassroots PR campaign, taking the car on a road tour, to things like sporting events, outlet malls, the Woodward Dream Cruise and putting it on local & national news shows. I contacted the company to see if I could check it out when it was in the Detroit area in between public appearances.


The company graciously arranged for me to meet Jerry Vassallo, Elio VP of Retail Operations, at the logistics company that’s managing the road tour. Though I didn’t get to drive it, I did get to spend about 30 minutes up close and personal with it, and I did get to see it start up and drive around one of those “nondescript industrial parks in suburban Detroit” that are the location of so many Motor City stories.


Red flags aside, from an automotive standpoint, they just might be able to do it. They’re promising 49 mpg in the city and 84 on the highway for a two passenger front wheel drive vehicle with standard air conditioning, radio, power windows, a five-star crash rating, and a warranty, all for about half the price of the cheapest car currently on sale in the U.S., and not much more than scooter powered Chinese reverse trikes of dubious build quality.


It’s really not a moon shot, though, there’s no rocket science needed. It’s a 1,000 lb vehicle with a 70 horsepower 3 cylinder engine, so 49 mpg in the city is achievable. That whopping 84 mpg isn’t unrealistic either. When I asked Vassallo how close the current prototype is to the production car (other than the Elio built, IVL designed, engine that will replace the Suzuki Swift engine used in the car I saw), he said that it’s close but they are fine tuning the aerodynamics to get that 84 mpg. Aero is going to be critical in reaching that figure. With tandem seating and what is essentially an open wheel setup in the front of the car (there are rather sporting cycle fenders that turn with the wheels) the actual body is very narrow, to get that good aero. It’s so narrow that they left out the back window. Vassallo told me that there’s no point in having one. It would be directly behind year head rest. There’s no interior rear view mirror, either. An interior rear view mirror would only give you a nice view of the rear seat’s headrest. Actually, vision to the rear is fine for driving in real traffic. There are two tiny side back windows by the passenger seat that give you adequate vision in what would be your blind spot and when Vassallo stood directly behind the car, while I couldn’t see his head, I could see both his shoulders in the side mirrors. You should easily see anything behind you that you need to see, including pedestrians, motorcycles and cyclists. The production version will have a hatch that opens to access the small cargo compartment. With the rear seat folded down there’s enough room, I’m told, for a set of golf clubs. Vassallo said they were considering selling something like a sedan delivery version with no back seat for service businesses like computer support that don’t need a lot of cargo room but still have to get people to customers’ locations.


As for that $6,800 price. Building their own engine might be a sticky point in terms of cost, but the rest of the car should be cheap to build. Other than the engine, Vassallo told me that 90% of the mechanical components, down to the suspension parts, are off-the-shelf items used by other automakers. They are also using a lot less metal and plastic than a conventional car needs. Eliminating the fourth wheel means eliminating a lot of cost.


In the production car, HVAC controls will be on the left and a radio on the right. It’s a little bit cozy, but most folks should fit just fine. You have as much room as in a conventional car with bucket seats and a console.

So they might be able to see their mileage benchmarks, and even build the car cheap enough. What about that five-star crash rating? Ever seen video of sprint car dirt track racers when they wreck? A properly designed roll cage can protect passengers in very serious collisions. The Elio three wheeler passenger compartment is essentially a roll cage with a plastic skin. There are also crush structures designed into the front and rear of the car.

The Elio has only one door, on the driver’s left. That helps with chassis stiffness and cost. While the prototype had a fixed window on the right, both windows will retract in the production Elio, and power windows will be standard. Interior trim and panels were fairly cheap plastic, but this was a prototype. However, don’t expect the production car to have leather and burled walnut on the dash. The seats are going to be supplied by Lear and they were actually nicer than I expected. Controls are normal automotive controls. The shifter is on the right. The as yet unnamed Elio car will be offered with either a five speed manual transmission or an automatic. No word on how many speeds the autobox will have or if it will be an extra charge option.


Once inside, it’s fairly comfortable. You do feel like you are sitting in the cockpit of a small plane, but it’s not claustrophobic, at least in the front seat. Elio has photos and video of a wide variety of body types fitting in the car – they say it’s designed around the 95th percentile of adult men. The back seat is a different story. Getting back there was surprisingly not too difficult. I deliberately left the front seat in the rearmost position to make access to the back harder. I’m not a particularly large person at 5’6″, but I’m not exactly skinny either. I didn’t really have to contort myself to get into the back seat. Once there, though, even with the small side back windows, unlike the front seat it feels rather claustrophobic. I was told that there will be ventilation for the rear passenger. Still, I wouldn’t want to have to sit back there for a long ride. On the other hand, it couldn’t be any worse than riding back to Ann Arbor after a Frank Zappa concert in Chicago having to ride sidesaddle in the back of my buddy’s 1971 Firebird (gold, just like Jim Rockford’s).

Exterior dimensions:
Overall Length: 160.5″
Front Wheel Track: 66.8″
Wheelbase: 110″
Overall Height: 54.2″

Interior dimensions are:
Headroom: Driver 39.8 Passenger 36.4 in
Seat width: Driver 20.6 Passenger 25.3 in
Interior Shoulder Width: 26.8 in
Front seat Legroom: 42.7 in
Rear seat Legroom: 33.1 in

Cargo space:
27″ x 14″ x 10″ (extends to 47″+ with rear seat down)


What’s the point of a back window? The small side back windows don’t do much for your passenger’s claustrophobia but they do eliminate blind spots.

In terms of styling and design, I think most folks will think that it’s cute. The exposed control arms of the front suspension and the cycle fenders that turn with steering give it sort of a track-car Lotus Seven look. The coilovers look sporty as well. As a matter of fact, the stubby front end does  sort of remind me of the Seven. With three wheels it’s bound to look a little strange and the rear does have a bit of a futuristic feel to it, but overall it’s rather pleasant to look at.


As mentioned, this is going to be pitched at working folks who need to get to work and possibly also as a small commercial vehicle. I think that if the Elio car does go into production, they may find that it’s embraced by another group, enthusiasts. With only 70 HP and a top speed of “over 100”, it’s not going to be a speed demon, but then neither is the Morgan 3 Wheeler and the Brit reverse trike costs 6 or 7 times as much as the Elio is supposed to cost. Besides, Elio and IVL are tuning their engine for gas mileage. Seventy horsepower out of a liter engine most likely leaves some headroom for more performance. With the engine up front, it’s got the forward weight bias needed for reverse trikes to handle and keep both front wheels on the ground. One of the off the shelf components will be the transaxle from a front wheel drive vehicle. Unlike the Morgan, the Elio will be driven by its front wheels. While this means that you won’t be able to do Morgan style rear wheel burnouts and drifts, the Elio trike should stick to the ground.IMG_0033

Elio announced earlier this year that a real estate speculator is going to be buying GM’s shuttered Shreveport, LA assembly plant for their use. They haven’t yet, though, made any kind of announcement about how the cars will be sold. No dealer franchises have been awarded yet.


You can, however, put a deposit down on an Elio and reserve one for as little as $100. Other reservation levels are $250, $500 and $1,000. If you make that deposit non-refundable, you’ll get a discount on the car and some swag, like tshirts and bumper stickers. The more money you put down, the higher priority your build will have.


So, bottom line, is Elio Motors a scam? I don’t know. I don’t think so, the vehicle makes sense to me and they might just be able to build it at their target price point,  but until we see a production vehicle in the hands of a retail customer, we’ll never know for sure. Towards that end we’re trying something new. Whenever the topic of  how to improve TTAC car reviews comes up, one or more of the Best & Brightest will suggest that we do it the Consumer Reports way, only report on cars that we’ve bought, so we’ll have an authentic consumer experience. That’s just not financially possible in most cases. However, I’ve discussed the matter with our Editor In Chief pro tem and it looks like we’ll be reserving our own Elio car with a $100 non-refundable deposit. That way, even if the Elio never makes it to production we can have a t-shirt giveaway to our readers. We’ll use our reservation as a hook for following Elio’s story and keeping you informed about the startup car company. If the little three wheeler comes to fruition, who knows? We might even test out their put it on a credit card and pay 3X for gas financing scheme.


If you’d like to check out the Elio three wheeler for yourself, it will be in Colorado next week, the start of a swing through the western United States.  Wednesday August 28th, Park Meadows Mall, 1-7pm Lone Tree, CO; Thursday August 29th – Flat Irons Crossing Mall, from 1-6 (plus the concert!),Bloomfield CO; Friday August 30th, Cherry Creek Mall, Denver, 10am-9pm and Monday at The Taste of Colorado, 1600 Broadway, #610 in Denver 11am-8pm. It will be in Seattle, WA on Sept. 5-8, and in Portland, OR on Sept. 12-15, with dates in California to follow.

Stereo pics here.

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 dig deeper 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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83 Comments on “Elio Motors – It Just Might Be For Real, So to Check it Out, TTAC Rolls Consumer Reports Style and Puts Skin in the Game...”

  • avatar

    This is absolutely PERFECT for me as a commuter.

    It uses 1/2 the gas of my motorcycle. Insurance here should be cheap as it is classified as a motorcycle in my state. Cheap purchase price.

    I carry basically nothing with me to go to work outside of a laptop bag and have a 60 mile round-trip (about 45-50 miles highway).

    I’ve been following this for a while and hope it comes to fruition.

    • 0 avatar

      Heh. I could have used one of these when I first moved to my new home. I had a 120-mile-per-day round trip to take wife to work and go to my own work, then reverse the route to go home. I put a lot of miles on a Camaro very quickly.

  • avatar

    I remember noticing all the scrapes on the passenger side of the AMC Pacers – because drivers didn’t realize how much the car bulged out. I couldn’t tell from any photo how well the driver could see the front wheels, but I suspect the right wheel is in for hard times. I can also see that wheel clipping a lot of pedestrians.

    • 0 avatar

      Why? With the driver on the centerline of the vehicle, neither front wheel will be at more risk than the other. I’d also doubt the ‘pedestrian’ comment for the same reason. You’re just making excuses now.

      • 0 avatar

        It all depends on whether the driver can SEE the wheels. The body itself is narrow from the windshield back. Out of sight, out of mind, especially while texting. BTW, why would I make excuses?

        • 0 avatar

          Can you see the wheels in a regular car? No.
          Does the driver sit on the centerline in a regular car? No
          Simple logic makes it quite clear that you were reaching for problems that simply can’t exist–unless you’re driving distracted.

    • 0 avatar

      If you could comprehend geometry you would be able to visualize, from the picture looking straight at the front of the car, that the driver is positioned high enough to see the outer most edge of the front fender on both sides.

  • avatar

    The cheapest BRP “Can-Am” 3-wheeler is $17,000 – let that be your guide.

    I’d love to see this come to fruition as well, but I think it’s impossible at that price.

    I would expect the “real” price to be $12,000 for a “stripper” version.

    • 0 avatar

      At $6,800 this is a go.

      At $12k, I’d rather really buy a NC700X which is around $6,400+ttl here, does 0-60 in under 6 seconds and has real world mileage of around 65-70.

      • 0 avatar

        That NC700X doesn’t keep the rain off of you though, does it?

        • 0 avatar

          My $40 rainsuit & helmet has done that for me very well for several years. I also end up with Honda reliability/warranty/dealer presence which elio doesn’t have.

          $12k is way too close in price to other cars to make it worth risking.

          • 0 avatar

            And the winter cold?
            Sliding on ice?
            Fresh-ground pavement?

            There are many reasons to want a third wheel and an enclosed body. Even cycle die-hards know when to get in out of the rain, as it were. Cycles–at least where I live–are fair-weather rides only. Too hot doesn’t slow them down, but when the temperatures drop below 50°, the bikes seem to disappear.

          • 0 avatar

            I’m wouldn’t take the Elio out in the winter anyhow. I’ve taken my bike over light gravel before no issues.

            To me the elio is basically a cheaper, slower (more fuel efficient) motorcycle. I have 2 dedicated cars with winter tires for winter.

            I’m not paying $6k extra (a “car price”) for capability I already have. I would pay $7k or so +ttl to double my gas mileage however for summer usage.

          • 0 avatar

            You merely emphasize my points. I didn’t mean light gravel as in gravel roads, I meant gravel as in dirt and gravel on the road surface. An acquaintance of mine was killed on a motorcycle when he hit loose gravel on a curve (at or below the speed limit) and crashed. Three wheels would have kept him from laying the bike down and the roll cage might have saved his life.

            In case of actual snowfall, it’s unlikely you would want to drive this, but at least by rough appearances wouldn’t perform any worse on snow than the old VW Beetle used to do–maybe even better. As far as wheel and tire size, my first car ran on 12″ wheels with 70-series tires (well, their alpha-numeric equivalent). Of course, that was also 40 years ago.

          • 0 avatar

            I’m not emphasizing anything.

            I’ve heard of 4 wheeled vehicles sliding off the road on ice and people being killed.

            I doubt anyone is going to buy one of these for the sole reason of NOT sliding off the road due to gravel.

            Also: Several family acquaintances were killed in 4 wheeled “normal” cars when my brothers & I were in h.s….

            I’m not sure what point you are trying to make or why this would be better, at $12k, than either a cheaper motorcycle or paying $2k more for an econobox. At $6800 it is compelling.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t see why it would have any less traction in snow or gravel than any other front wheel drive car. That’s one advantage using FWD in a reverse trike. You have better traction, with one more wheel providing motive power as well as having weight over the driven wheels.

          • 0 avatar

            Robstar, you’re only emphasize that you don’t understand what that third wheel can do. Sure, cars slide in unusual circumstances–but they don’t fall over on their sides just because they hit some loose stuff. The rider doesn’t get slammed into a rock or tree just because he doesn’t have a frame around him. In a car, he has the advantage of at least one extra wheel that might NOT have hit that gravel. He has the advantage of a frame around him to absorb some of that impact so his body doesn’t. A crash that typically kills a biker is often not serious enough to even injure someone in a car.

            Sure, a car may not be as fun as a bike; I’ll even agree with you on that. But bikes are inherently more dangerous even when you take traffic out of the equation. A LOT of people DO buy cars because they’re safer than bikes.

          • 0 avatar

            This is more car than a bike.

            Bikes require a lot more skill to drive than this.

            What if you want to carry a golf bag or a std airline bag?

            I dont want to buy leathers or a helmet or put up with a bike license nor do I want to pay more for medical insurance.

          • 0 avatar

            Vulpine> I don’t know where you are located, but here (Illinois), under current law, it _is_ considered a motorcycle as are all 3 wheeled vehicles.

            Nobody (non-motorcycle rider) is going to spend 12k & get an M-class to drive one of these things. That is my prediction at least.

            People who own a motorcylce in the midwest most likely have a car already for winter (or public transport). Spending $12k on something like this doesn’t make a lot of sense, value-wise.

            $6k does.

            I know what the difference is between a car & motorcycle & I know the odds as well. I also know you can be killed in/on both & getting into a car or onto a motorcycle is the most dangerous thing most people will do in a day.

            Those SAME people who would have to get an m-class to drive tihs in my state are going to say to themselves “Wow this is so unsafe compared to my $SUV with high ground clearance & 27 airbags”.

            The m-class holders will say “for $12k I’d rather have a harley” (or supersport or whatever).

            At $7k, this is cheaper than a supersport OR a harley and has a niche. At $12k it loses that niche.

            ALL IMHO of course.

          • 0 avatar


            Unless I”m mistaken, in many states this will be classified as a motorcycle. That means in many states you will also be required to wear a helmet, unless Elio gets the law changed.

            Also: In my state at least, under the currentmotorcycle test, I doubt you’d be able to take it & pass in this vehicle.

          • 0 avatar

            And yet still, Robstar, you assume twice the projected price.

            Yes, I do agree that these things will be classed as ‘cycles’ for registration purposes and maybe even for insurance purposes, but at the same time they are many times safer than bikes and will have lower rates because of it. While you may not remember the UK’s Reliant Robin “car” which was a conventionally-laid out trike, it did offer an economical ride for those who couldn’t afford a four-wheeled car at the time, and it was FAR less safe than this design. Interestingly, the Elio still has a UK cousin in the Morgan three-wheeler.

            The point is that even if it is priced at or just above $10K, it is still 1/3rd cheaper than any other enclosed cabin street-legal vehicle in the US (meaning car) which offers economy and reasonable comfort for the money. The people buying these will NOT be bikers in the conventional sense and the riding test will have to take this into consideration. It’s very probable that the typical biker’s road test will have to be modified to account for the difference.

            Me? I still have my M class from 40 years ago–I never let it expire since there’s still a chance I might buy a cycle, even if it’s only a scooter. So while you may speak for bikers as a class, you can’t speak for the people who WILL buy this (if it really does hit the market.)

          • 0 avatar

            Vulpine, you need to go back & re-read the root of this particular thread inside the overall discussion. All my comments have been predicated on “Shakers” pricing prediction coming true @ $12k.

            My comments should be read with that in mind.

          • 0 avatar

            And that’s my point too, Robstar. Even at that price, there will be buyers, though maybe not as many. To be bluntly honest, most college students and those fresh out of college can’t afford a new car of any type and certainly wouldn’t be owning a big SUV unless it were given to them by parents or family. Most people wouldn’t even TRUST a used car priced below $10K today, especially if it’s a newer body style; such a vehicle is almost bound to be a money pit when the buyer simply can’t afford one. (I’ve been there, too.) When half your paycheck goes to just keeping your car running, you’re working to live, not living to work. (there is a difference).

          • 0 avatar

            But I live where there is snow, a lot of snow! Motorcycles are put away and not driven for 6 months of the year….

    • 0 avatar

      Vulpine, please read this subthread, post by post from Shaker on.

      “And yet still, Robstar, you assume twice the projected price…”

      No I don’t, this is what the sub-thread under Shaker’s post is about….I’m not assuming anything. Where did you come up with this?
      I’m making points in RELATION to Shaker’s prediction.

      “Most people wouldn’t even TRUST a used car priced below $10K today”…

      Where do you get this? Most people I know shop for used cars ONLY under $10k. They don’t shop for $3k cars but typically $5-$8k. The last 5 cars my parents have bought have all been in this price range.

      I don’t understand the point of the rest of your post.

      Again, this WILL NOT SELL except in very small numbers if it’s $12k as mentioned by “Shaker.” I bet sales at $12k are only 20-30% or less than sales they’d get at $7k.


      1) $12k is too close to a new Soul. Lots of used stuff under/around $12k that is decent.
      2) Elio may disappear tomorrow.
      3) Elio has no dealership network that I know of.
      4) Most people won’t bother to get an M class (and most don’t have one, and from looking at the Spyder website, an M class is needed in 47 of 50 states).
      5) It doesn’t carry more than 2 people.
      6) Elio has no proven track record.
      7) What independent mechanics can work on this car ?
      8) What are the safety ratings going to be as a motorcycle? Will it actually be tested?

      And for the M-class holders (again, @ $12k…)

      1) A litrebike is sub $10k new, one model year out
      2) It’s slow
      3) It’s fuel efficient but most motorcyclists don’t really care that much. If you own a motorcycle you most likely own another car already.
      4) The ninja 250 has a 20 year proven track record & super cheap parts and you can get one in tip top shape for $2500…..and they get 60mpg+.

      I don’t doubt Elio will sell some even at $12k, but NOTHING like what they’d sell at 7k’ish.

      WIth all that being said, I’m rooting for Elio. I really want them to turn the “car” market on it’s head. I hope this gets rated as a car as that will make a huge difference in sales. I really hope they can have something mostly reliable for $7k+ttl. I’m really looking forward to owning one.

  • avatar

    Great idea, but why do startups like this so often handicap themselves by insisting on using their own purpose-built engine?

    There are at least four established engine manufacturers that would happily engage in a knock-down, drag out bidding war to provide a reliable engine for this commuter.

    • 0 avatar

      probably because most big time manufacturers wouldnt give Eloi the time of day

      its one thing for Lotus or Caterham to ask for 1,000 Toyota mills but someone with no history?

      i’m betting they’re going chinese and have some low tech 3 cyl. motor which isnt a problem but something they’d probably want to hide

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. They should be in the business of making a 3 wheeler, not motors – especially when so many are available.

      They could easily source 4-stroke motors from Arctic Cat, Polaris, Rotax, or any other motorcycle/car company in the world. A small diesel might work for them too.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I guess that if you’re a single person or a couple with no children, this would be great as a daily-driver. Otherwise it’s just a novelty. But I’d love to see this go into production…hopefully with more-imaginative styling, and without the 1991-era interior. Honestly, how much could it cost per car to include a third spoke in the steering wheel and a digital odometer/trip-computer?

    And they’d better not bring that car to a demo here in Oklahoma; someone will just crush it with his lifted F-250 SuperDuty…

    • 0 avatar

      They say it will be available with both manual and automatic transmissions.

    • 0 avatar

      Remember, every change adds cost. The simpler it is, the lower the cost of manufacture which results in a lower price to the buyer. If a third spoke on the steering wheel adds no functional improvement and only adds weight, then why put it on?

      You also have to figure that these guys are building ‘on the cheap’, making the ‘style’ the last thing they are thinking of. Once they go into production and make enough sales to see some profit, maybe then they can afford to make it look ‘cool’.

      • 0 avatar

        i think theres a certain charm in making things as cheap as possible

        do i need a 3 spoke leather wheel?

        do you need aircon? how feasible is aircon in this size anyway?

        i would imagine for $6.8k you would get a simple CD/mp3 player, 2 spks and a heater/fan

        pay a bit more get auto and air

    • 0 avatar

      You didn’t like the Geo Metro steering wheel?

  • avatar

    Oh my. I want one. Replace the rear wheel with a caster wheel and that thing is suddenly the most fun vehicle I can imagine.

    • 0 avatar

      But in these two wheels up front trikes, the rear wheel is always for power. Never seen a FWD trike before.

      • 0 avatar

        There are a bunch of reverse trike makers in the UK that compete in the Morgan 3 Wheeler segment. At least a couple of them have FWD. If I ever win the lottery I want to build an AWD reverse trike that mashes up a Subaru front end with a Honda GoldWing or BMW moto back end.

    • 0 avatar

      But also unstable. At certain speeds, that caster wheel will almost certainly want to wobble. Better to have it either steered or fixed to eliminate that risk.

  • avatar
    Aleister Crowley

    If they can make this vehicle for $6800 (which I doubt) the government will legislate it out of existence like the Segway. This trike would destroy the car market, which would in turn ravage state and local government taxes, and reduce insurance revenues. The insurance companies would then raise the rates which would make these vehicles economically unfeasible.

    PS I hope I’m wrong. Seems like a great idea.

    • 0 avatar

      The Segway has NOT been legislated out of existence. In fact, the Government itself uses Segways as do many other services that require a lot of walking from place to place.

      As such, the rest of your comment comes into question as quite honestly this vehicle would do no such thing; it would become a niche vehicle, certainly, but it would not “destroy the automotive market” as we know it.

      • 0 avatar
        Aleister Crowley

        The Segway has been legislated out of existence, except for government use. It was designed to transform urban areas, but you cannot ride one in an urban area. It was a disruptive technology, it just turned out it was for government use only.

        • 0 avatar

          I suggest you go look at the Segway web page yourself before you say anything more. Individuals can still buy and ride one. And if local laws prohibit their use where they’re intended, then it’s time to flat-out challenge that law. If you ask me, greed is what is driving whatever legislation you are aware of. Time to vote somebody out of office if that is so.

          • 0 avatar

            The problem with the Segway is the price $5k+. That alone is sufficient to explain why they didn’t transform anything.

            The price of the Segway is about the same as the Elio, really.

            If the Segway cost $250, it could be transformative. But that won’t happen until the patents that cover its control system expire. Until then, the company will continue to their high margin / low volume ain’t transforming’ nothin’ strategy.

          • 0 avatar

            They’re probably a bit lost now that their founder is no more.

  • avatar

    You ain’t kidding about red flags. However, it would be easy for me to just get a loan and buy the thing outright, once it becomes available. As a commuter, it looks like a great idea. However, I would still worry about the safety of it. Many states require helmets for cycles and the odds are high that this would class as a cycle despite the automotive front-end and engine.

  • avatar

    I, too, have been keeping an eye on the Elio. I just don’t see any possible way they can sell the car for $6800. That’s below the price point for a 700cc Honda motorcycle. The Taiwanese Kymco 500i sells for more.

    I like the Elio, but I will expect to see it sell for $10k, not $6800. Even at the higher price, I still think it will attract buyers.

    • 0 avatar

      The Elio is doomed: it competes with used cars at $6,800. Most working class folks would buy a used Saturn or Ford truck at that price point. At a more realistic $10,000 to $14,000 sale price, the Elio would compete with the Versa, Kia and Hyundai, all far superior as entry level vehicles.

  • avatar

    Wheel/tire sizing? Ground clearance? 0-60 or even 0-100-0 times (I understand these numbers depend on the final product specs, but are left completely unaddressed here).

    • 0 avatar

      That’s why they’re not addressed. This thing is not (yet) intended to be a sport vehicle but rather a commuter vehicle. Big wheels add weight. High ground clearance hurts aerodynamics. Acceleration speeds (within reason) are not that critical; remember, most economy cars still take more than 10 seconds to reach 60mph. I’d even consider this thing unlikely to reach 100mph and very probably unsafe at that speed. But at 60 mph could probably run all day on 6 gallons of gas. (6 times 84 equals 504 miles or about 8 hours of driving time at the speed limit). Of course, you’d probably be uncomfortable enough after that much time that you’d want to get out and stretch.

      • 0 avatar

        I can see wanting to know those things for several reasons:

        Ground clearance matters if you are in a snow area or in an area with bad roads.

        Tire size matters so you get some idea of total TCO.

        0-60 and stopping matters for safety/highway merging (in some areas/some traffic conditions).

        • 0 avatar

          Elio Motors’ three-wheel car has a 67-inch track width up front, and 5 3/4 inches of ground clearance. More details and an interview with CEO Paul Elio here:

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks, Banger. I did a little more research and found some article saying ground clearance should be on par with the current generation Ford Mustang.

            I do live in Northern Ohio which is known to get some snow on occasion. I was also asking tire/wheel sizes because I wanted to be able to see if one could outfit the Elio with snow tires or even chains if truly needed in the winter. Of course if the snow gets deep enough, this thing would turn into a sled.

          • 0 avatar

            You’re welcome, SexCpotatoes.

            I would doubt tire chains will be compatible with the close-fitting wheel fenders, but a good set of winter tires will probably work fine.

            I’m not aware of standard tire sizes they’re planning for the Elio, but the prototype looks like it has pretty standard fare. I’d be very surprised if they end up putting anything larger than a 16-inch wheel on the car. In the 14-15-16-inch range, there are plenty of cheap, decent winter tires to be had.

            Blocky tread on winter tires might still present a problem for the close-fitting fenders on the front tires, depending on the tires themselves. Hopefully for Elio owners’ sake, the company will include a way to adjust the gap of the fenders slightly to account for such differences.

  • avatar

    I think this is so much better than the Smart: cheaper, better mileage and likley safer ride.

    It sure would be a cool second car for some peole who like the weirdness, but don’t want a motorcycle or convertible. Obvioulsy it woudlb e good for poor people (or people that jsut don’t want to spend much).

    At some point to make a car that cheap, but still good you have to lose a wheel. This probably saves them $800, which is a lot in that segment.

    I wonder if they wouldn’t be better off to just buy a motor for now and develop one later whne they actually make some money. the mileage will suffer a bit, but it still would be exceptional. Developing a motor is expensive (tooling, testing…) and repairs will be difficulat when you don’t use a standard motor.

    Will they have their own dealers, or sell through someone else?

  • avatar

    I knew I recognized that “nondescript corporate park.” I used to work at a place the next corporate park over.

  • avatar

    Ronnie – your story here is probably the best advertising the company could have asked for, as I’ve never even heard of Elio before.

    That said, the biggest handicap is that it’s a 3-wheeler, which make all its other merits moot. People simply don’t want to be laughed at.

  • avatar

    This would hardly serve the “working poor”. It’s for childfree young adults seeking an affordable novelty during their first jobs.

    Working poor have full size lives that must be lived as well as possible under crushing circumstances. That includes multiple ill-paying jobs, somebody’s kids, shopping and transport for disabled kin.

    Offering them an Elio would be an obscene taunt.

    • 0 avatar

      That line struck me as a little odd too. I always find it rich when not-so-poor want to tell poor people how to live. It always involves limitations they wouldn’t want on themselves on those they really care for.

      We have plenty of that going around in Brazil.

    • 0 avatar

      So true. I have been working at Walmart for the last year and a half, so I meet MANY working poor. They usually have 2 kids, work two or three jobs, and buy old cars with over 200,000 miles on the clock- if they can afford a car- otherwise, they walk, ride the bus or take a bicycle to their minimum wage jobs. A three wheeled two passenger car would not work for most of these people; the ones I meet drive old domestic pickup trucks or ancient Japanese sedans.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s right. They’ve all got too many kids, jobs, Happy Meal toys, and big bouncy balls to shut their kids up at the store. They buy an old Expedition or an old Corolla, and deal with it. It’s also their cigarette box holder and phone charger.

  • avatar

    Yep. And poverty today increasingly means good, solid hard-working people who did everything they were told; study, work, economize, retrain…etc. and still had the rug yanked out from under them.

    They are some of the best people any society ever produced and to present them with a rickety yet sure to be expensive toy like the Elio is contemptible. Insult atop injury.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. One of my buddies at Walmart joined the army, worked in a factory, busted his butt his whole life, only to end up with a disabled wife, minimum wage job, and no savings, and no house (in Oregon, they take your house when the state gives you medical aid). He drives a Saturn with 300,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar

      People have been brainwashed by all US media to cheer for their own destruction. I recently sent off a friend of several years over Sierra Club support. You can’t be an environmentalist and pretend to give a crap about your fellow humans. There is a fundamental disconnect between ‘contributing’ to efforts to block development and complaining about the plight of your fellow humans, but it is a rare progressive that sees it.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s been obvious to me since the ’70s that environmentalism without severe global depopulation strategies is mere posturing.

        Enviros need to stand up and take responsibility for a mindset that requires ending billions of people or just get off the stage.

        Of course, general publics eat up posturing more eagerly than they do deep fry.

  • avatar

    Uhhh… You went to their place. They let you look at it. They wouldn’t let you drive it. Nuff said.

  • avatar

    Always imagined the market needed a car like this. I said that somewhere here a few years ago.

    The one I thought up though would sit 2 side by side, and be powered by a turbocharged 2-cylinder boxer engine mounted in front of a FWD transaxle. But the concept is still the same.

  • avatar
    Matt Fink

    Thanks for taking the time to contact them and get a real view of it. Great review.

  • avatar

    My $0.02:

    Reduce or eliminate “tumblehome” to maximize space inside

    Long roof, not fastback. Instead, taper in plan view into a boat tail

    And how about FIAT two-cylinder “MultiAir?”

  • avatar

    I’ll just chime in and say that I’m technically a millenial (although a bit on the old side) and have a solid income. I currently commute on a small displacement motorcycle when the weather is good (~90% of the time in Texas). This has been the only new ‘car’ that I’m seriously interested in buying. I was disheartened when I saw Elio’s predictions of 250,000 sales / year because that strikes me as extremely unrealistic. If those are the types of assumptions they are building their business on, I doubt this car will every really see production. If it does, I will be one of the first in line to purchase it without a deposit.

  • avatar
    Uncle Wainey

    Search Wikipedia for “HM Vehicles Free-way” and go back to the future.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    What about a Briggs & Stratton or Kohler twin cylinder engine. Briggs and Honda in the early 90’s jointly developed a V twin engine with overhead valves that was very quite and had a fair amound of power. Either one of them could develop a more powerful version of their engines, say 80 horsepower. It seems like they would be better to outsource this motor.

    At $6,800 I would buy one of these cars with a manual transmission. It would make a great commuter and errand car. I could even afford to charge the purchase price on my VISA or Master Card.

  • avatar

    There was a blog post that rips into Elio Motors’ financials here:

    But I would like to see them succeed. It reminds me of the LoReMo concept car that never got off the ground that was supposed to be in production a few years ago with FOUR wheels and a (3cyl?) diesel & high mpgs. Anyway, they’re gone now, here’s the wikipedia entry:

  • avatar
    Mr. Skeptical

    While I, too, hope this project isn’t a scam, there is ample opportunity for it to actually be a scam. For example, if the company collects enough deposits to add up to $1,000,000 during this next year, they could simply fold up shop and claim the federal government regulations put them out of business and, oh BTW, your deposits were all non-refundable as the fine print says in your contract.

    That prototype unit could cost as little as $10,000 to design and build. That and the costs of promoting this vehicle around the country could add up to $50,000 or so. $1,000,000 return on a $50,000 investment is pretty sweet.

    As I said, I sure hope this isn’t a scam, but I won’t invest in any vehicle that isn’t already in production. I think those who do are tempting fate. I would never buy a car off the internet without seeing and test driving it in person and I sure won’t order any car I can’t see and test drive on a promise it’ll be built “sometime next year”.

  • avatar
    Dr. Remulac

    I’m late to reply to this thread, but have to say this car is interesting and have followed it enough to know for sure it is not a scam. If it is a scam it is the worst scam in history, the company is doing too much work for too little reward. The prototypes cost over $100k and they have a whole marketing crew on tour, they have a legal team addressing helmet laws in may states, etc… The real question is will it survive to make it to production. I think it has a better chance than those before it like the Aptera, which doesn’t mean too much.

    I even put $100 down figuring it is like a “kickstarter” project where my reward would be seeing this car produced and getting my new commuter car for a fraction of what I was going to spend on my next car and can afford to keep my current commuter as my back up 4 people hauler.

  • avatar

    I am one of the working poor being talked about, I have no kids in the house. They are grown and out.

    I would use it as a commuter and small store run vehicle. It’s niche. I sure would love to get 2 or 3 times the mileage, since my Toyota truck gets barely 20 mpg.

    This is a vehicle that needs to be built. Kick the cars industry right where it hurts. None of them can build bargain basement car anymore.

    Personally, I would like it without power windows. If you can’t roll down a window, you have no business driving. Less stuff to go wrong and replace.

  • avatar

    Me likey. You buildy, me buyie……but you buildy first.

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