By on November 14, 2014


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 a motorcycle. We will easily meet their requirements.

Below is a statement Sheltrown forwarded to us that Elio Motors received from Gus Bernal, who is in charge of  Title Services Policy and Procedure at the Vehicle Titles and Registration Division of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Note, Bernal’s reference to NHTSA certification of meeting FMVSS regulations has to do with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules for motorcycles, not those applicable to automobiles.

As promised, below is my follow up e-mail regarding our conversation from yesterday.

I’m responding on behalf of Clint Thompson. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV), Vehicle Titles and Registration Division (VTR) administers the title and registration laws for the State of Texas therefore, we can only respond to the questions that pertain to VTR. The questions as stated below pertain to two different State Agencies, the TxDMV (for title and registration) and the Texas Department of Public Safety (for driver license and vehicle safety inspection).

The TxDMV may title and register an Elio vehicle as a “Motorcycle”, if the proper application, fees, and required ownership document (e.g. Manufacturer Certificate of Origin) are submitted to the department. Note: The vehicle must meets FMVSS safety standards (NHTSA certification).

Transportation Code, Sec. 521.001. (6-a), “Motorcycle” includes an enclosed three-wheeled passenger vehicle that:

(A) is designed to operate with three wheels in contact with the ground;

(B) has a minimum unladen weight of 900 lbs.;

(C) has a single, completely enclosed, occupant compartment;

(D) at a minimum, is equipped with:

(i) seats that are certified by the vehicle manufacturer to meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 207, 49 C.F.R. Section 571.207;

(ii) a steering wheel used to maneuver the vehicle;

(iii) a propulsion unit located in front of or behind the enclosed occupant compartment;

(iv) a seat belt for each vehicle occupant certified by the manufacturer to meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 209, 49 C.F.R. Section 571.209;

(v) a windshield and one or more windshield wipers certified by the manufacturer to meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 205, 49 C.F.R. Section 571.205, and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 104, 49 C.F.R. Section 571.104; and

(vi) a vehicle structure certified by the vehicle manufacturer to meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 216, 49 C.F.R. Section 571.216; and

(E) is produced by its manufacturer in a minimum quantity of 300 in any calendar year.

In regards to your questions about helmets, driver license endorsements, vehicle safety, road tests, and driving reciprocity, you will need to contact the Texas Department of Public Safety. You may contact Cindy Flores via e-mail at [email protected] for more information.

Lastly, for information about Texas Manufacturer’s or Dealer’s License, please contact the TxDMV’s Motor Vehicle Division at 1 (888) 368-4689.

Thank you,

Gus Bernal || Title Services Policy and Procedure
Vehicle Titles and Registration Division

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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21 Comments on “Update: Texas DMV on Elio’s Trike Status...”

  • avatar

    Ok, someone needs to clarify all of this because the lines are getting very blurred, this is a car, because it has doors. Motorcycles don’t have doors

  • avatar

    Item “E” is going to be a real problem.

  • avatar

    If this isn’t king of the TL;DR topics.

    Who cares if that little rattle can ever gets produced?

  • avatar

    I, for one, hope the Elio comes out and does well enough to continue on. It may seem strange or silly, but I will remind everyone here that there was a point when oil touched $130 a barrel, not all that long ago. There will one day be a time when that is not out of the ordinary – we are competing for oil with billions of people in India and China that get richer every day. The EV1 died partly because of a period of low gas prices. If GM had kept developing the EV1 instead of throwing away their investment for short-term profits, they would now be the leaders in electric vehicles. The Elio is a similar tech – something for the long run.

    Right now we are “swimming” in $2.50 gas (if that is really so great – I remember $1 gas in 1999). It was closer to $4 very recently. It could be $10 in 5 years (or less). You may love driving your truck but if gas rose to $10 you would look like a fool. At that point the Elio will not look silly.

  • avatar

    Seeing the other “trikes” you can buy, at least this one has a roof and doors on it.

    This would be a good cheap car for city driving and crowded suburban areas, dunno if I’d road trip it though.

  • avatar

    I think everyone needs to be exempt from Texas. Not really sure I see an issue why this is a big deal that Texas won’t allow registration.

  • avatar


    New subscriber here, been reading TTAC for years. As a native Texan, if this doesn’t have a powerful, strong A/C unit installed, they won’t sell any in Texas, so the licensing is moot.

    • 0 avatar

      They say that A/C will be standard equipment. I’m assuming, based on what they’ve said in the past about using off-the-shelf components, that they’ll buy an existing A/C compressor. Any A/C compressor for a small car would be more than adequate for the Elio’s relatively tiny cabin, though the glass area to cabin space ratio might be higher than with a conventional car even after you factor in no back window.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    only 10 comments, that shows how little interest there is in this deathtrap contraption. At this point, even if they build it, no one would come.

  • avatar

    Care or not, I have had occasion to encounter this in the past when I once built a trike. The Department of Public Safety cares and you don’t get the annual safety inspection if you don’t know what you are building. Trikes are licensed as cars if they have seats and a steering wheel. As a motorcycle if they have handlebars and you set astride. I figured that just about every state has something similar. Before you internet lawyers badmouth the Texas bureaucrats too badly better check your own state.

    Despite what it says here there was one really stupid law. The inspector told me and the booklet confirmed that you were required to have a windshield wiper but no requirement for a windshield on a trike. Really doesn’t matter what the law says because MichaelH nailed it.

  • avatar

    I’d give one a try .

    Of course , I like the Reliant and Bond trikes too…..

    BTW : what happened to all the MEN in TEXAS ? a few years ago I bought a 42 year old pickup truck in Dallas in _August_ and my old fat self and Brother rattled and wheezed it across America sans AC and we didn’t die or even get that hot IMO ~

    Ac is really nice yes indeedy but if you’re wanting low cost transportation , stop crying and go with no AC .


  • avatar

    “Motorcycle means a motor vehicle with motive power having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.”

    Texas likes to pretend it is a separate country, but the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards preempt Texas law. That is completely constitutional under the Commerce Clause.

    The only federal requirement for a motorcycle is the definition above. Three wheels or less (could be a powered unicycle). For now.

    The problem these trike builders face is that, if the trike builders become too high profile, that definition could easily change.

    If the federal definition of motorcycle changes Polaris will still have a strong market for the Slingshot as a track toy (Polaris is very familiar with the off-highway use only market, and already sells high power off-highway use only side-by-side ATVs for even more money than a Slingshot costs).

    Dork mobiles like the Elio, on the other hand, will be dead in the water if they are not street legal.

    • 0 avatar

      I am also having trouble seeing how any state has the authority to redefine these things just to suit its whims. Seems like a clear cut Commerce Clause issue; if the feds say that it’s a motorcycle, then that’s what it is.

  • avatar

    “Motorcycle means a motor vehicle with motive power having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.”

    The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards include the Slingshot, Elio and even powered unicycles as motorcycles. For now.

    Texas is still part of the union, and its vehicle regulations are preempted by federal regulations.

  • avatar

    I just don’t see a rational reason why someone would not want to see these become street legal.

    Obviously there should be full disclosure that they don’t offer the full safety of a traditional enclosed car, but you can make the argument that pedal bicycles should not be legal on public streets because they don’t offer the same safety.

    Let people decide what risks they want to take, it’s not like their decision to drive one of these are going to put other people’s safety at risk.

  • avatar

    If 3 wheelers see any kind of popularity in urban settings, at the very minimum the much more laxed emissions regs for bikes versus cars will be repealed. Which will be a bit of a tragedy for motorcycles, actually.

    Sane people would simply say that all vehicles under 40 inches/1 meter wide and 1100 lbs / 500 kg are single trackers and inherently “different” (they don’t take up lane nor parking space and HEAVILY bias accident damage risk towards the operator.) I mean, is a motorized bicycle with training wheels a car now?

    Of course, sane people have also long since realized governments are always and forever anything but.

  • avatar

    Cool, make the get motorcycle endorsement… That should be funny to watch…

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