By on June 10, 2015

Paul Elio

In today’s crowdsourced and Instagrammed era, companies are always looking to create some buzz, so Elio Motors can be excused for publicizing the fact it’s starting to build its fifth prototype of its proposed super-economical enclosed tandem reverse trike. Actually, it’s a fairly significant step as what they are calling P5 will be the first Elio vehicle powered by Elio’s own IAV designed 0.9L three-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels via the Aisin supplied manual transmission to be fitted to production cars. In line with building buzz by parceling out information, Paul Elio told TTAC the P5 will also have revised front end styling that will be revealed later this week.

Though our friends at Jalopnik say that the P5 Elio has been already built, that’s not the case.

Fabrication has indeed started at the same suburban Detroit shop that built P1 through P4. When asked when their latest prototype would be finished, Paul Elio said he didn’t want to give a specific time frame because they’re pushing to meet a somewhat unrealistic, accelerated schedule and they don’t want the attendant bad publicity from missing a published deadline. Prototypes almost always take longer to build than planned, but Paul’s hoping that by pushing to do it in half the time, they’ll be able to at least finish ahead of a normal schedule. Elio did say the P5 would be introduced within the next few months.

Assuming the P5 meets their benchmarks and Elio raises enough money, it will be followed by 25 additional pre-production prototypes that will be used for testing, including endurance runs and crash testing, once Elio and NHTSA come up with protocols appropriate for a reverse trike.

Interestingly, Elio Motors’ press release on their new prototype specifically mentions it is being funded by new investors brought in with the 506 (c) offering they announced just two months ago. That program allows private investors with at $2 million or more in assets or an established income greater than $200K/yr to invest at least $15,000 in Elio Motors.

Elio Motors appears to be gaining credibility. When the project was first announced, comment threads on posts about Elio were filled with scoffers and skeptics. Now, people are complaining that smaller investors won’t be able to get in on the ground floor, with some even mentioning Tesla’s stock and Elio’s potential in the same breath.

Paul Elio said he’d be happy to give TTAC access to the prototype build as they reach significant stages in the fabrication. Check back for details.

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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23 Comments on “Elio Starts Build on Prototype with Production Drivetrain...”

  • avatar

    Finally! A prototype of this (until now) vapor-mobile with the production engine in it.

    That said, can we have a snooze on Elio stories until they do indeed have a credible production prototype? We’d never have this many stories on the pre-production development of a single car for any other model…

    • 0 avatar

      Most preproduction models aren’t forging new/newish territory like Elio is. If the Elio pans out it could do a lot of good for commuters and environmental issues. Not to mention politicians will immediately fall in love with it, for the general public’s consumption of course.

  • avatar

    I have to give this guy credit for keeping the party going far longer than I ever expected. He must be one heck of a salesman.

  • avatar

    If it’s manual transmission only, that’ll dramatically limit US sales.

    I’m still surprised they made their own engine rather than, say, take a motorcycle engine and cam it to Atkinson cycle or something.

    • 0 avatar

      If it’s marketed as a car, a manual-only strategy really crimps the potential market. Since I assume most folks look to this as a commuter vehicle, I’m guessing they almost have to have an automatic or CVT version also?

      Obviously the motorcycle market is quite different.

    • 0 avatar

      As I understand it, the Elio trike will be available with an automatic dual clutch transmission based on the fully manual Aisin box they’re using on the vehicles with manual clutches.

  • avatar

    I know it’s probably to cut costs, but I’d feel more secure about buying an Elio if they licensed an engine. That way in the possible event that the company goes flat I could still get parts from say a ford dealer.

    • 0 avatar

      An Elio would make an ideal conversion to electric power, should the original drivetrain go belly-up. Once the price of batteries goes to half of what they are now (a few years).

    • 0 avatar

      The beauty of Elio is that most of the parts will be already existing off-the-shelf parts made for other vehicles. They did mention in their blog that they had to design their own water pump, I believe.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    By the time it comes out, if it ever does, people are gonna be so tired of it that no one will buy one, especially in the snow belt.

    • 0 avatar

      Could not agree more. I’m an all in depositor and I’m sick of it already. Mistake taking Paul’s word in 2013 that he has all the investors he needs and is not looking for more. Paul in over his head.

  • avatar

    I’m glad that it will be a manual tranny – that will keep it more in the realm of people who will drive it like a motorcycle (with the awareness of its vulnerability in a sea of SUV’s and semis).

  • avatar

    I hope Elio succeeds, they definitely have the right idea, but the energy market has evolved so quickly it’s going to be difficult for them. The finances of the “and car” don’t really work when gasoline costs less than $4/gallon. Furthermore, the indirect economic gains of vehicles like the Elio are substantially less because the US is producing so much oil. Eliminating foreign oil imports was a great idea, but now you’re as likely to eliminate US oil consumption, as well.

    They need oil at $100 or a $1 gasoline tax. The former has a greater likelihood than the latter, especially if falling rig count leads to falling production in another 12-18 months.

    • 0 avatar

      You got me curious. Do you know about their plan to issue a credit card to be used for paying off the car when buying gas? They charge three times the gas price and the excess goes towards paying off the Elio. The idea is that is it gets 84 mpg and your current car gets 1/3 that, ie 28 mpg, or less, then driving the Elio is basically free in terms of gas saved. Doesn’t account for insurance, etc, but it’s a clever idea.

      A $7000 loan over 4 years is $150/month at 3%. If you buy $75 worth of gas each month, they charge you $225 and apply the $150 excess to paying off the Elio. If gas is $3/gallon, that’s only 25 gallons which is (25 * 84) 2100 Elio freeway miles, or 26K miles a year.

      Or do it in reverse. Paying off $7000 requires buying $2400 worth of gas, 800 gallons at $3/gallon, which is (800 * 84) = 67K miles.

      Both are a bit above average, but both are also feasible.

      • 0 avatar

        Your model captures hwy mpg and it assumes 1/3, rather than using the actual combined numbers. The actual combined numbers will be closer to 5-6 years for the average driver, depending upon the residual value. If gasoline is $4 per gallon, the savings are bigger and the payback period is shorter, which theoretically raises residual value. We’ve not bothered to calculate maintenance or insurance costs.

        Elio needs $4/gallon or close for the “and car” model to work.

  • avatar
    Dr. Remulac

    I like this concept for a commuter car and I put a non refundable deposit down to support the idea. It is a little painful to wait as there have been delays even though I always thought there would be delays and was comfortable with losing my deposit. I still don’t see how these will be available to consumers by next summer, but any progress is good news.

  • avatar

    Never understood why they had to engineer their own drivetrain, instead of using (or licensing) something bulletproof and simple from Suzuki or Toyota. That just adds another unknown to an unknown quantity and takes engineering resources from making the rest of the car better.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, they didn’t engineer their own drivetrain. For the engine, they went to IAV Engineering which lists numerous other manufacturers as clients. With automation combined with the fact that it’s a small motor, that was probably the best way to go. Probably numerous off the shelf parts in it as well.

      I think they made the right move. They don’t have to depend on a supplier and they could always get into the business of selling the engines to other manufacturers to offset their costs.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed with mcs’s comments, plus they went with IAV to design an engine, so that they can produce tens of thousands of them when they want them and at a price they can afford. Years ago, when they decided to go with IAV, there was no way to get a commitment from a Suzuki or Toyota. At least not without a minimal number to build and/or a decent price. Also, Elio wanted an engine that would be specifically designed for the power needs, and weight, of the vehicle. Suzuki or Toyota may have wanted to push an engine that might work ok but not be optimal. And for simplicity, this IAV-designed engine is simple.

      • 0 avatar

        Not quite true, Paul went to the OE’s, they laughed at him at how many engines he wanted. Paul never mentioned licensing the rights to build any engine. That would have been ideal, put Paul’s supposed negotiation skills to work setting up licensing agreement to build an engine. Build as many as you want/need at your plant. Save money instead developing, what a glorified GEO Metro engine? How much did that cost. License engine would have saved money up front, use money to develop vehicle. If the vehicle a success? Now you have the funds to develop your own engine……No 3 cylinder in India or Thailand they couldn’t license (and still build in the USA)? Right none out there(sarcasm).

  • avatar

    I’ve been following the Elio for more than a year, and the information I have about the transmission in the P5, is that it very well could be the “automatic” version of the transmission.

    There’s some misnomers for the Aisin transmission, the word “manual” appears in the automatic version, if that makes sense.

    I believe this is the official transmission, I’m 80% sure anyway:

    The way I understand it, there’s no clutch for the driver.

  • avatar

    Many people forget or do not know that that Paul originally planned to sell for $5400 and sell 500K a year. So with this latest $6800 trike, he plans on selling 250k a year. He also said he would only need $200m to get this into production. Now he needs $240m! What did they teach him at Kettering? He’s missed every deadline HE set with Elio Motors, he now says he will not put a date on when this P5 prototype will be done, I guess he did learn not to put out deadlines(now).

    He also claims he wants transparency, okay what happened to all the investors you said you had(2013) and did not need more?

    Also he has to hire workers at the plant this year, or renegotiate the deal with Racers Trust, IRG-Stuart Lichter. Who knows what will happen if he misses that deadline. Remember IRG almost had another tenant for the plant, but negotiations fell through…………….Elio has a long, long, long way to go before production.

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