The long-suffering Elio Motors, whose ambition to launch a low-cost, high-MPG three-wheeler was recently revived by the launch of a weird cryptocurrency, is no longer seeking a custom engine for its novel automobile.
Early Elio prototypes carried a transplanted three-cylinder engine sourced from the illustrious Geo Metro, with the fledgling automaker claiming it had a 900cc triple of 55 horsepower in its sights. Well, plans change. The company, which hopes to start production in Louisiana next year, says it has secured a deal with an existing automaker for the car’s powerplant.
Earlier this year, Elio Motors said it would launch its own cryptocurrency as a way of funding its troubled three-wheeler. During the initial ElioCoin announcement in April, Elio also said it partnered with Overstock.com to relieve some of its debt. The website claimed it purchased $2.5 million of the startup’s newly issued shares.
As helpful as a few million dollars would be toward progressing Elio’s goals, the cryptocurrency plan seemed patently ridiculous. We didn’t expect to hear much more about it.
Color us surprised, though. Elio has now formally launched the pre-sale of the ElioCoin Security Token, noting that Patrick M. Byrne — Overstock.com’s founder and CEO — will be the first person to open up his wallet to participate in this strange new offer.
Remember Elio Motors? If you’ve ever expressed any public interest in its economical three-wheeler, the company’s aggressive social media campaign has ensured Elio is a household name in your life. You may also recall the company pushing back the vehicle’s release date every single year since 2014. With a revised launch of 2018, surely Elio Motors is on track to deliver the affordable and eco-friendly little trike this time — right?
Don’t bet on it.
After an assessment showing the company had $123 million in debt with only $101,000 in the bank as of September 2016, the future is now even more dire. Elio Motors’ U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing shows the company needs $376 million — $64 million more than the original previous $312 million estimate — to begin production, reports Jalopnik.
Worse still, it only has 76 weeks to find the money if it has any hope of maintaining its self-imposed deadline.
(Caveat: I know nothing at all about stocks, bonds or other financial instruments.)
After automotive startup Elio Motors raised approximately $17 million dollars in a Reg-A+ stock offering the company crowdsourced from small investors via StartEngine, it said its shares would be listed on the OTCQX exchange to provide those investors with liquidity.
It’s probably too early to call Elio another Tesla (whose own market capitalization probably exceeds its actual value), and I don’t know how many of those investors are going to sell their stock so soon. But, if they did, they would have more than doubled their money in less than two weeks as of Monday’s close.
The small crew of folks who make up Elio Motors brought the latest, fifth generation, developmental prototype of their reverse trike to the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Paul Elio gave a press conference going over what progress the company has made moving towards actual production, including some details about their recent stock offerings that will fund the building of 25 pre-production prototypes.
I’ll get to the press release stuff in a bit. First I want to talk about the car, errr, autocycle, and the third-class of motor vehicles for which the company is lobbying regulatory acceptance.
My late father told me that few people are as passionate as converts who’ve become disaffected. Some of the most vocal critics of the Elio Motors startup are former supporters, people who put down money on reservations, only to be disappointed by repeated delays in starting production.
Paul Elio most recently said production is slated to begin sometime late this year — that is if they can get the money to do it.
However, those disaffected folks were abuzz this week over a post at Green Car Congress that said a proposed rule change by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would classify three-wheeled vehicles as automobiles. That would require Elio Motors’ three-wheeler to comply with all the same Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards of four-wheeled cars.
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.
Elio Motors, the startup automaker hoping to produce and sell a low cost, high mileage reverse trike announced yesterday that the prototype of the IAV designed 0.9 liter, three cylinder single overhead cam engine to be used in their vehicle has successfully started dynamometer testing. A short video of the engine running in a test cell has also been released. While it remains to be seen if Elio will be able to raise the $200 million or so they say they need to start production in 2016 (pushed back from this year), the engine test is one of the more important steps on the journey to reach that goal.
The most recent news out of the Elio Motors will provide grist for the rhetorical mills of both skeptics and enthusiasts of the startup car company. As we anticipated in our most recent post about Elio, the company has applied for a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy’s newly revived Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. Though Congress had allocated $25 billion for the ATVM loans, less than half was disbursed before the program was put on hiatus in the wake of the failure of Fisker, which had been granted about half a billion dollars in loan guarantees. Elio Motors announced that it will be seeking a loand of $185 million to “accelerate the company’s plans to begin production” of their enclosed tandem reverse trike next year.
The Elio Motors project continues to generate skepticism. The latest is a post by Tavarish at Jalopnik’s CarBuying Kinja subsite giving us a half dozen reasons while the high mpg reverse trike will never come to be, Six Things That Could Kill Elio Motors Before It Even Launches. Tavarish isn’t the only skeptic. The consensus among automotive writers seems to be highly critical. While I enjoy being a contrarian and going against the stream I still don’t want to be a cheerleader for Paul Elio and his team, but I have to confess that there’s romance in the idea of someone starting their own car company. I also think that there is no reason short of raising enough money why they can’t put the car into production and meet their performance and safety specifications. I’m not so sure about Elio Motors meeting their $6,800 price point but I still don’t think the latest criticism is completely fair.
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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.
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?