CES get ‘definitive’ Elio Motors three-wheeler

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Elio Motors says they have a "definitive" version of their hyper-efficient commuter car. Photo Credit: SmoothGroover22/Flickr.com/CC-BY 2.0

Elio Motors says they have a “definitive” version of their hyper-efficient commuter car. Photo Credit: SmoothGroover22/Flickr.com/CC-BY 2.0

Elio Motors is an automotive start-up, offering a three-wheeler ideally suited to solo commuters with a low price tag and jaw-dropping fuel efficiency. The “definitive” version of their intended car was shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show recently, though a few hurdles remain until production and sales can start.

Elio Motors three-wheeler won’t stay in Vegas

The Consumer Electronics Show is a big deal for the sort of people who actually care about the specs on their TV or cell phones (you know the type, and they’re annoying) but automakers go there too, including a start-up called Elio Motors. Elio, for those unaware, are trying to bring a three-wheeler to market and have been getting a lot of press in the process.

According to Jalopnik, the version shown off at this year’s CES in Las Vegas is “definitive,” meaning it will be essentially the same one slated to go on sale in 2016.

The only similar vehicle widely known about is the Morgan Three-Wheeler, though the Elio and the Morgan are about as different as chalk and cheese. The Morgan is a sports…ish…vehicle, but the Elio is strictly for commuters. It’s rather perfect for the latter, with a projected base price of $6,800 and a projected fuel economy of 84 miles per gallon.

Not a hybrid or a diesel

The reason for the astounding 84 mpg asserted by Elio Motors is not mysterious: the car is the size of a horse pill and the engine could fit on a TV tray. The car is not very big, as it only has two in-line seats. Power goes to the two front wheels (they call that a “tadpole” configuration) via a three-cylinder engine. There’s no rear window, but there is a small cargo hatch.

The engine is being developed in-house, but the P4 prototype, according to a review on The Truth About Cars, employed a Suzuki 0.9-liter three-pot good for 55 horsepower. Elio’s is slated to make about the same, but they are planning to offer turbocharging. Transmission can be had either in manual or automatic iterations.

While most three-wheel cars skirt crash safety regulations by being classified as motorcycles, Elio is building in airbags, crumple zones and a roll cage. Private testing may be done in the future, with the results being made publicly available.

TTAC reports a 0 to 60 time of about 10 seconds, which is certainly on the sluggish side. However, did we mention that it should go for about $7,000? A brand new car for $7,000 (pending approval by the various states) that will do 84 mpg.

The hitch

While the potential for Elio Motors is obvious, the hurdles to implementation are somewhat steep. First, they have to get a dealer network together. Second, they have to get approval by states to sell as a car, rather than a motorcycle, which not every state allows for. Third, they have to get people to buy the damn things, but the selling points are pretty obvious.

A small number of people are already lining up for them. Car And Driver reported 12,000 orders were already made by March 2014, so some demand is there.

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