This is the three-wheeled Elio.

It costs $6,800.

It gets 672 miles per gallon--enough to go from Detroit to New York on one tank.

Because of its size and its three wheels, it's technically a motorcycle. In some states, you might have to wear a helmet inside.

It's coming to market next year.

Even though regulations don’t require it, the company plans to comply with all standards for cars that apply.

Because the vehicle is so lightweight--about half the weight of a typical small car--the company can save on materials costs.

The company will offer the option to buy the car with nothing but a special credit card for gas; every time someone buys gas, they’ll pay extra to make a car payment.

2014-03-31

Co.Exist

This Three-Wheeled Car Costs Just $6,800 And Goes 672 Miles On A Tank Of Gas

The Elio is technically a motorcycle, but is a whole lot easier and safer to drive.

Most Americans—about 93%—drive to work alone. So why use a car that’s big enough for four? A new vehicle that’s half-motorcycle and half-car is designed to replace sedans and SUVs on morning commutes and help save money and emissions in the process: The Elio costs $6,800 and gets 84 miles to the gallon. It’s possible to drive 672 miles on a single tank of gas. That's the distance from New York City to Detroit.

“The premise behind the concept is that most households have at least one vehicle that’s single occupant,” says Paul Elio, founder of Elio Motors. “Even if you have kids, you probably have an SUV or minivan, and then a small sedan with dust on the backseat. We can be that car.”

The Elio actually has two seats, set front to back for ideal aerodynamics, in case the driver needs to give someone a ride. Inside, it looks and acts pretty much like a car; it’s fully enclosed and has car seats and seatbelts, air bags, and options for manual or automatic transmission. It's more like a car than this somewhat similar vehicle from Lit Motors. But because it has three wheels, it’s classified under law as a motorcycle.

The motorcycle classification leads to some strange consequences—in a few states, under current law, you’d have to wear a helmet even though the vehicle is enclosed. But it also has benefits. “As a motorcycle, you can go in the HOV lane by yourself,” Elio says. It also meant the vehicle can come to market more quickly, since there’s less red tape involved in manufacturing a motorcycle.

Even though regulations don’t require it, the company plans to comply with all standards for cars that apply. “We’re engineering to achieve a 5-star crash rating in all directions,” Elio says. “We’re going way beyond the minimum.” Still, there are a few idiosyncrasies—the headlights, for example, can’t comply with car standards because motorcycle lights are required to be brighter by law.

Because the vehicle is so lightweight—about half the weight of a typical small car—the company can save on materials costs. Elio has also tried to optimize other steps in manufacturing to keep costs down. “We get all 34 of our suppliers together once every four to six weeks and we work on the vehicle as a group. That’s never been done before. All of these things add up to a lower price.”

There are no guarantees of success. Aptera Motors developed a three-wheeled electric vehicle with much fanfare, but the company shut down in 2011.

When the vehicle comes to market next year, the Elio plans to have innovative financing to make the vehicle even easier to buy. “It’s actually cheaper to drive a brand new Elio than a clunker,” Elio says. The company will offer the option to buy the car with nothing but a special credit card for gas; every time someone buys gas, they’ll pay extra to make a car payment.

“If you buy $10 of gas, it will show up as a $30 charge on your statement—that $20 extra is your vehicle payment,” Elio explains. “As long as you drove into the dealership with something that gets 27 miles per gallon or less—and we know there are 100 million of those cars out there—you’ll be paying less, and you’ll have a brand new vehicle under warranty.”

You'll also be helping reduce pollution. "If you drive it 20,000 miles per year, an Elio produces less emissions than one cow’s flatulence during the same time," Elio says. "We’re cleaner than a cow. After 10 years of sales, we expect to save 8 billion gallons of gas."

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22 Comments

  • Tony Vincent

    I ride a motorcycle year 'round (Florida is home) but I don't carry raingear so the Elio will be the inclement weather vehicle for me. My alternate vehicle has been my Chevy 1500 Silverado Truck which I sold yesterday.

    I'm looking forward to the delivery of my Elio hopefully in 2015 ... wishing the company well of course.

    Florida is a no helmet required state and I already have my motorcycle endorsed driver's license so I am raring to go!

  • Every time I see a concept for a new ultra fuel efficient vehicle I think to myself, "OK.. Show me the price". When I see the price tags on things like the Tesla I know it will most likely be forever out of my price range. When I saw this I thought, "I've got to have one".

    You get the great milage, nice options inside, with an amazing price tag. I think the creator realizes that if he doesn't price it VERY aggressively it could end up as a flop. If he gets that 5 star crash safety rating I think it could be a home run.

  • I think one of the problems of comparing an electric Aptera, sales flop, is that electric cars in general, other than expensive jewelry like the Tesla, don't sell well. And hybrids are down as well, except plug-ins. If you are going to do something mass market it has to be a known fuel infrastructure, no fear of expensive battery failure, and without range anxiety. You can easily market this as an actual green car, where electrics are just burning power plant fuels with a very low fuel to car efficiency.

  • Steve Davis

    ummm, the amount of electric vehicles on the road has doubled every year for the past several years, so... not sure what you're talking about. teslas are selling like crazy. the rich buy them first, financing R&D for the cheaper models to come. the sub 40k model is supposed to come out in a couple years.

  • Ronnie Mathews

    Steve, just think about it. I can stop and get 8 gallons of fuel in 3 minutes. How long does it take to put a full charge on ANY electric car, no matter the price. Also, as far as range, no electric even comes close. I'm not sure where you live that you see so many Teslas, but I've never seen one on the road. Even at $35,000, that's still over 5 times the price of an Elio. It's a no brainer.

  • Tom Winand

    I saw and got to sit in the prototype in Salt Lake it's very impressive. It's a 3 wheel car and it's as big inside for one as my Saab 92x. I'm 6 foor 285 and i fit fine in the drivers seat. I passed on the passenger seat, bad hip. I'm going to jump in next month and reserve 2 of them. The Aptera was an all in green concept car, the Lit is a Gyroscope on 2 wheels I'm not betting my life on that on the freeway. The Elio is the original VW bug of our time, inexpensive transportation for the masses. Mr. Eilo doesn't spin it any other way. It's not green it's gas not electric or diesel. It about transportation for the masses. The better mileage is purely a physics problem smaller frontal area and lighter. This will be a fun commuter car and it is fun to sit in. It's a head turner and pretty substantial it's as long as any subcompact car. I felt like I was in a race car. There is currently no view out of the back but I bet it will have a camera on the dash as an option.

  • Pablo Schmitt

    there is a mistake in one of the pictures "672 miles per gallon"....I think is was 80 something. 672 miles per tank would be correct.

  • Bill Willsie

    You made a mistake in one of your graphics (caption under a photo), confusing the range of the vehicle with the mpg.

  • Joanne McCudden

    Sorry, but what's the point? There are plenty of 'normal' diesel cars in Europe that do 84 MPG plus! My Volvo C30 routinely does 600 miles to a tank of fuel and can carry 4 people plus bags!!

  • Your volvo C30 is rated to do 21 in the city and 29 highway. It has a gas tank twice as big as the Elio. Let's compare apples to apples, not to kiwi. I have a Volvo S60 and it's horrible on gas mileage. If the Elio had been available now i would have purchased one instead of the expensive repairs I did on the foreign car. Haven't reserved yet, but plan to. Might do it before I see it in Oshkosh WI in July, but at least then.

  • Daniel Kelley

    The point is the cost and it being almost 100% USA sourced and assembled. Bringing jobs back to USA is high on my list.

  • The point is that those 'normal' diesal cars in Europe cost three or four times more than the ELIO! Your Volvo C30 starts at $25,500 base!! There are 98 million vehicles on the roads in the US that are 11 years or older - "clunkers" that get achieve very poor fuel economy and are some of the worst emitters of greenhouse gases. This Elio vehicle will allow even the economically challenged households to purchase a affordable, fuel efficient "green vehicle"! THAT IS THE POINT!! The facts in this article are sourced... studies are done... 93% drive alone to work. Seems like easy decision to me.

  • Sorry but there are few diesels in Europe that get what you claim...but there are a few. Additionally big companies like Vw will never bring their uber eco-disels to the USA not only because of the EPA but because they feel there is no market. Look at Smart...they brought a car to market here that barely got 40MPG (gas) because they new Americans would never put up with a car that they would feel is dangerous on a freeway "on" ramp. Right or wrong that is how the big companies think.

    This company is offering a product at 1/4 the cost of a traditional diesel car from a company willing to take a risk. I doubt they will get it to market for under $10K US but if they could produce it at the advertised price I'd be first in line.

  • Cameron Schwartz

    Random Mouse,

    When the Elio does hit the the market at under $10k, you have already missed the boat on being first in line. There are already over 13,000 in line!

  • And my TDI get's 900 miles to a tanks...but that means nothing...it's more a function of $$ to miles. This thing wins over your C30 by leaps and bounds. I also own 3 Volvos now and they get horrible mileage compared to their competition...I want my Vw back!

  • Sai Namuduri

    LOL you have obviously never been in an open-wheel race car or seen F1/Indycar racing. Do you know why crashes in F1 and Indycar and others are generally more spectacular and at higher speeds yet leave the drivers intact? part of the reason is the way the cars are designed to break and fly apart away from the driver, especially the suspension and wheel assemblies. Generally, passenger cars do the opposite - they're meant to have crumple zones - but the way this car is built means that achieving a five-star crash rating isn't that difficult. And for the record, the front wheel assembly is more stable and less likely to be damaged than wheels under the body and further inboard.