I go see an Elio
July 13, 2014

Always on the lookout for the unusual, I ran across Elio Motors a few months ago. These guys seem to be hoping to set the world on it's ear with "the Next Big Thing" in transportation. I happen to think 90% of all vehicle use in the US is single occupant commuting, and your standard 4-wheeled car is pretty much a waste of resources in this activity. Motorcycles can't fill the void because of safety and weather vulnerability. Maybe the Elio can pull it off.

They have ambitious goals - $6800 price point, 84 mpg, etc. Sometimes it seems a little scam-y. Sometimes it seems possible. Their tour came through Portland, I decided to go take a peek for myself.

First indicator: The truck. That's a nice looking truck.

They were in Washington Square Mall. I haven't been in a mall in years - I felt like a coal miner at a fancy dress ball.

Elio's big idea on getting the price point down to $6800 is they are using tried and true technology - nothing new like electric or hydrogen. They've been using a '95 Geo Metro engine, but all the tools and dies for that engine no longer exist, so they are using IAV to make a new engine for them, and this is the prototype. There are no operating versions of the prototype yet - it is all just computer simulations so far. IAV is a big player in the car engine world, so that's nice. The other thing I like is the engine is supposed to be using standard parts - standard spark plugs, standard oil filters, etc.

That's a nice looking prototype - it is the 5th version, so it is bound to be slick. Polycarbonate panels glued to a steel frame (same technology used by Corvettes.)

I think the 3-wheel design is cool - it looks stable and solid - to me, but what do I know about making a car (autocycle, actually) capable of going down freeways and such.

That strut is a little close to the ground, for my comfort. Again, this is a prototype, everything can change between now and production - if it ever does get produced. Aptera, anyone?

I do like the look - and that they are using existing technology where possible. The headlight cover is new - because no one has a nose this shape - but the light itself is a standard halogen headlight. (I wouldn't mind them using LED lighting - that seems 'proven' technology, don't it?)

One thing I don't like is the hood opens forward, meaning you have to work around it when you want to get at the engine. Sure, it looks cool, but it's a PITA. Personally, I'd rather have it removable - even have the whole front cowling come off - but that's just me.

I am sure the exposed screwheads won't be in the final version.

There have been questions about how well the rear wheel will stand up to wear, like on motorcycles, the rear wheel wears faster and is usually more expensive than the front. The guy said this won't be a factor in the Elio as the rear wheel is not a drive wheel, nor does it bear as much weight as on a motorcycle - weight is distributed 70% on the front, 30% on the back (is that loaded or standing?) I believe it will be a different tire than the front ones, which sort of sucks from a maintenance standpoint.

A word about tires. There is no spare (or room for a spare) but they will be providing a can of sealer and pressurized air so you can get to a tire repair place.

I sat inside, and let me tell you, the front seat is VERY roomy and comfortable. There is lots of leg and head room. The autocycle will come with heat and a/c, power windows, ABS, an AM/FM radio, and an AUX port for your iPod or whatever. And there will be dozens of options.

The back seat does not have near so much room - especially head room. The guy said they are going to change the shape of the car a bit to make it more comfortable in the back - raising the roof 2". There will be an option for a sun roof, which is nice.

Controls are on the right - I think a manual transmission is supposed to be standard and automatic is optional.

All in all, this was an impressive display. I hope they end up being able to produce them.

On the way back to my car, I stopped at the Tesla dealership, also in the mall. The Tesla is as different from an Elio as a a vehicle can be. Completely different business model, different target market, different culture, different technology.

Damn, that's some sweet engineering. I have high hopes that Tesla will bring electric transport to the general population.

These are the drive motors for the rear wheels. No wonder it can go so fast. They had the Model S on display, and it simply oozed quality. Man, there is a heck of a difference between a $6800 car and a $91000 car.