Three-wheel $6,800 car gears for 2015 US launch

Jan 09, 2014 by Rob Lever
Members of the media inspect a prototype of three-wheeled car, the brainchild of Paul Elio, founder and CEO of Elio Motors, on the sidelines of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) January 9, 2014 in Las Vegas

The sleek three-wheeled car looks futuristic, but, as its creator acknowledges, it uses no new technology.

What makes the Elio Motors vehicle unique is its ultra-high and an ultra-low price tag: $6,800.

The vehicle, which was on display at the Showstoppers startup showcase on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, promises to deliver as much as 84 miles (134 kilometers) per gallon (3.8 liters) of gasoline for highway driving.

It accelerates as quickly as many cars on the road—to 100 miles per hour in 9.6 seconds, according to the company. Urban fuel economy is estimated at 49 miles per gallon.

Company founder Paul Elio said he came up with the idea because "I got mad about seeing all this wealth leave the country" for imported petroleum.

An engineer by training, Elio began the firm in 2008 and recently took over an abandoned General Motors plant in Louisiana—one which had been producing the gas-guzzling Hummer.

In order to deliver the best fuel economy, the car has a cockpit wide enough only for the driver, with a passenger seat in the rear. It has two wheels in front and tapers in the rear to a single wheel.

"Front-to-back seating, that's the key to mileage," Elio told AFP.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

This makes it principally a one-person car, but Elio said the vehicle is a good solution for the millions who drive along to work or leisure events.

Elio readily admits there is no special technology in the car—it has a three-cylinder internal combustion gasoline engine, power windows, air conditioning and anti-lock brakes. While it does not have some of the on-board electronic gadgety found in other vehicles, drivers can connect their smartphones for navigation, apps and more.

"This was a design completely based on existing engineering," says company spokesman Jim Andrews.

The car has a top crash-impact rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Board, and is expected to meet all US safety standards.

Elio is targeting the US market but hopes to eventually ship internationally.

He has more than 6,000 orders from customers who have paid a deposit, and hopes to start delivering in the first quarter of 2015.

He also plans to speak with major automakers, including Chrysler, about possible partnerships.

It's not clear how much of an impact the Elio will have, but it comes after a sizzling debut for another startup carmaker, Tesla, which sells a $70,000 electric car.

Other three-wheelers may be in the words as well: a three-wheel concept car from Toyota was on display at the huge electronics exhibition.

Elio said he is encouraged by the response to the .

"We didn't design it to be cool," he said. "It was cool by accident."

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User comments : 28

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Bob_Wallace
2.5 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2014
It will be interesting to see if he can pull it off. I suspect he's basing the price on too many "best case" assumptions.

Better back seat access and a rear hatch would be welcome improvements.
javjav
1 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2014
This design can not be popular. When there are two people they simply like to travel side by side (otherwise they buy a bike). But a great design could be the possibility to put two of this things side by side when needed: Join retractile floors. Design the door frames to open in seagull style matching the gap, with each one rotating one third to the inner while joining in a common roof for structural robustness. Deploy a small windshield gap and extra trunk (use cloth style soft top for easier design). Front central wheels should also retract a bit. And voila! you have a 4 people car, and it is even convertible (just lower roof-door windows). Then each one can use its own minicar in the day by day, but all the family (up to 4 people) can travel together in the weekend. You can even switch drivers on the fly (just use "drive by wire" tech), or split in two cars when need it. (the difficult part would be to convince Pininfarina to make it look cool)
Zephir_fan
Jan 09, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
24volts
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 09, 2014
I think it would make a good town car especially for people that are normally by themselves when driving around. It also doesn't have all the extra electronic gadgetry which is fine with me too. One would take care of 95% of my transportation needs and it gets gas mileage almost as good as a scooter/moped but without having to deal with the weather. I ride an electric assisted recumbent trike now for most of my transportation and this would be a nice step up in convenience to me. It's got a good price for what you get too as far as I can tell.
Milou
5 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2014
I like it. We now can tell Saudi Arabia to go and stick their heads where the sun don't shine. Keep our wealth where it belongs (in our pockets). My only gripe would be better access to the rear for small various deliveries.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Jan 10, 2014
I wonder how it will handle in the slipstream of a semi if you took it on the expressway, even for a short while...
24volts
not rated yet Jan 10, 2014
I wonder how it will handle in the slipstream of a semi if you took it on the expressway, even for a short while...


Since it's more or less tear drop shaped and has better air flow around it, probably a little better than most small light compact cars. Since it's so light though it's still going to get buffeted a bit.
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 10, 2014
Join the long list of three-wheelers that for one reason or another never really caught on...

http://en.wikiped...vehicles

TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jan 10, 2014
So why is this elio thing a car and this
http://can-am.brp...der.html

-is a motorcycle?
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 10, 2014
So why is this elio thing a car and this
http://can-am.brp...der.html

-is a motorcycle?


Because it is a modified motorcycle to start with.

The difference is that in a motorcycle the driver sits astride the engine on top of the chassis, whereas in a car the driver sits in a seat, and is surrounded by the chassis. Small cars made out of motorcycle parts where the driver is seated inside a cabin or a chassis are called cyclecars.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2014
it looks good. The three wheel concept has one drawback, though: no matter how you steer you'll hit every pothole.
24volts
not rated yet Jan 10, 2014
So why is this elio thing a car and this
http://can-am.brp...der.html

-is a motorcycle?


You can pretty well bet it will be registered as a motorcycle due to the 3 wheel setup. People can call it a car all the want to but the DMV counts wheels.
Milou
not rated yet Jan 11, 2014
Any idea on the torque from the engine? Driving uphill.
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 11, 2014
it looks good. The three wheel concept has one drawback, though: no matter how you steer you'll hit every pothole.


And there will be traction issues. A three-wheeler is easier to spin out, because the rear end has less traction than the front end, so if you get it sideways for any reason - like hydroplaning - it will tend to strongly oversteer.

And if you spin it, it will also easily roll because going backwards it becomes a Reliant Robin.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jan 11, 2014
Join the long list of three-wheelers that for one reason or another never really caught on...

http://en.wikiped...vehicles


Yeah,I was really fond of the Aptera.Looked like it couldn't fail..
Newbeak
not rated yet Jan 11, 2014
Join the long list of three-wheelers that for one reason or another never really caught on...

http://en.wikiped...vehicles


How about two wheels? http://litmotors.com/c1/
kochevnik
not rated yet Jan 11, 2014
The gyro bike looks better http://www.youtub...Gl9jmulc
Newbeak
not rated yet Jan 11, 2014
The gyro bike looks better http://www.youtub...Gl9jmulc


That's what I gave a link to!
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2014
The price seems impossibly low, especially if it's made in America.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2014
So why is this elio thing a car and this
http://can-am.brp...der.html
-is a motorcycle?


You can pretty well bet it will be registered as a motorcycle due to the 3 wheel setup. People can call it a car all the want to but the DMV counts wheels.


If it was classified as a motorcycle it wouldn't need the airbags and some other expensive safety items. Maybe $6800 would be possible as a motorcycle.
24volts
not rated yet Jan 11, 2014

You can pretty well bet it will be registered as a motorcycle due to the 3 wheel setup. People can call it a car all the want to but the DMV counts wheels.

If it was classified as a motorcycle it wouldn't need the airbags and some other expensive safety items. Maybe $6800 would be possible as a motorcycle.


In the US, federal law classifies anything with two or three wheels as a motorcycle whether it has an enclosed drive cockpit or is a regular looking bike/trike. The fact that it has airbags etc... hasn't got anything to do with it.
That's good actually as you normally get cheaper insurance.
http://www.gpo.go...0258.htm

FainAvis
not rated yet Jan 11, 2014
In the night dark highway imagine driving a road train and looking into your mirror as you pass this silly contraption at 120 kph. Through the rain or dust do you see those wheels sticking out beyond lights and body or will they become entangled with the 13th axle way back there?
kochevnik
not rated yet Jan 12, 2014
The gyro bike looks better http://www.youtub...Gl9jmulc


That's what I gave a link to!
Not sure why the are not producing these yet. The technology is far ahead of the tricycle toys
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 12, 2014
Not sure why the are not producing these yet. The technology is far ahead of the tricycle toys


Gyroscopic or not, motorcycles just don't work well in inclement weather or poor road conditions. There's traction issues with water, ice, snow, gravel, sand, potholes... that quickly overcome the ability of the system to compensate.

And fixed reaction wheels only have a limited control over the vehicle, plus, they tend to produce unwanted side effects in e.g. going up steep hills, because inclining the vehicle will roll it sideways due to precession. So driving up a ramp into a parking complex will be a bit wiggly.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jan 12, 2014
Not sure why the are not producing these yet. The technology is far ahead of the tricycle toys


Gyroscopic or not, motorcycles just don't work well in inclement weather or poor road conditions. There's traction issues with water, ice, snow, gravel, sand, potholes... that quickly overcome the ability of the system to compensate.

And fixed reaction wheels only have a limited control over the vehicle, plus, they tend to produce unwanted side effects in e.g. going up steep hills, because inclining the vehicle will roll it sideways due to precession. So driving up a ramp into a parking complex will be a bit wiggly.

You don't really understand the technology (read the FAQs) -these new gyro-stabilized systems are not a simple flywheel with no range of motion! There are two flywheels in the Lit Motors product.While traction issues would be similar to those of a four wheeled vehicle,it cannot be tipped over,short of destroying the flywheel components.
Mayday
not rated yet Jan 12, 2014
Love the idea, and hats off to this kind of innovative thinking, but that said, I'm having a difficult time seeing how they are making this geometry stable enough for the average driver; even good drivers who may need a motorcycle license in some states. Some aggressive traction control on all three wheels will be a must, IMO. I wish they provided more info in the video as to how they are solving this. I can not wait to test drive a production model. And, ah, I'm thinking a convertible version is a no-brainier.
kochevnik
not rated yet Jan 12, 2014
Not sure why the are not producing these yet. The technology is far ahead of the tricycle toys
Gyroscopic or not, motorcycles just don't work well in inclement weather or poor road conditions. There's traction issues with water, ice, snow, gravel, sand, potholes... that quickly overcome the ability of the system to compensate.
I think that's why the office is in California, where weather is not an issue
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 12, 2014
You don't really understand the technology (read the FAQs) -these new gyro-stabilized systems are not a simple flywheel with no range of motion! There are two flywheels in the Lit Motors product.While traction issues would be similar to those of a four wheeled vehicle,it cannot be tipped over,short of destroying the flywheel components.


I see no gimbal mechanism on those gyroscopes, so don't mind if I won't believe your word on it. There isn't enough space for a full range of motion gimbal in such a flat pack, so they cannot have an unlimited range of motion. Your statement about the impossibility to tip one over is plain bull**** and a misunderstanding of gyroscopes..

Company marketing claims and reality are two different things.

And the traction issues are worse due to having two wheels instead of four. If your front wheel hits a pothole, you go flying because that's your only steering wheel. How it comes out of the hole determines your trajectory.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jan 12, 2014


I see no gimbal mechanism on those gyroscopes, so don't mind if I won't believe your word on it. There isn't enough space for a full range of motion gimbal in such a flat pack, so they cannot have an unlimited range of motion. Your statement about the impossibility to tip one over is plain bull**** and a misunderstanding of gyroscopes..

Company marketing claims and reality are two different things.

And the traction issues are worse due to having two wheels instead of four. If your front wheel hits a pothole, you go flying because that's your only steering wheel. How it comes out of the hole determines your trajectory.

This stabilization system is over a hundred years old! https://sites.goo...yrocars/
About your comment re:losing control if the front wheel dropped in a pothole,it occurred to me they could incorporate a third wheel behind the front one,just above the road surface,which would keep the steering wheel from bottoming out.