Fact or Fiction? 3-wheel, $6,800 Elio praised, panned

James Raia

The concept for the planned Elio Motors 3-wheeler planned in 2015

Reservations for the Elio Motors’ three-wheel, $6,800 vehicle have surpassed 11,000, according to its website, with varying levels from $100 to $1,000 as the manufacturer  continues to market the futuristic concept around the country.

Paul Elio, the company owner and CEO said in recent press release the increasing interest means the public is “clamoring for the new type of transportation.”

Touting the unnamed vehicle’s estimated 84 mph in highway driving and hopeful 5-star crash test safety, Elio said:

“The vehicle is perfect for individual commuters looking for an inexpensive and fuel efficient mode of transportation, but who also yearn for a unique expression of their passion for driving.”

The concept for the planned Elio Motors 3-wheeler planned in 2015
The concept for the planned Elio Motors 3-wheeler planned in 2015

However, the pending machine, with an expected public release in 2015, has received polarizing reaction from the automotive industry. It’s been touted by mainstream car review sites and criticized by green energy proponents.


“Despite industry heavyweights including Altair Engineering, IAV, and NEWTECH 3 involve, a claimed 84 MPG fuel economy rating, a (dubiously anticipated) 5-star safety rating, and a starting price of just $6,800, I think Paul Elio’s little endeavor will fail. Scratch that. Elio Motors will utterly fail, completely fail, and embarrassingly fail.” — Jo Barras, www.gas2.org.


‘So, bottom line, is Elio Motors a scam? I don’t know. I don’t think so, the vehicle makes sense to me and they might just be able to build it at their target price point,  but until we see a production vehicle in the hands of a retail customer, we’ll never know for sure.” — Ronnie Schreiber, CarsInDepth.com.

Although the Elio engine is still in development, the current prototype has a GEO Metro engine. Representatives debuting the vehicle on top-60 market tour around the country, note the final engine will be 55-60 horsepower with 55 pound-feet of torque. The 0-60 mph is estimated at about 9.5 seconds with the top speed of more than 100 mph.

The production vehicle is projected to weigh an estimated 1,200 pounds. It will have a roll cage and crumple zones to absorb frontal and rear impact.

Elio By The Numbers:

* 84 miles per gallon with a gas-powered three-cylinder engine;

* Seats two in tandem;

* Price: $6,800;

* Air conditioning, heat, power windows and lock, AM/FM stereo radio;

* ABS brakes, air bags, traction control, stability control;

* Three-Year, 36,000 mile warranty;

* Engineered for “five-star” crash test rating.

For more information, visit www.eliomotors.com.

Article Last Updated: April 22, 2014.

25 thoughts on “Fact or Fiction? 3-wheel, $6,800 Elio praised, panned”

  1. Paul Elio is very good at making people believe that he can do more than he really can. A company I worked for invested in a little invention of his that was going to “revolutionize” the automotive seating industry – the “tube recliner.” He was even lucky enough to sway one of our Senior Vice Presidents into providing significant R&D funding. This same SVP also hired Elio’s firm to design a new seat for our company, which cost us even more money. Eventually we ended up without a viable seat design (his design missed all of the required marks), without a viable tube recliner design (not only was the design impossible to manufacture, but the advertised strength was never achieved), and with about $3M less in our bank account. It’s a good thing that some of us had accurate BS meters, or the company would have “burned the ships” (Elio’s recommendation) and trashed our entire line of seats and replaced them with the boat anchor that he designed for us. If anybody runs into Paul Elio, tell him to stop by to pick up the smoke and mirrors that he left behind. Oh, wait, it looks as if he is using them again!

  2. I think I’ll keep my bets on Elio. Certainly not some troll named BS Meter! I don’t even care if the Elio only gets 60 MPG / hwy. Still way better than some overpriced gas guzzling SUV that ole’ BS Meter is peddling. Just let the believers believe, and we’ll show the world just what America can do!

  3. (FROM WIKIPEDIA ON Tata Nano:) “In 1990, a Beetle from Mexican factories was priced at $5,300, about $9,567 in today’s money. The Ford Model T’s initial price was about $850, equivalent to $22,311 today.”

    Seems entirely possible to build a minimal vehicle for the promised price if they don’t keep changing the design baseline come first assembly. (Retrofit and options on a first year model are brutally expensive to production economy.)

  4. Hope you believe that his car will survive a collision with a Ford F250 dully! I’d not put my wife or kids at risk in a crackerjack box like that, or even a Geo, or Prism. I have a job to protect my family and risking them. So you can brag we don’t have to drill oil, nope, won’t do it

    • I’m pretty sure most cars wouldn’t survive being hit by an F250 dully going fast enough, so that’s a very ambiguous statement. I’m pretty sure an F250 dully wouldn’t fair to well against a semi with a full load of steel going fast enough either… Might want to go out and buy a semi with a bunch of steel if that’s the way you feel…

      I understand your statement, and I see where you’re coming from, but you have to be realistic. This car isn’t going to be a fortress on wheels. It’s supposed to be an economical car for someone to drive to work, do errands, or get a small amount of groceries.

      I for one plan on getting one. I’ll even go all in once it gets closer to manufacturing. It’ll save money on gas, insurance, and the over all cost per mile to drive will be far less than any other car on the market. For me I can deem it a throw away vehicle. If something happens to it I’ll be pissed, but if it gets wrecked it isn’t $30,000 out the door. Plus it’ll bring jobs to the US, being 90% US made. I don’t think that’s something any one can be cynical about. It’ll even add to our exports once they get the ball rolling with manufacturing, because Americans aren’t the only ones keeping an eye on this car. There’s a lot of interest all over the world for Elio’s product. This in turn equals more jobs for us. It’s a win all over if it makes it to production, and for one I think this is going to be another Tesla Motors success story.

      So let’s all be a bit more optimistic about this product and see it as a good thing for the US if it makes it all the way.

      • It really just looks like a Can-Am Spyder with body molding. Some motorcycles can get that kind of mileage I guess. A metro will get you great mileage (and last forever) and if you cut the weight, I could see 84. I’m not sure about the 5-star rating, the scary “engineered for” part. But I ride a motorcycle quite a bit, so I can’t possibly see how this isn’t as safe or more likely safer than that.

        • As for the Five-Star Crash Rating:

          You can be killed in a Hummer. Your crash argument is totally pointless, bordering on ridiculous.

          Something you might not realize: in a side collision, the Elio, being significantly lighter than your gas-guzzling dinosaur, will be pushed out of your path; in most cases, well before your beast can destroy it. Especially if you hit the tail. And, since the Elio has such a low center of gravity, it’s virtually impossible to roll…unlike a four-wheel vehicle.

          Visit the Elio Motors website (www.eliomotors.com) and have a look at the videos; there’s one that shows how they’re using the same software the NHTSA and other manufacturers use for crash-worthiness. A full-body roll cage, three airbags, crumple zones.

          This vehicle (car, autocycle, 3-wheel motorcycle, whatever you choose to call it) is FAR more than a Can-Am with a body. For one, it’s front-wheel drive, has a wider track and, as mentioned, plenty of safety features no motorcycle can lay claim to. In fact, there’s not a production vehicle on the road with a full-body roll cage.

          I’m halfway to the $1k All In level on a fixed budget. This *is* worth the financial risk, and by my May 10 birthday, I’ll have the final $500 in on my reservation, and I’ll know which vehicle is mine…at $1k All In, you get a production number.

      • I am with you Mike D. I put in $100, and when it gets closer I’ll up the amount. Hell, I lost more at the casino. As for the F-250 dully, they scare the hell out of me when I ride my Yamaha Venture and it weighs about 1,000 pounds. For commuting I drive a Subaru Impreza, that won’t stack up against a F-250 either. Gotta say one thing, they been pushing this prototype for the last few years and no one has charged them with anything. If it is a scam, where can he run to?? If it is only a dream, it is a good one.

    • George, your F250 “dully” (dually) won’t protect you from that rock hauler speeding up behind you with defective brakes and a drug-using driver. For everyone driving passenger cars/trucks/SUVs, there is always something heavier out there that will kill you. I agree, your odds of survival are better with tons (literally) of steel all around you. Plus, the Elio is not a family vehicle. For many of us with long commutes – who otherwise have no need for a big honkin’ truck – it’s just not practical. The EPA “tailpipe rules” that start taking effect in 2016 will be the beginning of many changes. The manufacturers are scrambling for answers. Knocking 700 lbs. off the weight of the F150 (with aluminum), is just the tip of the ice berg.

      • I don’t think accidents will be like the cartoons where it gets totally flat it will probably get pushed more then crushed. All this talk of danger. I have a Honda CBR250R Motorcycle. It will give me better protection than that. Honda Advertises 77 MPG for that bike driving normally. However, I like to hit it hard and get about 40 MPG. I am thinking of getting an Elio for when it gets too cold to ride. But whether you drive a Motorcycle or a Elio or a 18-wheeler (which i did for a while) you have to be careful of other drivers at all times. That is, drive defensively no matter what. I think the Elio will be a great car, and I want one. Drive carefully no matter what you drive and will go a long way toward your safety.

    • Same for a Smart? Same for a Harley? Same for a Ford Focus? The Elio isn’t promising some new technical breakthrough. They are avoiding stupid pointless costs legally tied to a car or truck. With 3 airbags it will be safe for anything outside being hit by some huge truck (less than 3% of all accidents). It’s engineered for up to two users (the average car or truck on the road is 1.73 persons)
      I’m not an engineer, but I don’t see anything expensive with the Elio and other than the engine designed exclusively (actually slightly modified) for The Elio and the injection molded outer skin, everything else appears to be off the shelf.

      If you’ve afraid of getting squashed in an accident get something heavier like an old checker cab or better yet, hide in your basement.

      And regarding Jo Barras, his self proclaimed expertise has next to no following.

      Could it be a product that never makes it to market? Yes, but he does have a team of real industry know-how and I believe it will make it to market.

      If they actually deliver The Elio below $8,000 and better than 70 miles per gallon highway, they will be able to sell 50,000 units in their first 13 months after the first model roll off the line.

      • My wife asked the same question. It is a pick-up truck with four rear tires (two on each side next to each other) and generally wider than a standard truck box at the point of the tires. Dully tires allow the truck to haul more weight.

      • It’s a “dually” — as in, it has DUAL rear wheels on each side.

        A “dully” is written by someone who can’t spell.

  5. I rather be in an Elio than a motorcycle. And how many vehicles have you run into lately? Maybe you should quit driving.

  6. Seems to me we are looking at a covered motor cycle that will be safer, if not much safer than a traditional one. So I am not sure why the skepticism is so high. Except for the limitation of riding due to bad weather I would be riding a motorcycle so this seems like a practical step up for some of us less ‘committed’ bikers. So ‘George’ it’s obviously not for you and neither would a motor cycle be. I don’t think anyone plans on colliding with a dully…fact is most any vehicle would not fare well if one was going fast enough.

    • Mechanically, it is definitively NOT a motorcycle:

      Front wheel drive
      Rack-and-pinion steering
      Steering wheel
      Three air bags
      Roll cage
      Foot-operated clutch (Manual Tranny only, of course)
      Foot-operated brakes
      Foot-operated accelerator
      Seats, not saddles

      All that, and more, before the body hits this list…

  7. Having been a 18 wheeler and having hit a full sized SUV that spun out in front of me… nothing stops 80,000 lbs on ice including air brakes or Detroit steel. The real point is that America has to change or we will all go down in fossil flames… I love my trucks and bikes but I would like to see more commuter type vehicles possibly hydrogen or natural gas would be preferred. Save us all from the middle eastern dependency.

  8. Why are automotive editors judging the car before it even has a chance? I mean, the car hasn’t even had a chance to prove itself.These automotive editors could be working for the bigger companies, and want to hurt the smaller guy. It’s happened before. Case and point? Preston Tucker, and his 1948 Tucker Torpedo. The car was way ahead of it’s time, with a swiveling middle head light that turned the direction the car turned, a AM/FM radio (that was ahead, believe me), pop-out windshields, and seat belts. The car was also cheaper then it’s rivals. What happened to it? Well, some “people” working on the inside accused him of taking bribes, and money laundering. (No one knows who those people were, but some believe they were working for big three auto makers). That’s when US attorney named Otto Kerner working with the SEC decided to press charges on him. After a long trial, Tucker was found not guilty. However, it ruined his reputation and his company. He died of cancer on December 26, 1956. The biggest loser wasn’t Tucker in my opinion. It was SEC attorney Otto Kerner. In 1973, he was found guilty of the same thing he tried to charge Tucker with, and he died of Cancer just three years later on May 9,1976. Alright, enough of the history lesson. We must wait to see what happens with Elio. Who knows? We might be driving his cars one day…. .

  9. I’m a motorcyclist. I love the idea of the Elio: small narrow cab, very high fuel efficiency, super cheap price!
    I would have preferred an Aptera, but that never made it to existence (yet).
    Elio will most likely go bankrupt in the same way, but that doesn’t seem to be assured yet.
    I would have far preferred a Tango car! But same thing, that doesn’t seem destined for mass production. Plus they have priced it far and away from anybody’s typical affordability.
    The Lit C-1 self-balancing motorcycle is also highly intriguing.
    However, so far, it seems only Volkswagen’s XL1 “1 litre” car has any likelihood of seeing the light of day.
    Again, however, like the Tango, that seems likely to not be particularly affordable.
    I just want a cheap, fun, jolly little commuter car. I’m seriously thinking of a 2nd hand Smart car!
    But an Elio would be very trick. 🙂


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