Since its infancy in 2009, Paul Elio has touted his three-wheel, futuristic-looking vehicle as revolutionary. Its originally base cost was $6,800 and its specs were marketed with bravado, including 84 miles per gallon and a top speed of 100 miles per hour.
Through nearly a decade of talk, negotiations with various service companies, an increased starting price and several other issues, Elio has taken more than 65,000 reservations for a vehicle whose production model has never been built.
Jobs promised have never been fulfilled. Elio has massive debt and little cash. Prototypes of the mystery vehicle were showcased at auto shows and in various cities around the country. But that’s it. Elio has stated his car, now with a base price of $7,400, may never be built.
Community leaders in Shreveport, La., where Elio intended to manufacture the vehicle in a former GM plant, are not pleased. Several lawsuits are pending. More prevalent are potential Elio buyers who’ve assumed their respective deposits are lost.
The vehicle’s trials and tribulations are catastrophic. Automotive experts are not only skeptical the eco-friendly contraption will ever be made, they’re suggesting alternatives.
Three-wheel vehicles aren’t new; they vary in design and wheel configurations and date to 1885. But here are five options to the Elio:
Arcimoto SRK (www.arcimoto.com) — While also still waiting for its first production model, Arcimoto SRK is touted with a 230 MPGe or a 130-mile range.
Unlike the Elio’s range of nonrefundable deposits from $100 to $1,000, Arcimoto, based in Eugene, Ore., has a $100 refundable deposit. It’s priced at $11,900.
Electra Meccanica SOLO (www.electrameccanica.com) — The Canadian company took a bold move late last year. It said it would accept a transfer of deposits from Elio or a new $250 reservation for it electric three-wheel zero-emission, one-seater.
It’s reported to have 100-mile travel range and 3-to-6 hour recharge range. Electra Meccanica promotes its vehicle as “The Smartest Commuter Car on The Planet.” Cost is $15,500.
Polaris (www.polaris.com) — The company has a long history selling all-terrain vehicles. But the Medina, Minn., manufacturer also offers a three-wheeled autocycle similar to the Elio. The Slingshot, with its 173 horsepower engine, is street legal and available in S ($19,999), SL ($25,499), SLR ($28,999) and SLR LE ($30,999) models.
Slingshots include a seven-inch display that controls Bluetooth and USB audio and the navigation system.
Corbin Sparrow (www.corbin.com) — A three-wheeled, single passenger, battery-powered personal mobility, the Sparrow Microcar runs on a lithium-ion power source with an electric battery management with zero emissions.
The Sparrow, manufactured in Hollister, Ca., is promoted with a top speed of 75 mph and with a 100-mile range. It’s most prominent feature, other than is diminutive size, is its resemblance to a large, oddly shaped golf ball on wheels. It has dimples, a body characteristic for improved aerodynamics.
The Sparrow’s price breakdown is detailed on the company’s website. The first 100, sold in a “beat program,” are priced just under $37,000.
Vanderhall Motor Works — (www.vanderhallusa.com) Styled similarly to the Elio, the Vanderhall has Venice ($29,950) and Laguna ($49,950) models. Both feature 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbo engines and six-speed automatic transmissions.
The two-seat Laguna includes a six-speed automatic transmission with optional paddle shifting. It’s matched with a 1.4 VV Ti turbo 4-cylinder, 16-valve engine. The Vanderhall, manufactured in Provo, Utah, is front-wheel drive, with a single, wide middle rear wheel.
The Laguna is lightweight (1,550 pounds) and accelerates from 0-60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds. It has a top speed of 140 mph and can complete the standing quarter-mile in 12 seconds.