Meet Elio Motors: Cars for Today’s Generation

What if you could buy a sleek, new, eco-friendly car that gets a whopping 84 miles to the gallon—for under seven grand? Elio hopes you’re interested.

Elio Car

It’s no secret that the traditional car is shifting as our technology becomes more sophisticated: the world’s first flying car was recently test-run, we can buy cars from our Smartphones, and soon our cars might even drive themselves. So, what exactly does today’s generation even want in a car? Modern conditions mean we have to deal with painfully high gas prices (according to the AAA newsroom, the US average capped out at $3.71 per gallon this year), expensive cars, jammed roads, and packed parking lots with tiny spaces.

These are exactly the issues that automotive engineer Paul Elio hopes to solve with his startup, Elio Motors. Founded in 2008, Elio has been working from Shreveport, La. (where they bought out an ex-GM plant for a steal) to bring you their innovative three-wheeled car for—wait for it—under seven grand. Elio was founded primarily with the intention to address high prices at the pump, providing households with a gas-friendly “and” car instead of an “or” car (Paul Elio’s way of saying, don’t drop your SUV, just add the Elio), for an efficient solution for situations like commuting to work.


Because Elio has three wheels, it technically isn’t a car at all: it’s classified as a motorcycle. This tiny ride sports a sleek, futuristic look and comes in seven bold colors from “marshmallow” to “red hot” — I personally prefer “true blue”. Elio is the length of a normal car, but half the width. It fits two people (one in front, one in back). Its tiny fame means parking in tight spots is totally doable, and it’s also legal to ride an Elio in the HOV lane—bye, traffic! At 84 miles per gallon, you can drive from New York City to Detroit on a single 8-gallon tank of gas. Elio also claims premium safety features including a roll-cage frame, an anti-lock brake system, and a “50 percent larger crush zone than cars with a similar size.” In addition, Elio sports an “inline, 3 cylinder, .9 liter, 55 HP, fuel-injected, SOHC gas-powered, liquid-cooled, automotive engine.” In other words, with about as much get up and go as a Geo Metro and an engine the size of a lawn mower. Elio is also 90 percent American-made (unlike many of the cars seen on our roads today), which means more domestic jobs — in fact, about 1,500 are projected for Shreveport alone.

With Elio's slender frame, you can squeeze into tight spaces.
With Elio’s slender frame, you can squeeze into tight spaces.

The startup is currently working with manufacturing partner Comau, who is selling equipment they don’t need to raise cash to get the vehicles on the road by 2015. Elio also had a pre-order campaign, including a social media push, which helped fundraising efforts and currently stands at 35,144 folks all anxiously awaiting their efficient, eco-friendly ride.


Because the three-wheeler is technically classified as a motorcycle, not only will you need a motorcycle license in most states to even drive one, but this also means something completely different when it comes to your insurance:

  • Motorcycle insurance happens to be significantly cheaper than auto insurance. With motorcycles, damages are less on average, but riders often heavy-up on personal liability (which, as it turns out, is still cheaper in the end).
  • Because nobody wants to ride their motorcycles through the snow, insurance companies usually only insure them for part of the year. Elio’s unique car-like nature makes it easy to drive all twelve months, so you may need to check with your insurer on how year-round motorcycle insurance may work.
  • Car insurance assumes that you will have passengers, who are covered by your policy. Motorcyclists must have additional coverage for passengers – which I’m assuming you’ll want with Elio’s back seat.
  • Motorcycle policies also include a pretty extensive list of accessories including leathers and helmets, which brings up my next point, and potentially the biggest pain point of Elio: In five states, you’ll actually be required to wear a helmet while driving your Elio. The company, however, posted recently on their blog that they have legislative meetings queued to change that.

If you’re sticking with Paul Elio’s description of Elio as an “and” car, this means you’re probably going to need to add motorcycle insurance to your existing auto insurance. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, combining policies is much easier (and cheaper) than adding a separate motorcycle policy anyway. Ask your agent for an ‘endorsement’, which is a document that allows changes to your policy, to include your new “motorcycle”.

Elio is set to launch in the third or fourth quarter of next year with a price tag set at $6,800. Will you be hopping into one of these super-slim rides?

  • ZorrosBlade

    Hanne you need to change the line where its states “in fact, about 1,500 have been created in Louisiana alone.” To ~~~ Elio is expected to hire for 1500 job …. Then this article would be pretty close to correct.

  • glenn

    It won’t need a motorcycle license or endorsement in about half the states (so far), and Elio is working on exemptions in the rest, since it obviously doesn’t drive like a motorcycle.

  • Jeffkan1

    Well done Keiling! One minor item: “95% American made” is not quite correct. Paul Elio has said “90% North American content”. Also, I did not realize that motorcyclists need extra insurance for passengers. Interesting!

  • Hanne Keiling

    Thanks so much for the feedback, all! Definitely digging into these tips!

  • Richard Butterfoss

    No problem … I’m ready .. I like the idea of an Elio credit card … How about a theme song like … ‘Born to be Wild’ … brown leather jacket …

  • Sean Fairburn

    If its classified as a Motorcycle this will also includes Helmet in States that require it for riding Motorcycle correct??

    • LillyMayPatterson

      A few states now would require wearing a helmet, including OHIO, In OHIO only if your under 18 or a ‘novelist rider’ Jo, the VP of governmental affairs is on top of all the states getting corrected by the time our Elios are available.

  • mhandler2000

    I have a reservation. #9751. It comes standard with a 5 speed manual transmission (Automatic optional), power windows, power door lock, air conditioning & AM/FM radio. :)

  • grampi

    I highly doubt there will be any states that won’t wave the requirement of having to have a MC endorsement to operate one, and having to wear a helmet would actually be dangerous…who wears a helmet when driving their car? No one. The Elio will be no different in that respect…

  • GolfBasebull

    im number 10,560 in the group known as “all in” who put 1000 bucks down on an elio car. so obviously I wish mr elio and his team luck. I know 1 thing. he has a hell of a team working on the car.

  • Kathy Vincent

    About Elio …You can file a charge back with your credit card company for a refund due to the false production dates. If enough people would do this the credit card company will encourage them to correct their false advertising. If he files bankruptcy it will be too late for a refund. Also if its ever produced, make sure you budgeted at least $15,000. Your agreement states sales price is not guaranteed. Also your deposit does not guarantee they will ever sell you a car or make these. Mr. Elio says if the car sold today he could not sell it for less than $7300. Yet he refuses to make this public by changing the advertised price. Earliest possible production start, if they raise $240 million in the next few weeks, is mid 2016. If this car is ever produced I can buy one the first year right after reservation holders. If they can make these as fast as they claim then there will be plenty to buy the first year, if its ever produced. Prices will only increase in the next 3 years and I’m sure there are many costs he did not consider. There is not a production date scheduled at this time.