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.
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.
INTERESTED? HERE’S WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE JUMPING ON THE PRE-ORDER LIST:
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?