Elio motors – The Reverse Trike You Can Use All Year Round.

I’ve been eying this little startup with much skepticism for the past couple years and lately it appears they may be getting somewhat close to actually producing a vehicle people can buy.

Short review on the Elio.

First I wanted to pepper in some back story to why I am so obsessed with this.

I have been a closeted auto manufacturer all my life. I can remember being 7 years old and wanting to build a small, fully enclosed car just for me to ride around the yard and neighborhood. Near the end of high school I wanted to build an electric motorcycle, I even had a frame from a 1980 Honda CB500 I planned to use. After looking into the cost of all the parts I realized I didn’t have the cash and asking the parents was out of the question. In college I was in a small group that planned to design and build an electric bicycle but our class load didn’t allow us enough time.

At some point In college fell in love with the insanely expensive T-REX reverse trike. I dreamed of taking a Chinese reverse trike and using the frame and wheels but replace the body and engine. I also spent time designing a frame to build from scratch. I wanted to build something economical I could use year round. With little time and space I never got off the dreaming stage.

I never understood why there is no personal transportation choices, something between motorcycle and car. Something cheap and economical. I once heard a rationalization that this may be because the cost to make a 4 wheel 4 person car isn’t much different than building an even smaller 2 or 1 person car. People won’t buy a tiny vehicles without some decent economical return in cost and mileage.

Aptera Motors

In the mid 2000’s, Aptera Motors attempted to do something similar to Elio with a super sleek electric reverse trike with a target price of a full size sedan. I’ve watched Aptera motors with anticipation of their 3 wheeled reverse trike. I thought “some day, I’ll own one” I was gutted that this vehicle was clearly going to be marketed at a price too high for me to seriously consider. Their plan didn’t include a return in immediate cost. It had a higher cost than a standard compact car and they expected you to be someone that travels 500+ miles per week to recoup that expense in saved gas cost or be as nutty about efficiency and energy problem as they were and willing to shell out the dough. I’m all for efficiency and leaving a smaller foot print on this earth. I have a distaste for our societies obsession of cars, shinny objects and random gadgets. But in the end everything needs to make financial sense. Sure there are people that make tons of money and can have one just to have, but for people like me and millions others, It needs to make financial sense.  I hoped they might at least down the road make a cheaper version. When they went bankrupt before selling a single car, I couldn’t help feeling that their constant fiddling and making big changes to the design was part of the problem. They were trying to make the vehicle all things to all people instead of just a good efficient commuter vehicle.

Elio Motors

Elio motors is not only attempting to make a reverse trike I always wanted to build myself, but building it at a price I can afford and building it the same way I would using many off the shelf parts! Elio Motors price point is great because while Aptera Motors was trying to build a car for someone who drives a shit ton of miles everyday and thus will get back some of that expensive vehicle cost in saved gasoline cost, Elio is pricing it so you can afford it even if you don’t drive much, which I don’t. It really is priced like a motorcycle, it’s priced for many people to buy as an extra vehicle and keep their stupid gas guzzling SUV they really only need 3 times a year. The really great thing is that any other car you own becomes OPTIONAL! You could choose to buy an Elio and have nothing else at the price it would cost to buy a several year old compact car with over hundred thousand miles on it. It could be my sole vehicle to use all year round in rain, sleet or snow.

I can also see this vehicle being modified heavily, especially because it’s so small, lightweight and cheap. If this thing gets built you will see all types of modifications from standard saddlebags and tiny trailers for added storage to turbos added, engine swaps and electric conversions. I bet we’ll see whole body kits and frame modifications. Their extremely high sales expectations may not actually be that far from the truth, especially if it does end up being as safe and fun to drive as they say.

The Specs

Elio Motors is a 2 seats in tandem, front wheel drive reverse trike. A 3 cylinder engine will be designed and built, modeled after the Suzuki Swift/Geo Metro engine.

Their design targets:

  • Achieve 84 mpg highway
  • A top speed over 100 mph
  • 55 hp and 55 lb-ft of torque
  • 0-60 in 9.6 seconds
  • ABS breaks
  • Power windows and locks
  • Heat and Air Conditioning

I sincerely hope they do reach production and that their vehicle is safe and reliable. I’m still a little skeptical that they’ll actually reach production and hit their price point. It would seem infinitely hard to start a company on such a large scale as this on such tiny profit margins. I hope when they reach production their vehicle is well received and their employees are well compensated.

It may be a case that their goals are reaching for the stars. Not a bad strategy if you ask me because it makes them push themselves harder than they would if they just said “lets build a $10,000 trike with 60 MPG”. Even if they end up with a sales price of $8000 and and MPG of 70 highway it’s still a good deal and they’ll have broken the $10k 60 MPG hypothetical goal that they would not have if they didn’t reach for the stars.

I once heard an interesting quote: “If you reach for the stars you might not get one, but you wont get a hand full of mud either.” – unknown

If I was financially independent, I would seriously consider volunteering my manufacturing and controls engineering experience to them.

– Any thoughts on Elio Motors?


Longer review – Note: This isn’t me, even though we have the same name and love Saabs.

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6 comments on “Elio Motors

  • This is cool. thanks for posting, might be a suitable replacement for your bike, especially for use in the Midwest. I’m a few years away from buying a vehicle, public transportation is pretty good in Chicago and I don’t quite have a need yet. But when that time comes, I hope I can buy something unconventional like this or a smartcar or electric car.

  • I recently read about this car and then did a bunch of research, I’m hoping that they secure the rest of their funding and are able to bring this car to consumers. I think it’s the perfect fit for households that already own two cars, but one car is mainly just used for a longer commute. You can sell that car and keep the other car for driving kids around, travel, etc and use the Elio to commute.

    I think the biggest obstacle will be overcoming the market stigma that “bigger is better” and commercials that tell you 28-30MPG is “great mileage” for people that commute in SUVs and barely get 20mpg. A lot of people don’t seem willing to switch to the sedan to get 40MPG, so hopefully the 80+MPG and the $9000 price point may spark some more interest.
    Debt Hater recently posted…Save Money On Car Insurance – Defensive Driving CourseMy Profile

  • Ha, I followed the Aptera intensely as well! I even wrote to the governor of Wisconsin when we lived there telling him that he should find a way to offer up the closed down GM plant in Janesville for Aptera production. It was a sad day for me when they threw in the tower. Like you alluded to, they should not have tried to redesign it.

    I’ve followed Elio as well. I think they have the right idea, but last time I checked, they still hadn’t decided on an engine. The fact that the most important and expensive part of the vehicle is still up in the air isn’t a good sign. Oh crap, I just did a search and see that they have a prototype engine. Interesting, but engines are a tough nut to crack. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    I love electric propulsion. If you haven’t already, test drive a Tesla. It is freakin’ incredible. I’m convinced that electric is the future. It isn’t really feasible for the Elio now because of cost, but if they are still around, my perfect car may be a reverse trike powered by electrons, not hydrocarbons.
    Mr, 1500 recently posted…Thursday Rant: Of Marshmallows and MenMy Profile

    • Yeah that was my thought on the engine. It’s based on the Geo Metro/Suzuki Swift 3 cylinder engine. They explained that even though they wanted to just use the engine it didn’t get their targeted numbers and they needed to purchase tooling for it. They figured as long as they had to purchase tooling they may as well make some modern design changes and try to get closer to target MPG. But yeah, we’ll see how the engine goes down.

      Fun Fact: I actually used to design tooling for engines and such – one went to TESLA, that’s right, you’re test drive was kept cool by some part my tool cut!

      If the Elio gets built I’ll likely buy one and electrify it. Put my Phsyics/Engineering skills to good use for once. i’m kind of thinking I’d make it a plug in hybrid.
      By the end of the year I’m planning on building a wind turbine and getting some renewable energy going in my house.

      • That’s super cool about the Tesla!

        That company is really incredible. I really believe that the Gigafactory and the Model 3 will make them a serious player in the industry in about 5 years. In any case, it will be fun to watch the ride.

        You have some awesome projects lined up. Please write about them. Shit, if you’re out here, I’ll help you out.

        My next car (probably at least a decade out) will be all electric. Same with the motorcycle if I ever get one. Gas cars feel like dinosaurs after driving the Tesla. My plan is to throw panels on the roof and use them for charging.

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