Elio Motors closer to launching new city“car”

Seat-behind-seat design makes width half that of a sub-compact cabin

Published: February 25, 2016, 12:30 PM
Updated: November 23, 2021, 2:51 PM


Most of the talk surrounding less intrusive urban transportation has been coming out of Europe and Asia, but an American company is stepping up with a low-cost 2-seat vehicle it says will have a significant impact on North American oil-dependency.

Elio Motors is a 2009 start-up by engineer Paul Elio, who wants to put his 3-wheeler (officially classified as motorcycle, though it has the steering, acceleration and stopping mechanisms of a passenger car) on the road by the end of 2016.

With a curb weight of just 570 kg, it doesn’t take much to get the Elio (no official name has been announced) moving. It uses a 55-hp fuel-injected SOHC 900 cc 3-cylinder engine from IAV engineering (which has worked with just about everybody in the global auto industry). Making 55 lb-ft of torque, it can take the vehicle from zero to 100 km/h in less than 10 seconds and attain a top speed of 165 km/h.

The small displacement contributes to reported economy ratings of 4.8 L/100 km in the city and 2.8 on the highway, with help from the narrow cabin. The body, as you’d expect from a seat-behind-seat cabin configuration, is about half that of today’s sub-compact car offerings, although placing the two front wheels outside the body work puts the width at 1,898 mm (nearly that of a Honda Fit). Length of 4077 mm, a wheelbase of 2,794 mm and height of 1,733 are also Fit-like (3955, 2530 and 1525, respectively). The 30-litre gasoline tank grants the vehicle a possible driving range of over 1,000 km.

Cabin dimensions again make individual seat room specs about equal to that of Fit but, there are two fewer seats. The other big difference is in trunk space, with the Elio’s 62-litre cargo hold barely able to hold an overnight bag (expandable to carry a golf bag, with the rear seatback down), and falling well short of the Fit’s 470 litres (1,492, with the seats down).

Standard interior amenities include air conditioning, AM/FM Stereo with an AUX port, and power windows and locks, and standard safety includes three airbags, a reinforced roll-cage and antilock brakes.

Among the colourful exterior paint treatments are Marshmallow (white), Sour Apple (Green), Licorice (black) and Creamsicle (orange). It also comes in True Blue, Red Hot and Rocket Silver.

The main stumbling block toward production to this point has been investment, with production pushed back several times as the company secures funding. At time of writing, 50,414 people had gone on an online waiting list (for between $100 and $1,000, refundable if you are willing to wait longer for a production vehicle) with over 17,000 claiming non-refundable priority spots.

Production is slated to ramp up at the former General Motors Shreveport Assembly and Stamping Plant that produced GM’s compact pickups (Chev S-10 and Colorado, GMC S-15, Sonoma and Canyon, Isuzu Hombre and i-Series) and the Hummer H3 and H3T until the summer of 2012.

The company is hoping to set the MSRP at less than $7,000 US, and has signed on with PEP Boys for servicing the vehicles.