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Is ELIO for real?

We make an in-depth exploration of Elio Motors trike

by Ujjwal Dey


Paul Elio with his namesake creation
Paul Elio with his namesake creation

Launched and promoted by automotive enthusiast Paul Elio, this three-wheeled auto bears his name. Is it a trike? Is it an autocycle? Will it get registered as a motorcycle? These are yet to be finalized by regulatory bodies.
Founder Paul Elio wanted to fight the increasing prices of both consumer vehicles and fuel. At the same time he wanted a practical and reliable vehicle that would be very affordable and give lots of miles per gallon. His dream didn’t end there.
This magical vehicle had to be ALL-AMERICAN. It had to be completely made in America, employing Americans as an American revolution in travel and automotive industry. The design, the manufacturing, the marketing – the people will be Americans and the target market is America.

Before Elio Motors even put design with a pen to paper, four Elio “Must-haves” were etched indelibly in their minds and hearts.

1. Amazing Mileage: While other vehicles make their competitive claims within a few MPGs of one another, Elio needed to take it to the stratosphere. As they continue to engineer the Elio for up to 84 MPG, they officially have liftoff.

2. Safety: Elio is engineered to the highest safety standards. Each Elio comes equipped with a Safety Management System that includes three airbags – a unibody frame, Anti-Lock Braking System, and 50% larger crush zones than similar vehicles.

3. Made in America: Elio is American-made targeting utilization of 90% North American content, and they have re-engineered existing technology throughout.

4. Low Prices: Everything just costs more today. Houses, cars, heck, even a gallon of milk and a box of cereal. Elio Motors believe wallets need a break. A new vehicle targeted $7,450* base price is not just what people want. It’s what they need.

So the dream was steamrolled and turned into a brick and mortar company with a manufacturing unit via Manufacturing facility of former General Motors Hummer H3 facility in Shreveport, Louisiana. They estimated that upwards of 1,500 direct US jobs will be created in Shreveport. An additional 1,500 jobs from the supply base, Elio Motors corporate, as well as sales and service once full production is underway. Plus, approximately 18,000 indirect jobs nationwide are projected to be created or sustained.

As of 2017 Elio Motors already has an impressive 65,000+ reservations through pre-bookings. Elio Motors are targeting year 2019 to begin production and are taking reservations on their website. Elio Motors plan on filling all reservations in the very first year of production.



In an Elio, you will get up to 84 MPG on the highway and 49 MPG in the city. All this from a gas powered (regular unleaded) engine. By using a combination of lightweight materials and a unique aerodynamic body style, the three- wheeled vehicle will weigh a targeted 1,350 lbs., roughly half of the average 2,400-pound vehicle on the road today.
Front-to-back seating is the secret to the high fuel efficiency, as it is half the width of traditional passenger cars. The Elio moves half as much air as a traditional passenger car, and wind drag is the single biggest factor impacting fuel economy during highway driving. Combine our configuration with an ultra-efficient engine and you get unbeatable gas mileage. The Elio will run on regular, unleaded gasoline. At up to 84 MPG on the highway and an 8-gallon gas tank, you’re looking at a 672-mile range on a full tank of gas.

Standard features in a typical Elio include A/C, heat, defrost, AM/FM Stereo, power windows, power door lock and auxiliary port and cruise control and manual transmission. Basically, everything you need. Additional changes or preferences can be configured on your Elio through their “ePlus: My Elio, My Way” options program.


The Elio features a fuel injected, SOHC gas-powered, 3 cylinder, .9 liter, liquid-cooled engine. The engine is 55 HP with 55 LB-FT of torque, has a top speed of 100 MPH, and goes 0-60 in about 10.8 seconds. The oil that is currently specified for the engine is 5w 20, a standard motor oil.

The trunk space will be at least 27x14x10 inches, enough for an airline carry-on bag or a golf bag with the rear seat down (47 inches plus). Pep Boys is assigned as the authorized service provider. Elio offers a 3-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

The Elio team hope that their three-wheeler will be insured as a motorcycle in most cases and anticipate that costs will be much lower than automobile insurance. Currently they are working behind the scenes with the major insurance companies so that they will be ready to insure the Elio before the start of production.


Despite the compact look and positioning, the Elio fits majority citizens in their vehicles. The vehicle is based on the “95% male." That is a 6’1” 230 lb man, both in the driver’s seat and passenger seat. During testing, Elio Motors have had people as tall as 6’8” fit comfortably in the front seat, and 6’4” in the rear.

Due to lack of nationwide dealerships, initially the Louisiana factory will ship Elio vehicles directly to your home from the manufacturing facility. These details will be worked out prior to production. Elio Motors plan on having retail centers in the top sixty markets of the U.S. All these retail centers will be owned and operated by Elio, as opposed to the conventional model utilizing factory-authorized dealer franchises.


The ground clearance of the Elio is 5.75 inches, which is consistent with other vehicles on the road such as the Toyota Corolla, the Honda Accord EX and even the Mercedes S550. The Elio has great traction action which enables it to handle nicely in the snow.

Additionally, its physical makeup of the front engine design placing the majority of the weight over the front two tires, front wheel drive, traction control, stability control, ABS and a low center of gravity, all help its driving performance in such weather conditions. Power steering is not a necessary feature in this vehicle because of how well it drives as a front-wheeled drive vehicle, with most of the weight in the front of the vehicle.

The vehicle's' tires will be of a steel-belted, radial design and will conform to standard sizing metrics, with the two front tires being 135/80 R15 and the single rear tire measuring 175/65 R15. All of the tires will come from an existing Continental Tire product and are expected to have comparable tread life and replacement costs to conventional tires. Similar to most new vehicles on the market today, the Elio will not come with a spare tire. A charged can of tire sealant will be available to assist in getting you safely to the nearest tire repair facility. It’s easy to change the rear tire! The rear wheel cover comes off with a couple of clips which reveals the rear tire and swing arm. From there it is just like any other vehicle, jack it up, undo and remove the tire, put the working tire up and reverse the steps.

A turning radius measures the distance it takes a vehicle to make a (legal) U-Turn (or full circle). The Elio’s turning radius clocks in at approximately 28.9 feet.


Technical Features include:

  • Targeted 84 MPG Highway / 49 MPG City

  • Elio Safety Management System that includes three airbags, unibody frame, Anti-Lock Braking System, and Electronic Stability Control

  • Fuel-injected, SOHC gas-powered, Variable Valve Lift, 3 cyl., .9 liter, liquid-cooled, automotive engine

  • Front Engine / Front-Wheel Drive

  • 8-Gallon Tank

  • Regular Unleaded Fuel / 87 Octane

  • Range up to 672 miles

  • Standard 5-speed manual or optional automated manual transmission (AMT)

  • 120amp alternator

  • Top speed over 100 MPH

  • 0-60 speed in projected 10.8 seconds

  • 55 HP and 55 LB-FT of torque

  • 11:1 Compression

  • Tire Sizes: Front: 135/80 R15 / Rear: 175/65 R15 with Tire Deflation Detection System

Standard Convenience Features include:

  • Air Conditioning / Heater / 2 adjustable vents / Defrost front and side windows

  • 6-way manual driver seat / Cloth

  • AM/FM stereo radio

  • Power windows

  • Power door lock

  • Cruise control

  • Odometer / Trip computer

  • Interior light

  • Rear seat LATCH safety system; rear seat USB power port

  • Disc brakes with Hill Start assist

  • Auxilary power - cigarette lighter 12v, additional USB port

  • 3 yr / 36,000 mile warranty

  • Pep Boys is the anticipated official service provider

  • Parking brake

  • Plus hundreds of options like leather seats, stereo upgrades, radio add-on, etc.

Exterior measurements:

  • Overall Length: 160.5”

  • Overall Width: 75.5”

  • Overall Height: 54.2”

  • Front Wheel Track: 66.8” (center rim to center rim)

  • Wheelbase: 110” (center of front wheels to center of rear wheel)

  • Ground Clearance: 5.75” / 15 degree approach angle

Interior measurements, seats 2 in tandem:

  • Headroom: Driver 39.8” Passenger 36.4”

  • Seat width: Driver 20.6” Passenger 25.3”

  • Interior Shoulder Width: 27.8”

  • Front seat Legroom: 42.7”

  • Rear seat Legroom: 33.1”

  • Trunk Size: 27” x 14” x 10” / Rear seat folds down for additional space

A wide range of colors are proposed for the Elio. Rocket Silver, Sour Apple, Creamsicle, Red Hot, True Blue, Licorice, and Marshmallow are announced colors.


Elio Motors certainly has made a big bang in the news media with many features in popular televsision and newspaper channels. Fox Business, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, etc are just some of the media outlets praising Elio Motors initiative for a clean environment friendly, citizen’s pocket friendly and its true American roots. Their website is active and their newsletter has useful details about the doubts and concerns of motorists who want to ride an Elio. You can even send an engineering question to tellmemore@eliomotors.com and get the solutions applied by Elio on their very active and regularly updated blog.

If you really can’t believe these features are realistically possible, practical or can be implemented on a daily highway vehicle, just headover to their excellent Elio Motors Magazine called “Momentum”.


They cover various technical and functional aspects as well as legalities in their magazine articles which are clearly explained for the layman or average Joe who has never held a spanner for work.

If you have a booked/made a reservation for an Elio, do write in to us at www.BikernetTrikes.com to share your experience and eagerness.

wayfarer@bikernet.com or leave a comment below.
Elio Motors has been working on its three-wheeled car-cum-motorcycle ("autocycle") since 2009. And 2019 is still a long way to come for production of Elio vehicles and their subsequent hitting the tar roads with the steering in your hands. Yet, if you got a passion for the extraordinary, and Elio fits the bill, tell us about it. 


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