Paul Elio says the tiny, three-wheeled 80-mpg car with his name on it will cost what he’s been saying all along — the bottom line is still $6,800. "We're only about $500 over budget on the car right now," he said. That’s interesting, because often price inflation sets in. I’m not convinced anymore that the forthcoming Model Three Tesla really will sell for $35,000.
The public definitely wants Elios, and the company has taken in 35,000 reservations at an average of $500 each. Some 85 percent are non-refundable. I drove an Elio and put up a quick video, and it now has more than 150,000 views. Elio is probably too quick to translate the reservations into done-deal sales, but it’s still impressive. And the car is cheap.
This is fairly close to the production Elio interior, though the dashboard should be snazzier. (Photo: Elio)
The Elio is targeted to come out in the third or fourth quarter of 2015, with fuel economy fairly close to the target (at least 80 mpg, anyway) — if, if, if. The big question is whether Elio, which has prototypes and an ex-General Motors factory in Shreveport, Louisiana, can secure a $185 million Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) federal loan. The company has been informed that it’s made it through the first of three rounds, and its application is “substantially complete.”
It happens that $185 million is about what Elio actually needs to tool up for production. Elio says the company has raised $65 million, and is now in the process of selling off unneeded GM manufacturing equipment in Shreveport. Elio hopes for “tens of millions” from that source.
The ATVM program hasn’t given out any money for three years. The double whammy of Solyndra and Fisker sent it into hibernation. You certainly won’t see any awards before the midterm elections. But the program — which still has $16 billion — has been revived, with a Department of Energy spokesman claiming to have launched “an active outreach campaign.”
Paul Elio says the government’s cautious approach after Solyndra favored giving the money to existing companies (like Ford and Nissan), rather than “pre-revenue start-ups” like his, but he’s hoping that the fledgling company has demonstrated it has staying power. While he’s waiting, Elio is holding supplier summit meetings to try and keep costs contained.
There's room for golf clubs back there. But it's an Elio, so maybe owners will use the storage for lunch boxes. (Photo: Elio)
A big to-do is finishing the IAV three-cylinder engine, which is supposed to start testing on the dynometer in November. Elio said the motor is set up for turbocharging down the line, and a performance version (with only 55 horsepower, there’s room to grow) is a possibility down the road. But the priority is a running, driving car. The demonstrators are running around with Geo Metro power. (And that could have become the production motor.)
The Elio will have an a la carte options menu designed to avoid selling consumers add-ons they don’t need. You won’t have to buy the “tech package” to get the navigation system. Standard will be such luxuries as air conditioning, power windows and doors, and some kind of stereo.
Little discussed is the fact that Elio plans to open its own stores, following the Tesla model. Elio admits that there may be “some issues” over that, but since his vehicle is licensed as a motorcycle and on the lower end of the price spectrum he doesn’t think it will raise any hackles. We’ll see about that. It’s been a bumpy road for Tesla with state regulators and dealers.
And finally, about that motorcycle licensing — in some places driving an Elio will require wearing a helmet. But the company is furiously negotiating over that, and thinks it will get the requirement dropped (especially for drivers over 21). Elio pointed out to me that wearing a helmet with a seatbelt is probably an unsafe combination anyway. But five states — Missouri, Nebraska, Mississippi, West Virginia and North Carolina — are still demanding helmets. Here's the national picture:
And here's the Elio on video:
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