An Elio Test Drive… Hopefully!

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The ghost of John DeLorean willing, I will be getting some seat time in an Elio in the near future. I’ve been in touch with company honchos and they promise to make it happen. I am hopeful – because I want this car to succeed. If it does, it could save the car business by making driving affordable and fun again.

In either order.elio 5

It amounts to the same thing.

Cars cost too much – and they are much too complicated.

The Elio is neither.

You know, the way most cars used to be – before the lunatics got out of their pens and took over the asylum.

It’s fine to have expensive and complex cars – for those who want them and can afford them. But does every car need to be expensive and complicated?

No – but they are.

In part because Uncle – and his cost-no-object insistence that cars be made accident-proof and idiot-proof. Which mandates tend to add weight and so conflict with his other mandates insisting that cars deliver at least 35.5 MPG on average (which few do) and 54.5 MPG (which none do) about nine years from now, regardless of the cost.

The Elio promises 80 MPG on the highway not nine years from now but (fingers crossed) sometime later this year.

For about $8,000.

If they can pull it off… Uncle pic

The biggest obstacle isn’t engineering. I could build an 80 MPG car; any half-bright backyard wrench turner (I qualify) could build one using a tube-frame and a motorcycle engine or something along those lines. It would get 80 MPG.

But it would never pass muster with Uncle.

Emissions wouldn’t be a problem. A transplant motorcycle engine (or maybe a very small displacement car engine, such as the ones used in prototype Elios) would run more than clean enough.

And that ought to be enough.

Uncle maybe can make a case for regulating emissions as harmful gasses (over a certain reasonable amount) can be legitimately said to constitute a threat to the health of other people.

But safety – that’s the tough one. I could not backyard-engineer a car that would meet Uncle’s fatwas regarding how effectively a car must protect its occupants against impact forces in a crash.

But that’s really none of Uncle’s business as no other people are are harmed if I crash. That’s my business.

Unfortunately, Uncle has made it his business. And it is why cars are fat and expensive and drink too much gas (Uncle’s fuel-efficiency fatwas notwithstanding).

Will the Elio be able to pass muster with Uncle on this score?

The company says yes, but it looks daunting. The car is a super lightweight (about 1,200 pounds) and in order to run between Uncle’s red-and-white-striped legs, it will likely have to be officially classified as something more than a motorcycle, but less than a car.

Different (less severe) standards apply for vehicles that are not considered full-fledged cars.

It remains to be seen whether Uncle will allow this.dancing Clover

I worry that he won’t – because if he does, the Elio will succeed. And if that happens, the rest of the car industry will react like Hitler in the bunker scene. They will demand “action” to stomp the upstart, which will inevitably be derided as “unsafe.” And in Uncle-ized, Cloverfied America, warbling “safety” is all it usually takes.

Still, if the Elio can make it to production, it may be too late.

For Uncle and the Clovers.

I have an intuition that there are millions of people out there who’ve had it with overpriced, too-heavy and much-too-thirsty cars. Who’d line up around the block to get something new that’s like what they drove as teenagers back in the ’70 and even the ’80s – before they let the lunatics out of their pens and put them in charge of dictating car design.

I will keep you posted.

Keep your fingers crossed!

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41 COMMENTS

  1. Heard on the radio this am that the People’s Republic of Maryland has given regulatory approval for a new class of vehicle know as an ‘autocycle.’ Regular driver’s license is required. Motorcycle license is neither required nor sufficient.

  2. If Elio is permitted then every car maker will add one to their line up, plus Polaris which already has a 3 wheeler. I wonder if they can claim 3 wheelers in their fleet fuel efficiency numbers. Elio is way safer than the Polaris Slingshot or a motorcycle, so what’s Uncle’s problem?

  3. Eric,

    From what you know about this car, what do you think about its durability?

    It looks a little weak in the area of the front axle to me.

    • Hi Dave,

      That’s a complete unknown because they’re not in circulation and there’s no real way to know until they are. That said, it ought to be very durable given the low weight and simple design. Fingers crossed!

  4. eric, are the various kit cars available (factoryfive, etc) crash-compliant? Could the Elio, should it be bounced by Uncle, be resurrected as a kit?

    I’m sure, like everything else, licensing and insuring a ‘homebuilt’ vehicle will suck, but I’d hate to see a really good idea and execution disappear.

  5. I’ve been a follower of the site for several years and finally found something to register to comment on. (Awesome site, eric!) The Elio is my dream car! I’ve been wanting something this cheap and quality for a good, long while. If Uncle decides We The Sheeple are undeserving to have one of these things, then maybe he can take a nice, juicy Oak Ridge piece of fireworks and shove it straight up his starry @$$!

      • I was one of the damned Clovers behind the wheel at the start of my lurking years here. Thanks to all the regulars such as PtB and eight, that has changed over the years. I might still drive only a little over speed limits, but damn it, that’s what slow lanes and pulling off are for. 🙂

        • j, I’m the last person to tell anyone to drive over the limit. I don’t expect anyone to do over the limit but under the limit, please choose a speed others can pass you and go out of your way to allow them to pass on two lane roads with no passing lane. On the interstate, I love the people who drive a bit over the limit. If I feel the need to go faster I only ask they keep the same speed since I drive speed limited vehicles.

          A tip to those who want to stay away from trucks(and who doesn’t?). Drive 68 instead of 70 so you won’t be doing that lane to lane thing with the many speed limited trucks who can’t run over 70. Same thing with 75, run a bit over that and you’ll have the truck behind you and 80 or above puts those trucks I sometimes drive that are limited to 79 behind you. Lots, way too many, trucks are speed limited to 65 which sucks the big one for the drivers and esp. if somebody is jacking around and driving slightly above and below that speed. For truckers it ain’t a race. All we want is to not have you let your slightly faster vehicle slow going uphill to match us or almost exactly the same speed as us, as in 70 when going downhill since our cruise controls often let one run up to 72 or3 downhill. I don’t want to have to turn the cruise off, lose speed and then spend time losing more speed till the turbo spools up again and I’m now going slower than my limited speed.

          I like hell out of everybody driving slightly over the PSL or well above. You’re correct in pointing out the right lane is for slower traffic but hopefully, not slower just at the point of causing big rigs to have to pull into the passing lane and then have to pull back near the top of a hill. If we all had 700 hp and 2,000 lb ft. of torque it wouldn’t be an issue, especially if those idiot owners would realize fuel mileage is better with more transmission speeds so having a 13 speed or a 15 or 18(preferably) not only gets better mileage but is safer all around. On some roads being able to let one roll 85 downhill and then getting into the throttle to easily roll over the next hill at 75 is not only easier on the truck but saves fuel and saves the driver a lot of hassle. It ain’t rocket science but those people who order fleet trucks are far and away from understanding any science.

          I often drive the old lady’s car below the PSL but I don’t hold people up and speed up when somebody’s behind me and can’t pass or slow down and move over so they can.

          Think about it, all you have to do to speed up is use a little more right foot. All a trucker has to do is do lots of calculations in his head, try to time it right and wish to hell the wind wouldn’t blow so hard when he’s trying to get up a hill. And when you get lucky that a-hole beside you in a four=wheeler speeds up to match you.

          The clover that really gets my goat is the one who you pass with your cruise on the pickup at 79 and then speeds up and very slowly passes you and then backs off and you have to pass again…..only it kills them that you’re going to pass again so they pace you and then you have to gain a few mph to pass them and return to your original speed to which they’ll follow you right on your ass and then finally pull out and go around only to slow down again. WTF is it with people like that? Oh, I know, they want to go faster but don’t have the nuts and can’t stand for anyone to pass them. It ain’t a race in a pickup either. That pickup(or most everything with any power)will keep the exact same speed uphill and down. But for clovers, it’s too much to be passed and too much to stay in front. They don’t really have the nerve to run 79 and I don’t have the patience to jack with them. I run 79 in cars and pickups constantly and have never been stopped. I sometimes run an even 80 and have never been stopped. Just set it, forget it and sing along with whoever’s playing on Willy’s Roadhouse.

          If the big 3 would use a scaled down version of an Eaton-Fuller 13 or 18 speed transmission in a diesel pickup I’d sell my soul to the devil to have one.

          • Hey 8, “WTF is it with people like that? Oh, I know, they want to go faster but don’t have the nuts.”
            That could be it, or it may just be that they don’t like being behind that big rig that’s going ‘about’ the speed they want to.
            Then again, some people are just jerks.

            • Hi Phillip,

              Elio hasn’t gotten back to me; they were supposed to be scheduling a test drive… now radio silence. It’s disappointing.

              • Elio sent an e to me a couple days ago saying they’d gotten RI and Ma. one board so they only need a few more states to have their 3 wheel is a motorcycle law in effect.

            • I have known a trucker or two who kept a bag of marbles for that but that’s not a good idea if you’re a rock hauler.

        • Morning, J-Kwik!

          It’s not the speed one drives that defines one as a Clover. It’s whether one is a control freak who thinks everyone else ought to drive at the same speed he does – and uses his car to enforce it.

  6. Meritocracy: government or the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their ability.

    Dissonance: a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.

    While I don’t believe for one second the people running the Executive branch bureaucracy are selected for their true ability (other than being good at passing tests), they certainly believe that’s the case. I’m also certain there are plenty of highly educated, well read, and even well meaning people in the machine, who’ve never worked outside the government complex. For them, engineering a super-safe vehicle that gets 50+ MPG is not their problem. The Ministry of Energy just wants an ever more fuel efficient automobile. The Ministry of Transportation just wants an ever more safe vehicle.

    When engineers are presented with two impossible tasks (in this case fuel economy from the Department of Energy and safety from the Department of Transportation), there’s not much they can do. Fast, cheap or right (choose any two) rules still apply to engineering projects. The ideal automobile for the Meritocracy is a golf cart with 5 point harnesses and foam bumpers all around.

  7. I’ve been following cars like this for the past 6 or so years now. I finally own a full sized car (I never thought I’d be able to afford one, hence my interest), but I still want this thing to succeed. I eagerly await your test drive, fingers crossed.

    • I have (at the moment) four bikes, each one very different. I ride the sport bike when I feel the need for speed, the touring bike when it’s a long ride and I need comfort and the capacity to carry stuff. That’s how I look at the Elio. It would be great as a commuter, the car to take when it’s just me (and maybe one passenger) and I don’t need the truck’s cargo/hauling capabilities or the muscle car’s hunger for fuel!

  8. If they can bring this to market anywhere close to where they’re aiming, I may be able to afford one w/my TDI buyback money. Wouldn’t that put clover’s knickers in a twist?

    • BigD, like a big Goldwing engine hogged out, cammed up and big exhaust. It would scream and still get good mileage. Inspections in my parts are rudimentary.

        • Morning eric, naw, I reloaded FF and it accessed everything on the old one so I’m good. Thanks for asking. I still like the idea of that 1800 cc Goldwing engine but you’d have to get one cheap somehow to not double(or more) the price of the Elio.

          • Excellent – good deal!

            PS: A buddy wants to swap my ’83 Silverwing 650 for an ’83 Goldwing he’s got that’s too big for him but just right for me… I am severely tempted!

            • I’d rather have the Silverwing. When I bough my GSL I had ridden a friends GS and it was all good. Since they were selling like hotcakes they had no demonstrators, hard to even find the color you liked if you were set on one color. I just bought the GSL and always wished I had bought the GS which I could reach the ground with both feet. It was just a hair too tall, not the only tall Jap bike. I never quite figured out why they made so many bikes so tall. I guess they thought all Americans were John Wayne.

              • I am tempted because the Goldwing is a better fit for a guy my size. And the seat is much more comfortable. Also, I like that the hard bags are large enough to take a full face helmet!

                • I can deal with a cruiser that’s a bit tall since there’s not that many stops I have to make. I do like the size and amenities of a GW and they are certainly nice cruising bikes. We’re in “the year of the grasshopper” now, once about every 7 years. The more fairing you have in front of you the better. Using gloves is a boon but leathers are too much right now. It’s 103 and has been that or a few degrees above for weeks now. My fullface Nava is actually cooler in this weather than anything else since you can leave the face shield at whatever angle you like and run the air around your head without having the sun beat on your head. I saw a couple guys with black leather jackets last week, wondered how they could stand it. We’ll get to endure these grasshoppers till Nov. or Dec. The year I bought the GSL was a grasshopper year. I took the wife cruising one day, turned off one bad road grasshopper-wise onto the worst road I’ve seen for them and these were jumbos. They were so thick the road was slick with them and since their cannibals, the more there were dead on the road the more that came and stayed to eat them. We made it about a mile before I found a place I could turn around and not be scared the bike would slide and dump us. Once off that road I tried the same one we’d been on for another fifteen miles before hitting a major highway that was much better. We stopped and spent a good amount of time at a carwash getting grasshoppers off the entire bike and having to use high pressure right down through every engine fin. It was bad enough we both spent most of the ride leaned over behind the fairing. I drove slow to the house and washed the bike again along with our helmets.

    • Hi BigD,

      I thought that, too! 🙂

      The prototype has a 1 liter three cylinder. Why not a 1200 cc DOHC inline four?

      • Eric,

        Probably it would be too difficult to get 80mpg with a 1200cc engine. They might have trouble getting 80mpg with a 900cc engine.

        If the car gets to market, I expect that a larger and/or more powerful engine will be found to fit in place of the current elio engine.

        • Hi Mith,

          It depends on tuning/output.

          In this application, 60 or so hp (about what a Super Beetle was packing) is probably more than sufficient. A high-performance 1000 cc bike engine routinely makes 150-180 hp, far more than the Elio would need.

          Even so, such an engine is usually capable of 45 MPG if the bike’s not run too hard.

          • Eric,

            Regardless of the size or stated output of the current engine:
            About 80mpg with 0-60 mph @ ~10second with a top speed of ~100mph is very good.

            Some people use a larger/stronger engine to sacrifice some MPGs for better acceleration and higher top speed. I would not, but I can see the appeal.

            The Elio’s current specs would meet my needs as a general runabout/commuter. I would like to pair an Elio type car with a larger vehicle to handle the larger tasks that an Elio could not handle. Almost having my cake and eating it too.

            • Mith, I agree with you…..and then don’t. I’m better in my old age but it’s still hard for me to leave anything stock. Mostly though, it’s just a better oil(Amsoil)and better air filter to get a bit more mileage. Oh, I’d mess a bit with a computer to get a few more ponies but only if I don’t have to ‘splain myself to some entity, either govt. or manufacturer.

              And another seat in an Elio or more spare room would be a boon and it wouldn’t have to be much. Enough room to stow CholleyJack comfortably in front of the a/c is fine with some more grocery room. I hope I don’t need my 3 large toolboxes. Just CJ, another 5 gallon jug of water and a couple cases of beer plus the b&c and I’d be good to go. After all, when you commute, bringing some liquid home is one of the chores. CJ can curl up in an area the size of a seat bottom and that’s just another 100 lbs.

              • Eightsouthman,

                It’d be nice if it (Elio) was long enough for my skis, but I think the only way my skis fit is with the hatch open. I”d like to see the car come out so I can try to fit them in.

                I’m almost ready to try Amsoil. I still have some oil left, about two more changes worth.

                If the Elio came with a removable rear seat you might have room for a few more essentials. 😉

            • Ditto.

              I had no problem driving a ’73 Beetle in DC traffic back in the mid-1990s. And it had a less favorable power-to-weight ratio than the Elio! It’s a constant source of teeth-ache to me seeing all these 200-plus hp cars everywhere driven by Clovers who rarely if ever use the power/performance their cars have. I used to Frogger though and around such back in the day, in my Beetle.

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