Cool car or dorkmobile? This three-wheeled vehicle will sell for $6,800. It can save on gas with fuel economy of 84 mpg (AP photos)
Cool car or dorkmobile?
Lexile

Your next car could have two seats, three wheels and get 84 miles to the gallon.

Elio Motors wants to revolutionize U.S. roads with its tiny car, which is the same length as a Honda Fit but half the weight. With a starting price of $6,800, it's also less than half the cost.

Phoenix-based Elio plans to start making the cars next fall at a former General Motors plant in Shreveport, Louisiana. Already, more than 27,000 people have reserved one. Elio hopes to make 250,000 cars a year by 2016. That's close to the number Mazda sells in the U.S.

Because it has three wheels two in front and one in the rear the Elio is actually classified as a motorcycle by the U.S. government. But Elio Motors founder Paul Elio says the vehicle has all the safety features of a car, like anti-lock brakes, front and side air bags and a steel cage that surrounds the occupants. Drivers won't be required to wear helmets or have motorcycle licenses.

The Elio's two seats sit front and back instead of side by side, so the driver is positioned in the center with the passenger directly behind. That arrangement, plus the low seating position the Elio is just 54 inches tall and the lack of power steering take a little getting used to.

But after a couple of spins around the block in this Detroit suburb, it felt like any other small car. That's partly because its two front wheels stick out by a foot on both sides, aiding balance and preventing the vehicle from tipping. The Elio has a three-cylinder, 0.9-liter engine and a top speed of more than 100 miles per hour. It gets an estimated 84 mpg on the highway and 49 mpg in city driving.

Elio keeps the costs down in several ways. The car only has one door, on the left side, which shaves a few hundred dollars off the manufacturing costs. Having three wheels also makes it cheaper. It will be offered in just two configurations with a manual or automatic transmission and it has standard air conditioning, power windows and door locks and an AM/FM radio. More features, such as navigation or blind-spot detection, can be ordered through Elio's long list of suppliers.

Germany's Daimler also promised to revolutionize American commutes with the Smart car, but that hasn't panned out, says Karl Brauer, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book. Smart sold just 9,264 cars in the U.S. last year.

The Smart has a starting price of $13,270 for a gas-powered car and gets 38 mpg on the highway not enough savings or fuel economy to justify sacrificing comfort in the tiny car. But, Brauer said, the equation might work in the Elio.

Elio will also save money by selling the cars directly through its own stores and not through franchised dealers, similar to electric car maker Tesla Motors. Elio plans stores in 60 major metropolitan areas. They'll be serviced by car repair chain Pep Boys.

Paul Elio, a one-time stockbroker and New York City cab driver, dreamed as a kid that he would one day own a car company called Elio Motors.

In 2008, tired of high gas prices and the country's dependence on foreign oil, he started working on a fuel-efficient car. Equally important to him was creating U.S. manufacturing jobs and making the car inexpensive enough to appeal to buyers who might otherwise be stuck in old, unreliable clunkers.

"Whatever matters to you, this can move the needle on it," he said.

Paul Elio said so far, reservation holders are older, more affluent buyers who will use the Elio as a second or third car for commuting.

"It's an 'and' purchase for a lot of folks," he said. "So keep your SUV or your minivan or your large sedan, and when you're driving back and forth to work all by yourself, take the Elio. At this price point and this mileage, that works financially for folks."

Eventually, though, he believes the car will appeal to high school and college students as well as used-car drivers who want something newer and more reliable.

Critical thinking challenge: Give two reasons why this car gets better gas mileage than other cars

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COMMENTS (26)
  • AveriA456
    8/19/2014 - 08:45 a.m.

    I feel that the car is pretty cool, it's different then your every day car, making whom ever drives it a little unique. The fact that the car only two seats means that if you had more than one person to pick up, you'd have to make multiple trips just to pick up 3 people, because of the fact that the car has only two seats. Though the car only two seats, it doesn't make it any less interesting. The fact that its only 54 inches long makes you wonder how a car that small could fit a tall person or how anyone would even fit in it.

  • madisong-Sch
    8/20/2014 - 11:45 a.m.

    I think this is a dork mobile because its very ugly. If you and someone else got in a crash and you would be lucky to survive in that littler thing.

  • NildaJimenez
    8/21/2014 - 02:46 p.m.

    why does the U.S mark these "things" as a motorcycle if they have seatbelts and all the safty procotions as vehicals. He already has reserved 27,000 of these vehicals.

  • DallasV-Moo
    8/22/2014 - 10:39 a.m.

    I think it is a pretty cool car to have and to drive around in and plus it really saves on gas. You can buy the car for really cheap price and I hope doesn't cause a lot of pollution.

  • lombardoj4
    9/19/2014 - 12:53 p.m.

    That thing is awesome!It looks like a sports Smartcar.I'd hate to get in a wreck in that thing because i would be crushed.I think they need to stop making things smaller and more things bigger.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    9/26/2014 - 09:26 p.m.

    The Elio company is making a car that has 3 wheels, two wheels are sticking out of the front wheel holes so the car will not tip over like other cars, there is only one wheel at the back of the car instead of two at the back. The cars are going to be made in fall at a former General Motors plants in Shreveport, Louisiana, already, more than 27,000 people have reserved one so the people would want one so they get the car reserved when the people who wanted one car.
    Critical thinking challenge: Give two reasons why this car gets better gas mileage than other cars. Answer: The Elio company was making these cars so it would look different than the other cars that we have today.

  • mykalb-Orv
    9/29/2014 - 08:41 p.m.

    I'm not riding in this car it is a dork mobile. i mean it looks weird and it probable drives weird to. who would want to drive this if you get in a accident that thing is going to smash you like a pancake. it just doesn't make any sense i mean would you rather have this car or the new 2014 Corvette that is coming out soon?

  • rowdyl-Koc
    10/12/2014 - 01:45 a.m.

    This motorcycle thing gets better gas mileage because it has a 3 cylinder 0.9 liter engine. Paul Elio also worked on this I think and was dedicated to making a fuel efficient car

  • CStacey-Sti
    10/21/2014 - 11:39 a.m.

    Dork mobile I think this because of that way it looks like why would you buy one of thoughts things for that much money when you can get a "normal car " for way less and and least it has more than two seats.

  • Hannahr-Lam
    10/22/2014 - 10:32 a.m.

    Okay yes. This is a sweet looking car but will it be a car that fits to liking's? See how small it is? Well lots of people now carry many things such as bags, sports gear, instruments, kids? This tiny car does not look that big to really hold anything but a person and the personal items. I would rather have a bigger, nicer looking car than this tiny car. But yes I do like how this will help with gas problems. But I have a question. In this article the creator shows he is "wise" with money. But only one door? 3 wheels? I really hope that this was part of the design and not because of the money. Cars should be the best and yes money is earned but if he wants to make this car its absolute best.. He should really make some improvements! Overall, I would not buy this car because its really not my taste and it not worth my time.

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