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. It's 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. Those include 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. The driver is positioned in the center with the passenger directly behind. 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.

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 has air conditioning, power windows and door locks and an AM/FM radio. More features 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 is a one-time stockbroker and New York City cab driver. He 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.

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 (143)
  • Jason0421-YYCA
    8/19/2014 - 06:48 p.m.

    I think that it is amazing for a car can have 3 wheels, but I also think that it is not right for a car to have just one door. So I think that they should implement that. I also think that there really is no reason for you to have a car with only 3 wheels because a smart car has 4 wheels and has also the same qualities as the smart car. I also think that the car would have the same amount of people who want to buy it because it's the almost exact thing as the smart car.
    Critical thinking challenge: Give two reasons why this car gets better gas mileage than other cars.
    Answer: One reason why this car gets better gas mileage than other cars is that there are going to be 60 major metropolitans. Another reason is that there are going to be gas-powered car.

  • ericvo-Sch
    8/20/2014 - 11:40 a.m.

    This is a really bad idea. It is probably very very unsafe. If you get rammed by another vehicle, you are in big trouble. At least it's really cheap and has good gas mileage.

  • blairew-Sch
    8/20/2014 - 11:43 a.m.

    I think that the car is really cool, but it doesn't look cool. What surprises me the most is the price, thinking of a car like that I would think that it would be a lot of money. I would like it because it gets really good mileage.

  • annari-Sch
    8/20/2014 - 01:57 p.m.

    I'm not sure what I think about what it looks like, but I like that people are trying to make cheaper cars. I do think that there should be two doors instead of one though.

  • brendanf-Men
    8/21/2014 - 09:24 a.m.

    That car/motorcycle looks funny but cool at the same time I would never buy one but I know people that would love a car like that .

  • Jvelasque7156
    8/21/2014 - 02:52 p.m.

    That Elio motors car is one of the best cars I have ever seen in my life. It's starting to make more money than Mazda or Honda cars, I hope it reaches it's goal in 2016 to make 250,000 Elio cars a year.

  • Adriane927
    8/22/2014 - 08:24 a.m.

    Give two reasons why this car gets better gas mileage than other cars. In 2008, tired of high gas prices and the country's dependence on foreign oil, he started working on a fuel-efficient car. 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.

  • Wade42601
    8/22/2014 - 08:34 a.m.

    i would like this car very much when i am in high school and college. The only thing bad about this car is the size, because what if i have friends with me.

  • Markala87001
    8/22/2014 - 08:34 a.m.

    This car is smaller and hold less people , so why should to be more .

  • JoseG5314
    8/22/2014 - 08:40 a.m.

    I think this car gets better gas mileage because its a small car. Its also because it is Half the size. Its also half the weight

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