LAS VEGAS -- With an expected price of just $6,800 and a claimed 84 mpg on the highway, the Elio seems too good to be true.
Showcased here at the 2015 International CES by its creator Paul Elio, this weird-looking orange vehicle takes a stripped-down approach to efficent transport. The American-made and -engineered car is down one wheel and a whole lot of sheet metal compared with a conventional car, presenting itself as an inverted three-wheeler.
Unlike most inverted trikes that I've seen or driven, the Elio is a front-wheel drive vehicle. Its 55-horsepower, three-cylinder engine lives under the narrow hood and drives the front wheels, which are hidden beneath their own individually articulated aerodynamic shrouds. Fifty-five ponies may not sound like a lot, but the Elio weighs just 1,200 pounds -- about half as much as a Mazda Miata.
Occupants sit in a tandem configuration, the driver ahead of one passenger, which affords the Elio its narrow, slipstreamed body. From the driver's seat, the Elio is controlled with a conventional steering wheel and pedals. The passengers are protected in the event of a collision by three airbags, a steel roll cage and seat belts. The Elio's also got anti-lock brakes, stability control and crumple zones, just like a regular car.
A standard AM/FM stereo is augmented by a tablet mounted near the steering wheel. The iPad runs a custom interface that is suited for use in the car and handles the navigation, infotainment and telematics functionalities. Using a tablet makes the tech feel a bit tacked-on, but also makes it possible for Elio to offer the features its drivers may want quickly and without spending millions on infotainment R&D.
Elio Motors is currently accepting reservations for the $6,800 Elio on its website. The automaker expects the vehicle will hit the roads in the US mid-2015.