Elio Motors Shows Off its Engine, For Realsies



Elio Motors took the wraps off the production version of its new car/trike engine earlier today. And, despite what many of the companies early nay-sayers and detractors (myself, included!) had anticipated, the thing looks like an actual, usable, for-real car engine!

That Elio’s engine looks the part should come as no surprise, given that it was designed by IAV. IAV, while hardly a household name, is known in industry circles as a top-shelf supplier to companies like Chrysler, Volkswagen, BMW’s legendary “M” high-performance/racing division, and as key OE suppliers and consultants to the 1000+ horsepower, 18 cylinder, quad-turbocharged, 250+ MPH Bugatti Veyron super-duper-hypercar.

Now, a few of our more cynical readers might point out that our criticism of Elio has mellowed somewhat since he started paying some of the bills around here, but the fact is that- while I’m not yet a believer in the idea that Americans will buy a three wheeled motorcycle in any type of significant numbers, I have to say that my talks with Paul Elio have evolved to the point where I think his plan- centered, as it is, on government-subsidized loans and a clever interpretation of upcoming CAFE standards– is pretty clever.

Regardless of what you think of the man or his plan, however, you’ve got to hand it to Elio: this engine is a legit piece. You can learn more about it by checking out the photos, and the company’s official press release, below. Enjoy!


Elio Motors Engine Revealed

Troy, Mich. – For entrepreneur Paul Elio, founder and CEO of Elio Motors, there are no shortcuts on the way to developing a $6,800 commuter vehicle that will get up to 84 MPG. Even if it means becoming the first start-up vehicle company to build an engine from the ground up in more than 60 years.

On Feb. 6, 2015, Elio Motors will debut the new 0.9 liter, 3-cylinder engine prototype with an official “first start” at a private event for investors, suppliers and media. The event will be held at the Plymouth, Mich., offices of IAV, a world-class engine developer which has worked with such global icons as Mercedes and BMW.

Elio Motors believes it is the first start-up vehicle manufacturer to develop its own internal combustion engine since Nash Motors in 1951.

“When you are on a monumental journey such as the launch of a new transportation company, sometimes you have to blaze your own trail,” Elio said. “We looked at existing engines and couldn’t find anything that met our needs. We challenged IAV to develop something from the ground up and they delivered. We believe this engine is the heart and soul of this vehicle,

In order to provide its customers with high fuel efficiency and still provide the performance consistent with today’s passenger vehicles, the Elio Motors engine must operate efficiently at two different loads – lower loads representative of highway cruising, and more demanding loads associated with the fast starts of city driving.

The IAV team started with a three cylinder architecture and developed several Elio-specific components, including the cylinder block, cylinder heads, CAM cover, front cover, oil pan, crankshaft, camshaft, valvetrain, pistons, connecting rods, bearings and water pump. This allowed the engine development team the flexibility to keep the design simple, efficient and easy to manufacture while enabling all of the major fuel economy related attributes – combustion system, friction and pumping energy – to be enhanced.

“Ultimately, the decision to build an engine that was completely ours will pay off by meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations for fuel efficiency and performance,” Elio said. “In addition to a vehicle that is fuel efficient and has a unique look, our customers will find it fun to drive as well.”

In addition to providing ultra-high fuel efficiency, the vehicle will go from 0-60 in 9.6 seconds and will have a top speed of more than 100 miles per hour. Elio and its manufacturing partner Comau will build the vehicle at a world-class manufacturing facility in Shreveport where General Motors previously built the Hummer H3 and Chevy Colorado.

Currently on a nationwide tour, the vehicle prototype has developed an enthusiastic grass-roots following and nearly 40,000 people have made reservations for a spot in line to buy one when they go to production. The Elio was recently named by CNET.com readers (link to previous release) as the item they would most like to take home from the Consumer Electronics Show, beating out new products from tech giants such as Samsung and HP. When the Elio goes to market, it will create 1,500 jobs at the company. In addition, the Elio will use 90 percent North American content, creating another 1,500 jobs at its supplier partner companies. These manufacturing jobs will in turn create approximately 18,000 indirect jobs across the country.

Elio Motors sees multiple markets for its vehicle, including consumers who still need the occasional functionality of a pick-up truck, sport utility vehicle or minivan, but are looking for an affordable, fuel efficient vehicle for their solo driving. The company sees the Elio as an “and” vehicle – purchase a larger vehicle for those times when you need the functionality, but use the Elio for solo commuter trips. For example, 76.3 percent of all commuters drive solo to work every morning according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Source | Photos: Elio Motors.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • GreenMonkeyPants

    I’m glad we will finally have a release date for SOMETHING from Elio, even if it is just the engine prototype. We’ve been hearing promises from Mr. Elio for months/years. It’s nice to hear they are working on it !

    • Vladimir Poutine

      With the Media and the WAY they ACT, the worst thing that Paul Elio could have done was build a ‘working prototype’ in his Home Garage.

      Even I can cobble something together with 3 wheels that gets 80+ MPG, but it would not have the Smooth Lines of the Elio with it’s Composite Panel Body, nor would I be able to build it for $6800 ! More like $16,800 plus my labour !

      Right now, the only thing that concerns me is that Fuel Prices have Dropped Dramatically and people are going to get ‘goofy’ again and buy bigger vehicles without considering that fuel prices WILL Rise in the future.

      Athletes like to Break Records and even like to break their own records. I think that vehicle owners should have the same attitude.

      I Hope the Elio is a SUCCESS !

      • BlackTalon53 .

        I think by now there are enough people out there who understand that fuel efficent vehicles are about more than just a few saved bucks at the filling stations. Plus, it looks like it may be real fun to drive, too.

      • Tom Buyea — Fla.News service

        Paul had the Elios made by a movie prop maker, Really !!

  • Vladimir Poutine

    How much I get for Trade in for 1960 Volga?

    • The Volga might be worth something these days …

  • Josh McNattin

    Go Elio! I was concerned about their business model…until I saw the roll out of their planned options. $6800 is cheap and a paper thin profit margin, but have you seen the electronics package they’re offering? That’ll be a fat package for profit and hard to resist for a lot of consumers! I’m going to want an automatic since I drove a stick for years and my knees protest the clutch now, that’ll be a $1000 add-on.

    • Kent

      Elio also doesn’t have several layers of corporate management sucking up resources and adding no value.

    • Tom Buyea — Fla.News service

      I di Not think the automatic stick shift will be $1,000 since it is still the same stick shift transmission with automated shifting probably $350 to $500 ? I just wonder how well it works and how often it needs to be repaired / fine tuned ?

  • Eric Goggans

    I wonder what was supposed to connect to that area covered by that flat, oblong hunk of sheet metal near the top of the serpentine belt.

    • Vladimir Poutine

      Nothing! It’s an Access Cover for the Chain that drives the Cam. YES, a Chain! Some $100,000 cars have a Cogged Belt on outside driving the cam! This is unreal !

      • That may make maintenance difficult- like it does on bikes. Just saying.

        • Eric Goggans

          Maintenance is probably unnecessary if the chain is rated for over 100K miles of use.

          • So, what- you junk the trike after 100K miles?

          • Eric Goggans

            At $7K off the lot, what is the residual after 100K miles (7 years)? Could you buy a Big Mac with it?

          • 1. no one is saying “$7K” off the lot- even the most conservative esitmates have the out-the-door figure well into the $8K range ($6800 doesn’t include taxes, fees, transportation costs, etc.).
            2. fun fact: you can probably buy an entry $12,000 Toyonissonda sedan, get 2 extra seats, drive it for 100,000 miles, then sell it for $7-8K. Or- even better!- be green and keep it on the road until 200,000 miles.

          • Eric Goggans

            I do wonder what the cradle to grave energy analysis indicates for this thing. On the business side, I’ve always thought the market could really use a fully enclosed trike. But then Myers NMG came out, and I didn’t want to drive a mutant banana.

          • Kent

            Haven’t priced cars lately, have you? Taxes and fees are not included in any car price.

          • If you were paying attention, you’d notice Eric Goggans (the comment I was responding to) said “$7K off the lot”.

          • Kent

            Normally a 7 year old car is worth about 25% of the original value. A 3 year old car is worth about half.
            Rule of thumb is 20% depreciation the first year and 15% for each subsequent year.

          • Kent

            No, a chain is is just as easy to replace as a belt, just more durable.

          • Wait, an INTERNAL, ENCLOSED chain is just as easy to replace as an external timing belt? Don’t hurt yourself solving the unified field theory over there, buddy.

          • Kent

            Timing belts are not external. The belts you can see run the alternator, etc.

          • You’re 100% right. Not sure what I was drinking that day.

          • Overhead cam chains will last the life of the engine, which is far greater than 100K miles.

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  • Lawrence Goldstein

    This start-up company has obtained 2/3 of its financing. It’s priced to sell, in many different markets coupled with a high end performance engine, all I hear is talk about moving filthy dirty oil through my country which won’t benefit me at all, with high risk of a spill – lose lose.

  • Kathy Vincent

    About Elio …You can file a charge back with your credit card company for a refund due to the false production dates. If enough people would do this the credit card company will encourage them to correct their false advertising. If he files bankruptcy it will be too late for a refund. Also if its ever produced, make sure you budgeted at least $15,000. Your agreement states sales price is not guaranteed. Also your deposit does not guarantee they will ever sell you a car or make these. Mr. Elio says if the car sold today he could not sell it for less than $7300. Yet he refuses to make this public by changing the advertised price. Earliest possible production start, if they raise $240 million in the next few weeks, is mid 2016. If this car is ever produced I can buy one the first year right after reservation holders. If they can make these as fast as they claim then there will be plenty to buy the first year, if its ever produced. Prices will only increase in the next 3 years and I’m sure there are many costs he did not consider. There is not a production date scheduled at this time.

    • Kent

      I doubt if the credit card charge back will work. You’re probably outside of the 60 days plus the non-refundable deposit was pretty clear about the risk. It boils down to an agreement between two adults. So far, he still deserves the benefit of the doubt. I’ve been in for over a year and according to my first date I should be about a month away and now it will be at least another year. Worst case, I have a $100 Tshirt.

      • Kathy Vincent

        Filing a written chargeback on the credit card will create an investigation and a paper trail for others. Also one can file a refund request online with the Federal Trade Commission. False advertising and deceptive trade practices are part of their interest. This application takes 15 minutes to complete online. I don’t want to try to convince those that believe Mr. Elio’s claims to be true to believe otherwise. This is for those that were misled by the false advertising, false claims and intentional posting of the $6800 sales price Mr. Elio admits he is unable to meet.

    • Kathy Vincent

      Update: Filing a written chargeback on the credit card will create an investigation and a paper trail for others. Also one can file a refund request online with the Federal Trade Commission. False advertising and deceptive trade practices are part of their interest. This application takes 15 minutes to complete online. I don’t want to try to convince those that believe Mr. Elio’s claims to be true to believe otherwise. This is for those that were misled by the false advertising, false claims and intentional posting of the $6800 sales price Mr. Elio admits he is unable to meet.

  • They have shown the engine at almost the exact date they said they would. That is good.

    I hope we see the P5 vehicle, soon.

  • R A

    There’s no doubt in my mind that Elio has paid IAV to develop and build his first prototype engine. But that’s EXACTLY what that is… a one and only prototype built by IAV. Now it has to go through rigorous testing and then the certification process. Once that’s done, then he can tool up to manufacture the engines…. unless he plans to outsource it, which then would beg the question, why? Why, when he could have saved all of that money spent to develop his own engine and just bought a proven, already tested and certified, existing engine? So it appears to me that he’s most likely planning to produce them himself.

    So how long do anyone think that process is going to take? And remember…. they also need to build at least one ACTUAL pre-production prototype to use as a “template” for the additional 18 to 20 some vehicles that he has previously said that he needs to build… some of which he has said that he intends to use to verify his crash test simulation results. Keep in mind…. those crash tests MAY mean that he must FURTHER tweak his design… which will take him right back to square one.

    Now what does all of this mean when it comes to the engine? It means, in order for him to actually HAVE the engines to put into the pre-production prototypes (remember… this HAS to be done BEFORE he can tool up his assembly line), that they either MUST outsource the construction of the 10 to 20 more FINALIZED engines for those protoypes, or tool up and build them himself. And it’s quite doubtful that he has the funds in hand to tool up an engine manufacturing line in order to do all of that.

    Now when you consider where they are right now (still in the development stage… their latest blog shows that they are still tweaking the design… and with no functioning pre-production prototype) versus where they NEED to be (cash in hand or not), they most definitely will NOT be ready to start production by mid 2016. There’s at LEAST a year’s worth of testing to be done on both the engine AND any pre-production prototype before being able to tool up the production line. They WILL slip the date again.

    Now ask yourself…. how patient do you think the citizens of Caddo Parrish will be if he slips the date once AGAIN? Especially since the whole original selling point from Paul Elio to Caddo Parrish was the creation of 1500 jobs by the summer of 2014… jobs that they now know that they won’t see until 2016 at the earliest. And because of that, there is a LOT of discontent in Caddo over this project and the use of taxpayer money to purchase the plant. That’s pretty evident in the little speech that was given by Caddo Commissioner Mike Thibodeaux.

    Here is another thing you should take into consideration… it IS an election year for Caddo Parrish Commissioners, and as also evidenced by Mr Thibodeaux’s speech, Caddo politicians are already distancing themselves from the responsibility of bringing this project to their Parrish.

    If they lose THIS plant, it will be next to IMPOSSIBLE for them to find another one. No one will take the risk based on Elio’s current track record.

  • johnpainter

    Here’s Elio’s new engine on dyno, looking and souding great! http://youtu.be/XlM5jWOnDO8