The sleek three-wheeled car looks futuristic, but, as its creator acknowledges, it uses no new technology.
What makes the Elio Motors vehicle unique is its ultra-high fuel economy and an ultra-low price tag: US$6,800.
The vehicle, which was on display at the Showstoppers startup showcase on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, promises to deliver as much as 134km per 3.8 liters of gasoline for highway driving.
It accelerates as quickly as many cars on the road — to 161kph in 9.6 seconds, according to the company. Urban fuel economy is estimated at 79km per 3.8 liters of gasoline.
Company founder Paul Elio said he came up with the idea because “I got mad about seeing all this wealth leave the country” for imported petroleum.
An engineer by training, Elio began the firm in 2008 and recently took over an abandoned General Motors plant in Louisiana — one which had been producing the gas-guzzling Hummer.
In order to deliver the best fuel economy, the car has a cockpit wide enough only for the driver, with a passenger seat in the rear. It has two wheels in front and tapers in the rear to a single wheel.
“Front-to-back seating, that’s the key to mileage,” Elio said.
This makes it principally a one-person car, but Elio said the vehicle is a good solution for the millions who drive along to work or leisure events.
Elio readily admits there is no special technology in the car — it has a three-cylinder internal combustion gasoline engine, power windows, air conditioning and anti-lock brakes.
While it does not have some of the on-board electronic gadgety found in other vehicles, drivers can connect their smartphones for navigation, apps and more.
“This was a design completely based on existing engineering,” Elio spokesman Jim Andrews said.
The car has a top crash-impact rating from the US National Highway Transportation Safety Board, and is expected to meet all US safety standards.
Elio is targeting the US market, but hopes to eventually ship internationally. He has order deposits from more than 6,000 customers and hopes to start delivering in the first quarter of next year.