Cat Hiles
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What the Heck Happened to the Elio?

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Elio release date

Yeah, it’s weird. But cool.

Update 4/5: I have learned that there were more recent reservation numbers available on Elio’s website, and that the automaker had a recent appearance at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show. Article updated to reflect this.


Earlier today, I was having a discussion with Danny about EVs, as you do, when I suddenly realized that I hadn’t heard anything about Elio Motors for a while. Yes, I know Elio isn’t an EV, but there was a reason my mind went there (I just don’t remember what that reason was). Anyway, this led to me searching Google for Elio and discovering that… not much is going on there.

Eli-What?

I first discovered the weirdness that is Elio in May 2014—almost three years ago. The quirky, efficient, super-affordable three-wheeled vehicle was just wacky enough to grab my attention, so I happily covered it here on The News Wheel. In August 2014, Elio reported that it planned to start production in fall 2015… but that didn’t happen. The release date kept getting pushed back and back, due to a lack of funds, and then I simply lost interest and forgot about it.

Back in January of this year, Jalopnik reported that Elio had just $100,000 in the bank and a deficit of more than $123 million. That’s not great news. In fact, articles in both Autoblog and Green Car Reports say that Elio’s production has been pushed back yet again—this time to 2018. That’s three years later than its first anticipated production date. Oh, and the projected price has increased from $6,800 to $7,450, so there’s that as well.

Elio History

Elio Motors was founded in 2009 by Paul Elio, a former cab driver and stockbroker in New York City. He came up with the idea for Elio because he was frustrated with rising gas prices and America’s dependence on foreign oil. He wanted to create a vehicle that was both fuel-efficient and affordable, if slightly odd-looking. The resulting vehicle, Elio claimed, would be able to achieve 49 mpg in the city and 84 mpg on the highway—and it would be easily navigable around city streets due to its small size (about the same length as a Honda Fit, but cheaper and lighter).

Elio did have a presence at the 2016 New York Auto Show, where the automaker debuted its “My Elio MyWay” customization program. This year, Elio showed up at the Detroit Auto Show in January with its latest engineering vehicle, the E1c, which made its debut at the 2016 LA Auto Show. In Detroit, Paul Elio talked about how much progress the company had made in 2016, with design improvements and new partnerships among its big wins. It definitely sounded like things were progressing… but the lack of money in the bank is still a real issue.

Elio release date

The Elio parked next to regular-sized cars

Making Reservations

Paul Elio’s idea received a great amount of interest, and drivers around the country started throwing down money in order to reserve one of these innovative machines. To get on the list and become one of the first to drive an Elio, all you needed was $100—though throwing down $1,000 would put you at the top of the list and get you a T-shirt and a bumper sticker. According to Elio’s website on April 5, 2017, more than 65,000 people have put down deposits, but with no projected production date in mind, it’s highly likely those people can kiss their deposits goodbye.

Can Elio Succeed?

Based on the company’s current deficit, I’d say that it looks like Paul Elio’s dream will never come to fruition, and those who paid to be among the first to own these cars will have to eat their money and call it a tough lesson learned. Although at least those big spenders can say they got a T-shirt and bumper sticker out of it… right?

Gallery: Elio at the 2016 New York Auto Show

News Sources: Jalopnik, Autoblog, Green Car Reports

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  • Cat HilesManaging Editor

    Catherine Hiles is a native Brit currently based in Dayton, Ohio. Don't ask how that happened. Cat has written about a variety of subjects, from dog training to fashion, and counts running and cooking among her hobbies. Cat lives with her husband, Ben; their daughter, Rose; and their collection of animals, including an energetic mutt, an elderly basset hound, and a jerk cat. See more articles by Cat.