3-Wheeled Car Coming Soon to US Roads

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Your next commuter 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, which is 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 it's being engineered to meet U.S. crash test requirements and has all the safety features of a car, like 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 has two seats, which sit front and back instead of side by side, so the driver is positioned in the center with the passenger directly behind.

That, the low seating position - 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 suburban Detroit, 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.


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