Running on vapor

The Elio Motors three-wheeler, to borrow an old phrase, is the car of the future, and it always will be. I mentioned the little ultra-econobox last year, and quoted its ship date as “next spring.” It’s not going to happen in the next eighty days, guys.

Still, Paul Elio is thinking from a place where you can’t even see the box, and his scheme for financing sales of the carlet is crazy enough that it might actually work:

To encourage sales, Elio said the company has a plan to make the Elio trike extra affordable called “Let Your Gas Savings Make Your Payments.” Under this plan, when you buy an Elio, you drive away with a special credit card in your pocket. You use this card every time you gas up and then Elio charges you triple what you paid at the pump. So, if your gas costs $10 (remember, this is an 84 mpg car, so you’re not paying a lot at the pump), then your total cost to Elio will be $30. The extra $20 is applied to your loan payment. “As long as you drove into the dealership with something that was 27 mpg or less, your monthly fuel bill will go down,” Elio said. “Three times 27 is 81 and we get 84. So, you got a brand-new vehicle under warranty that’s fun to drive and you don’t have a car payment and you’re guaranteed to spend less on gas.”

Still, even at Elio’s rock-bottom (and possibly unattainable) price of $6800, it would take over ten years to pay off the note at $84 a month, after which time the vehicle will be neither brand new or (presumably) under warranty.



  1. fillyjonk »

    4 April 2015 · 11:54 am

    I’ll consider buying one as soon as car-drivers get their own set of interstates without big rigs and giant pickups and RVs on them. And where cell phones with texting features become disabled while a driver is in a car.

    I get that I’m probably as likely to die in a crash in a big car as I am in a tiny one, but I tend to think about it less in a bigger car – and probably am more confident, and therefore, drive better.

  2. CGHill »

    4 April 2015 · 12:03 pm

    This is one reason why the smart car has been poorly received here. Its passenger cabin is designed to resist intrusion to an amazing extent, but you don’t see that: you just see your keister within a meter of the rear bumper.

    I had some of that learning to drive in a VW Microbus and discovering rather quickly that if I rear-end someone, pretty much everything from the thighs down is going to be mangled.

  3. fillyjonk »

    4 April 2015 · 4:11 pm

    I’ve seen a few smart cars around town here but my reaction is, “No way in heck would I get out on 75 in one of those”

    That said, if I either lived in a city center or had the kind of budget that made two cars seem reasonable? I might have one for running around town. (Do they come in a convertible? For years, my dream of having a second car was having a convertible….)

  4. backwoods conservative »

    4 April 2015 · 4:20 pm

    I’m a firm believer in the safety of larger vehicles. I was a passenger in a 1964 Ford Galaxy that left the road at 110 mph and hit some trees. The driver and I walked away with minor injuries. I don’t think a smart car would have allowed us to do that.

    Of course, we also showed that alcohol and leadfootedness is a bad combination, but that’s another story.

  5. CGHill »

    4 April 2015 · 4:58 pm

    One topless smart car, coming up.

  6. McGehee »

    5 April 2015 · 9:12 am

    Rule 34 strikes again?

  7. LCBf »

    7 April 2015 · 8:48 am

    I do 52 miles round trip daily for work, all of it NOT on the freeway. So this car is right up my alley so to speak.

    But I wouldn’t be afraid to drive it on the freeway as long as the acceleration is good enough. After all, I drive my current 4 banger on the freeway occasionally and the motor is usually screaming to keep up to traffic. I also ride my cycle on the freeway which is safer than riding it on the street, as long as you don’t ride along side big rigs.

    I’m hoping Elio does well. But they’ll not get my money until I actually see a production vehicle and get to test drive it.

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