[ExI] The car of the Future?

spike spike66 at att.net
Thu Jul 31 17:13:28 UTC 2014

>... On Behalf Of BillK
Subject: [ExI] The car of the Future?

>...The Elio may look strange. But take a good look and get used to it,
because if 25,000 reservations are any indication, the oddball vehicle is
going to be a fixture on the highway after its expected release in late



>...The ultra-cheap, $6,800 vehicle is technically a motorcycle; it has
three wheels and the driver and passenger both sit center-aligned...So far,
says Elio, the company has changed laws in about 12 states, and has been
successful in all but one state where it's tried. (Arizona's governor vetoed
a bill, because of a rider involving the legalization of beer bikes).

>...As the article notes. 3 wheels leads to complications.
Is it a motorcycle? Do occupants need to wear helmets? Motorcycle insurance
is cheaper than car insurance, so???? If it is a motorcycle, can it use the
car-pool lanes?

>...Will Spike get excited???  :) BillK

Ja, he will.

I have been following Elio for a while now.  The key to success of this
whole scheme depends on having the fed declare it a motorcycle (so that
crash safety regulations do not apply and air quality standards are relaxed)
and states declare it a car (so that the driver and passenger do not need
motorcycle training or helmets.)

Technologically I think the three-wheeled approach is right, because it
makes so many manufacturing processes so much simpler and allows a lighter
overall system, with less wind resistance because of lower frontal area.
The tandem two-passenger system makes sense to me.

I confess to being puzzled by some of Eilo's engineering decisions, but they
may point to the right way to do something like this.  If we are shooting
for a super-low price point, I have some suggestions.  For starters, I think
he should have gone with an existing 600 to 800cc twin cylinder motorcycle
engine.  They are already compact and lightweight, as well as having an
integrated 5 speed transmission and a chain drive, horizontal output shaft,
all ready to go, and most important for this application: already being mass
produced and already qualified under motorcycle air-quality regs.

California might make something like this happen: the state government tends
to be open-minded about these sorts of things, the car market is huge with a
lot of experimental minded people with money, and the climate is
well-adapted for this kind of application: very little ice, snow or cold
weather.  I see something like this as primarily a California car. 

A motorcycle transmission would be simple to operate in the confined
quarters of a 3 wheeler: a single-directional lever operated by the right
hand.  The linkage would be simple and work on existing motorcycle
transmissions: center is the rest position, pulling aft and return shifts to
a higher gear, forward and back to center goes to a lower gear.  

The engine needs to go as far forward as you can, so my notion would be to
make it front wheel drive, and experiment with a single front wheel drive to
see if that would introduce too much handling weirdness, but this last part
might not be necessary.

You would go with a polycarbonate body with clamshell front entry (although
Elio's notion of side door entry might work OK.  I am imagining a downsized
version of his 3-wheeler, coming in at under 500 kg.

Conclusion: I think Elio will not hit that 6800 price point, with the three
airbags.  I can envision something that might get there with a single airbag
in the steering wheel and forget heating and AC (motorcycles don't have
those, we ride them anyway) and forget any instrumentation that interfaces
with the engine or wheels such as tachometer.  You could however have a
separate standalone unit that gives engine RPM based on acoustics and speed
based on GPS.  The vehicle would have no wiring harnesses, nothing, no dome
lights, no cigarette lighters, no cell phone charging, nada nada nada on any
of those goodies.  Top speed would be around 70MPH (110kph) and do a
dragstrip run ahead of an empty municipal bus but perhaps a little behind a
typical econobox car.  I can see getting about 60 miles per gallon, maybe
half again more than a cheap subcompact car if you match speeds.

Elio has the right idea (I think) for a trendy spendy high-endy
three-wheeler, but I would be astonished (and pleased) if he can come in
much under about 12k for the system he is describing.  The stripper
downsized version I envision would come in around 9k I think, if we can get
large production runs going.

The success of all this depends on the initial assumptions: the federal
government declares this vision a motorcycle and the states (particularly
California) declare it a car.


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