Arizona Technology and Innovation: Elio Motors

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We’ll show you a new car being developed by a local company, Elio Motors, a two-passenger vehicle that gets 84 miles to the gallon and will be very affordable.

TED SIMONS: Tonight's edition of Arizona Technology and Innovation looks at a fuel-efficient car, and we're not talking about a Prius or a Tesla. We're talking about a car made by an Arizona man who's looking to make his mark in the auto industry. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Langston Fields introduce us to the Elio.

[ Buzzing ]

PAUL ELIO: And we're in the process of creating --

SHANA FISCHER: Paul Elio is not a typical car maker and the Elio is not a typical car.

PAUL ELIO: The Elio is a new concept in transportation.

SHANA FISCHER: The first thing you notice about the Elio is its unusual design, which includes three wheels instead of four. And the differences don't stop there. Inside, the two seats are in a straight line instead of side by side.

PAUL ELIO: The experience of the Elio, it feels like any other car you've been in because from the center line of your chest to the door is about an inch further than most cars. It's a little bit roomier. With the rear seat folded up, you can put an airline compliant bag in and with the rear seat folded down you can fit long items in it. We're going to build it with seven colors, air conditioning, power door locks and stereo.

SHANA FISCHER: And despite its smaller size and unusual design, Elio says his car has met all national safety standards.

PAUL ELIO: It's a full-sized vehicle so we have ample crash zones front and back, it's designed with a full roll cage, three airbags, two seat belts. It will be a very safe vehicle.

SHANA FISCHER: While the car's design might be considered out of the box, there's no new technology involved and Elio says that will be the key to its success.

PAUL ELIO: Because as a pre-revenue startup, even if you bet on the right technology and takes you six or nine months longer to work out than you thought, bad things happen, right? So by using all known technology from people who are already making it, we up our chances of success. How we achieve this is just through innovative packaging and design.

SHANA FISCHER: Another innovation Elio is proud of, getting 84 miles to the gallon. A recent study found the average fuel-efficiency of an U.S. vehicle has improved only three miles per gallon since the days of the ford model t. Adding to that, there are 90 million cars on the road that only get 20 miles to the gallon.

PAUL ELIO: After five years of sales we can reduce total U.S. gas consumption by nearly a half a percent. That's a meaningful number and whether your biggest concern is the trade deficit due to foreign oil or global warming due to carbon emissions the answer is the same, use less oil. We need to use less oil and Elio can really accomplish that in a meaningful way.

SHANA FISCHER: With a $6,400 price tag, Elio says his car becomes affordable for an entire economic section of the country.

PAUL ELIO: If you're struggling in this country, your biggest issue is mobility. There is a Harvard economist that did a study and the biggest single correlator on whether you get out of poverty or not is mobility. It correlates better than crime rate in your community.

SHANA FISCHER: Elio is an engineer by trade and has worked for car companies in the past. Ever since he was a little boy, though, he's dreamed of designing his own car, and now that he's on the verge of that coming true, he says this reality is even better than he could have imagined.

PAUL ELIO: Dream big, don't be afraid to fail. You know, I mean like we talked about earlier there's been a lot of nose on this road, a lot of hard days but you just keep trying.

[ Buzzing ]

TED SIMONS: The cars will be made in Shreveport, Louisiana. Elio Motors is currently taking reservations for the vehicle on its website, with the first Elio expected to roll off the assembly line late next year. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

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