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Old GM plant to start spitting out startup Elio Motor’s cheap three-wheelers

The sad irony of fuel efficiency in the modern age is that high-mpg vehicles so often cost much more than standard cars. Savings at the pump are counteracted by higher prices at the dealership. While a motorcycle will deliver better mileage, it’s difficult to get the groceries home on a bike, and those less eager to cash in on their organ donor status have always shied away from them. But there is something in between, a three-wheeler will give you most of the same advantages over a car, but still deliver high fuel economy figures without the need for expensive, heavy and gimmicky drivetrains.

Of course, the current big name in three-wheelers is Morgan, but the $40,000 price tag on their vehicle isn’t going to lure many people away from the Prius. There is also the Morgan’s complete lack of a roof to help deter buyers as well. But a small startup known as Elio Motors has a much more practical solution. Their vehicle is priced at just $6,800 and gets 84mpg on the highway (the combined rating is “over 60mpg”). It even has a roof to keep the rain off of you. The two-seater might not be great for groceries or golfbags, but it still represents one of the better compromises in terms of price, fuel economy and interior space.

Elio hasn’t released any performance figures, but we’re guessing that the adrenaline junkies will have already bought motorcycles anyway. We do know that it has an eight-gallon gas tank, and will make it from Detroit to New York on just one tank. There are three airbags, and although no official crash test results yet, Elio claim that computer simulations predict a five-star rating. You can decide for yourself whether you believe that. Elio isn’t selling the vehicle just yet, but they have just acquired a shuttered former GM manufacturing plant in Shreveport, Louisiana and they plan on hiring a staff of 1,500. This is the first large scale manufacturing attempt from the Phoenix-based Elio Motors, and it remains to be seen how things go. But the low price and high fuel economy of the vehicle certainly carry quite a bit of appeal, so perhaps this will be, as they claim, “the next big thing.”