Elio Motors prototype at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015Enlarge Photo
When Paul Elio said in April that his startup carmaker, Elio Motors, was pursuing crowdsourced funding, most journalists likely imagined sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe.
In fact, the investment opportunity is slightly more formal than that.
Elio needs to raise roughly $230 million to start manufacturing its three-wheeled, two-seat, "84-mpg" vehicle in a 4-million-square-foot former General Motors plant in Shreveport, Louisiana.
So the company is now offering early-stage investments to so-called non-accredited investors, through the money-raising Start Engine site.
It's a new kind of investment made possible through the JOBS Act of 2012.
That legislation permits less-wealthy individuals to invest up to $15,000 in startup companies, which can accept up to $50 million from non-accredited investors.
Elio Motors founder Paul Elio at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015Enlarge Photo
Elio has already received about $70 million in funds, presumably much of it from wealthier individuals who fall into the "accredited" category.
CEO Elio said in April that the company has also applied for a low-interest loan from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program operated by the Department of Energy.
ALSO SEE: Elio 84-MPG Three-Wheel Prototype: Driven In Parking Lot: Video (Jun 2014)
That program loaned funds in 2009 to Fisker Automotive, Ford, Nissan, and Tesla Motors.
Fisker defaulted, for a loss of more than $100 million; Tesla repaid its loan early; and both Nissan and Ford are making their payments on schedule.
Elio Motors 84 mpg 3-wheeler [Image: Elio Motors]Enlarge Photo
But Elio's chances of getting a DoE loan seem slim. The department has said it hopes to relaunch the program, but it suggested that loans would likely go to suppliers--not to automakers themselves.
When he was asked at the New York Auto Show if Elio Motors needed the ATVM loan to move forward with production of the car, CEO Elio said simply, "Yes."
If Elio has thus far raised $70 million, and it can get a maximum of $50 million from non-accredited investors, that would still appear to leave $110 million outstanding before it can launch full-scale production.
The slow pace of fundraising has already pushed its originally announced production start date well into 2016, from an original target of the end of 2015.
Meanwhile, development work on the vehicle continues.