NHTSA To Alter Vehicle Code To Prevent 3-Wheelers Like Elio


Elio Motors prototype at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015

Elio Motors prototype at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015

Enlarge Photo

Elio Motors is still working to put its three-wheeled, "84-mpg," two-seat car into production, which is proving to be quite a task.

The company turned to a "crowdfunding" project last year to help raise the $230 million needed to start production at its ex-General Motors plant in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The slow pace of fundraising had led Elio to miss its original 2015 deadline for the start of production. It won't build its first cars until much later this year, at the very earliest--if it's ever able to launch production.

DON'T MISS: The Challenges Paul Elio Faces To Launch A Three-Wheel, 84-MPG, $6,800 Car (Apr 2015)

But now the company may face a new regulatory hurdle as well.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently introduced a proposal to change its regulations related to three-wheeled vehicles.

This would alter the regulatory definition of motorcycle to exclude three-wheeled vehicles "that are configured like passenger cars."

Elio Motors prototype at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015

Elio Motors prototype at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015

Enlarge Photo

Elio and other companies past and present have attempted to classify three-wheelers as motorcycles to avoid the stricter safety and efficiency regulations that govern cars.

If the rule change is implemented, though, that classification would be reserved for traditional motorcycles.

It would also cover bikes with sidecars, trikes, and other three-wheeled vehicles "based on a motorcycle-like configuration."

ALSO SEE: Elio Motors Raises $22 Million From Small Investors, Still Needs $130 Million More (Jul 2015)

Vehicles that the NHTSA deems to be too much like passenger cars would have to be classified as such.

That includes three-wheeled vehicles with features like "fully-enclosed cabins, hinged doors with roll-up windows, steering wheels, and side-by-side seating," according to the proposed rule.

Various three wheelers have been sold in the U.S. before, somewhat blurring the design between car and motorcycle.

Elio Motors 84 mpg 3-wheeler [Image: Elio Motors]

Elio Motors 84 mpg 3-wheeler [Image: Elio Motors]

Enlarge Photo

But the NHTSA believes consumers that buy these vehicles "are likely to assume" that they have similar crash protection to cars--even though they are much less substantial.

Other three-wheeled vehicles currently available include the Morgan 3 Wheeler--a vehicle based on a prewar design--and the Polaris Slingshot, which is more like an overgrown motorcycle than a passenger-car replacement.

MORE: Second All-Electric Morgan Concept Is Three-Wheeler Headed For Production (Jun 2015)

While both have steering wheels and side-by-side seating, neither has an enclosed cabin like Elio's design.

Both are also marketed more as novelty vehicles rather than everyday transportation.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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