Three-wheelers - been there, done that?

Elio MotorsElio Motors

Elio Motors
There are a couple of advantages to a three-wheeler (two in the front, one in the rear) that a normal car doesn't have. It is cheaper to develop and produce. Less parts. This in turn enables lightweight build, which has a positive effect on fuel consumption. Turn in is sharper, because the three-wheeler sort of swivels around the single rear-wheel. With normal cars the steered front wheels need to overcome the rear wheels' natural tendency to plow on in not just one, but two straight lines. 

No three-wheeler discussion without paying attention to Elio Motors. American Elio is one of those examples of companies courageously trying to accomplish something outside the established industry, without the typical billion dollar development budget. Consequently, Elio had to look for alternative ways to economize. It went for a lightweight, sleek body on a three-wheel platform (vehicle safety standards not as stringent), in order to achieve its goal of bringing affordable, fuel-efficient motoring to the consumer. 

However, if you look at it from a user's point of view, then you will notice that the Elio has the footprint (160" by 70") of a compact hatchback, but without its carrying capacity. Only two can be accommodated. The other downside of 'low budget development' is simplified engineering. For instance, notice the vulnerable, exposed front wheels/front suspension.

They will easily shear off upon impact. Without anything to compensate for lateral forces *, Elio will likely oversteer in corners, especially when roads are slippery. No special rear- or side-impact precautionary measures either, except for its tubular frame. Want to read more about three-wheelers that caught the intention? Then check out the Carver and the Aptera in this overview (<click). Back to Smart For Three

* Freeze-frame at 1:43

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