Elio Motors Developing Its Own New Three-Cylinder Engine

Ambitious Elio Motors is building the engine of its first car from the ground up.

According to Paul Elio, founder and CEO of Elio Motors, there are no shortcuts on the way to developing a $6,800 commuter vehicle that will get up to 84 mpg, even if it means becoming the first start-up vehicle company to build an engine from the ground up in more than 60 years.

Elio Motors said it will debut its new 0.9 liter, 3-cylinder engine prototype with an official “first start” at a private event for investors, suppliers and media to be held February 6. The event will be held at the Plymouth, Mich., offices of IAV, an engine developer which has previously worked with customers such as Mercedes and BMW.

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Elio Motors said it is the first start-up vehicle manufacturer to develop its own internal combustion engine since Nash Motors did so in 1951.

“When you are on a monumental journey such as the launch of a new transportation company, sometimes you have to blaze your own trail,” said Elio. “We looked at existing engines and couldn’t find anything that met our needs. We challenged IAV to develop something from the ground up and they delivered. We believe this engine is the heart and soul of this vehicle.”

The company added its engine must operate efficiently at two different loads to be able to reach the 84 mpg limit it has set itself: lower loads representative of highway cruising, and more demanding loads associated with the fast starts of city driving.

The IAV team started with a three cylinder architecture and developed several Elio-specific components, including the cylinder block, cylinder heads, CAM cover, front cover, oil pan, crankshaft, camshaft, valvetrain, pistons, connecting rods, bearings and water pump, explained Elio. This allowed the engine development team the flexibility to keep the design simple, efficient and easy to manufacture while enabling all of the major fuel economy related attributes – combustion system, friction and pumping energy – to be enhanced.

“Ultimately, the decision to build an engine that was completely ours will pay off by meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations for fuel efficiency and performance,” said Elio. “In addition to a vehicle that is fuel efficient and has a unique look, our customers will find it fun to drive as well.”

Elio Motors has also set itself a few performance goals: the vehicle will go from 0-60 in 9.6 seconds and will have a top speed of more than 100 miles per hour.

Elio and its manufacturing partner Comau will build the vehicle at a manufacturing facility in Shreveport where General Motors previously built the Hummer H3 and Chevy Colorado.

According to the company, the vehicle prototype has developed an enthusiastic grass-roots following and nearly 40,000 people have made reservations for a spot in line to buy one when they go to production.

Elio Motors added it sees multiple markets for its vehicle, including consumers who still need the occasional functionality of a pick-up truck, sport utility vehicle or minivan, but are looking for an affordable, fuel efficient vehicle for their solo driving.