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Five trends in creating energy-efficient cities July 6, 2017

In 2050, more than 65 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, according to the United Nations. Increased urbanization and growth of the middle class, particularly in China and India, will help drive global energy demand higher even with significant efficiency gains, as outlined in the ExxonMobil 2017 Outlook for Energy. The push for greater energy efficiency is already well underway with city governments implementing innovative sustainable solutions that are transforming city life.

 

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Tesla releases details of its solar roof tiles: cheaper than regular roof with ‘infinity warranty’ and 30 yrs of solar power May 11, 2017

Filed under: Energy Generators,Green Building,Green Living,Solar — bferrari @ 9:16 am

Tesla released today all the information to order its new solar roof tiles products – starting with the smooth black glass tiles and the textured glass tiles, as reported earlier today.

Of course, the most important information that people were waiting for is price. CEO Elon Musk first hinted that it would be cheaper than a regular roof after accounting for energy savings, and later said that Tesla’s solar roof could cost less than a regular roof – even before energy production.

Tesla pretty much delivered on both depending on how you look at it.

The company says that the “typical homeowner can expect to pay $21.85 per square foot for a Solar Roof.”

What is important to understand is that not all tiles on the roof would be solar tiles. It depends on the energy needs of the household and shading coming from structural items such as dormers. For the house pictured above, all the tiles are from Tesla, but only some of them have solar cells in them that can generate electricity – though it’s not visible from street view.

The $21.85 per square foot price point was calculated for a roof where 35 percent of the tiles are solar (solar tiles cost more per square foot than non-solar tiles). During a conference call with journalists today, Musk said that in some cases, depending on the roofs, customers will be able to have up to 70% solar tiles, but in most cases, it will be about 40%.

They released a calculator directly on their website, which any homeowner in the US can use to get an estimate based on data from Google’s Sunroof project. Here’s an example for a home in Maryland with both 70% solar coverage and 40% solar coverage:

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 1.36.12 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-10 at 1.36.53 PM

Ultimately, Tesla sees that most customers will essentially be paid to have a new roof, when accounting for energy generation and the solar incentive.

They are including an installed 14kWh Powerwall 2 in the quotes. It can be removed, but Tesla believes that most people will want to have the home battery pack for backup energy in case of an outage.

Tesla broke down the cost of both its solar tiles and non-solar tiles against traditional roof solutions.

The company estimates that its non-solar tiles are cheaper than regular tiles and its solar tiles are cheaper than anything else, but only when accounting for energy generation (actual cost of solar tiles is $42/sq-ft):

The value of Tesla’s solar roof is closely linked to its durability and its ability to generate electricity over decades.

Musk previously discussed the possibility of making the warranty last for the lifetime of the house on which it is installed and they actually did it:

“Made with tempered glass, Solar Roof tiles are more than three times stronger than standard roofing tiles. That’s why we offer the best warranty in the industry – the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.”

That’s for the tiles themselves. The solar power generation is guaranteed for 30 years, which is on the higher end in the solar panel industry:

During a conference call with journalists, Musk and Peter Rive reiterated their confidence in the new product’s durability, which ultimately, of course, is reflected in the warranty.

They put these through every test imaginable, including shooting a large ball of hail:

The first two tiles, smooth and textured, are going into production this summer. They decided to go with those tiles first because they received the highest number of inquiries.

A $1,000 USD deposit is required when ordering a system online now. Homeowners outside of the US can also order, but they should not expect installation until next year. Musk said that he expects strong demand and for the company to be production constrained on the tiles.

Tesla says that it will manage the entire “Solar Roof experience—from the removal of your existing roof through design, permitting, installation, operations and maintenance of the new Solar Roof.” The company estimates that the installation should take roughly the same time to install as a tile roof installation, which is typically 5-7 days.

They recently updated their mobile app in order to prepare for the integration of the solar products and the Powerwall.

Musk concluded the press call by saying: “When you think of a sustainable energy future, you want roofs to be beautiful and generate energy from the sun. That energy can then charge Powerwalls and electric vehicles. That’s the future we want.”

Tesla solar roof products are perfect for homeowners who want solar and need a new roof relatively soon, but a regular solar panel installation is still a good solution for people who don’t need a new roof. Solar and energy storage prices are highly dependent on your market (electricity cost, gov incentives, etc.) and your property. We suggest to get quotes from more than one installer to make sure you get the best energy solution for your place. UnderstandSolar is a great free service to link you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates for free.

 

Audi unveils suspension-energy regeneration technology August 10, 2016

Filed under: Energy Generators,Green Living,Hybrids,Vehicles — bferrari @ 12:55 pm
(Audi)

(Audi)

Recovering electrical energy from braking is common in hybrids and electric cars, but brake force isn’t the only energy that can be harvested while a car is on the move.

We’ve already written about thermoelectric technology, which recovers energy from hot surfaces such as those of the exhaust, and now we have a look at a new technology from Audi that recovers energy normally lost through a vehicle’s suspension.

The technology, which is still in the prototype phase, is called eROT. It relies on electromechanical rotary dampers that replace the hydraulic dampers found in most suspension shock absorbers.

As shown in the diagram, an arm from the wheel support is connected to a gear unit that converts the up (compression) and down (rebound) movements of the wheel into spinning motion. This motion can then be converted into electricity via a generator. An earlier version of the technology featured a generator integrated with a shock absorber.

“Every pothole, every bump, every curve induces kinetic energy in the car,” Audi R&D boss Stefan Knirsch explains. “Today’s dampers absorb this energy, which is lost in the form of heat… we put this energy to use.”

The bumpier the road, the more electricity that can be generated. Audi says the system generates as much as 613 watts on bumpy roads. Any recovered energy would be stored in batteries and used to power a hybrid’s electric motor, or to power electrical accessories in a conventional car. This would lessen the workload of an internal combustion engine, improving fuel economy in a way similar to Mazda’s i-ELOOP regenerative braking system.

Crucially, the system can work in reverse, enabling the suspension to adapt to irregularities in the road surface. It would essentially be a new, much more controllable type of adjustable suspension, and a potential boon to future performance cars.

There’s one final advantage. Because the technology eliminates the tall and bulky shock absorbers, it takes up less room than current systems which can mean additional storage space or lower, sleeker cars.

Audi did not confirm when the regenerative suspension system would make its public debut, but with the company poised to launch a slew of electrified vehicles, don’t be surprised to see it at an auto show in the near future.

Source

 

Brits unveil ‘revolutionary’ hydrogen-powered car May 12, 2016

Filed under: Green Living,Hydrogen,Vehicles — bferrari @ 6:48 pm
18 Feb 2016 at 11:15 (Lester Haines)

riversimple_rasa (Lester Haines)

A UK startup is banking on a hydrogen-powered automotive future with its “Rasa” – a “revolutionary” vehicle whose production prototype hit the streets earlier this week.

Featuring a carbon-fibre monocoque frame, four electric motors powered by an 8.5 kW hydrogen fuel cell and regenerative braking, the Rasa (as in “tabula rasa” – “blank slate”) will offer zero emissions, 0-60 mph in ten seconds, a top speed of 60 mph and fuel consumption of around “250 mpg (equivalent), with a range of 300 miles”, according to Wales-based manufacturer Riversimple.

Key to the car’s economical performance is the braking system, which reverses the motors, deploying a traditional friction-based back-up only for emergency stops. In this way, the powerplants become generators when you hit the anchors, so that “the kinetic energy, that is normally lost in the form of heat, is captured as electricity”.

Riversimple elaborates: “As the car slows, this electricity floods into a bank of super-capacitors at the front of the car. Unlike a battery, these super-capacitors can take a huge charge very quickly, but they don’t store a lot of energy. The energy they take in is sent back to the motors again and provides the energy to accelerate.”

Riversimple claims the car reclaims 50 per cent of braking energy, and since that’s used for acceleration, the fuel cell only needs to pack enough power “to provide cruising speed power”.

While the tech certainly appears to have legs, as it were, the big question is how the company intends to unleash the Rasa into a world with practically zero hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.

rasa_side_view

First up, the car won’t be available to buy. Instead, Riversimple is planning “a simple pricing structure that enables customers to pay a single monthly fee that covers everything – the car, the maintenance, the insurance, the fuel”.*

In parallel with moving towards getting punters behind the wheel, Riversimple is “working with hydrogen refueling partners to put in hydrogen stations one by one in hub locations near where our customers live, to get things started”.

“The more people who want a Riversimple car in any given area, the sooner we can get the refueling in place there,” it explains.

It’s arguable, of course, that potential customers will be reluctant to commit until they have a handy hydrogen station close by, so it’ll be interesting to see how the plans pan out.

There should be 20 Rasas available for beta testing later this year, with production due to kick off in 2018. If you’re interested in climbing aboard the gas-powered revolution, you can sign up here. ®

Bootnote

*This concept is described as <shudder> “mobility as a service”.

Source

 

Hybrid Cars – Elio To Launch by Mid-2016 With 41,000 Reservations And Counting March 2, 2016

Filed under: Energy Ineffiency,Gasoline,Green Living,Hybrids,Vehicles — bferrari @ 9:41 pm

elio-e1429021041552v

The ongoing saga of Elio Motors’ push toward production now projected by mid 2016 took a new step last week with the aspiring automaker’s first-time presence and press conference at the New York International Auto Show.

With 41,000 reservation holders having shelled out $100-$1,000 for the American startup’s economical three-wheeled, front-wheel-drive vehicle, Elio has been likened to an “anti-Tesla” and has many supporters as well as detractors willing to offer opinions on its prospects.

In New York, founder and namesake Paul Elio gave a brief talk April 2 for the media and fielded questions.

Elio Motors has said production deadline for the tandem two-seater – which has been pushed back – as well as funding goals, and mpg estimates are not hard-and-fast, but general ranges.

At the same time it does continue to tout eye-catching statistics like 49 mpg city, 84 mpg highway for $6,800 but these targets the company concedes are not do or die, but they remain, and it will at least be very close if not on the money.

“I wanted it to be high mileage, and I think our initial target was 75, and then we realized we could do better,” said Paul Elio in January to Jalopnik in a lengthy phone interview. “84 was a stretch target if you will, and we’re very close to hitting it. Right now, I think we’re about 81.4, but we’re continuing to work on the design. So I don’t know that we’ll hit 84, but let’s face it, if we go into production at 81, did we fail? I want to hit it because I said I would. But from a social impact and product value, anywhere in that neighborhood is going to be dandy and I know we’re there.”

Paul Elio has his talking points down, and to his supporters, he’s been called a visionary with a more-practical mission than Tesla chief Elon Musk.

Whatever is the case, while there’s been some ambiguity on how to classify the vehicle, it is officially a motorcycle, he says, or rather, an “autocycle.”

SEE ALSO: The Elio – High Hopes For This Unusual UnderdogThis term was explained by Vice President of Sales Jerome Vassallo in an interview with HybridCars.com April 1 at Elio’s modest presentation in the basement of the Javits Center, and Vassallo says proposed legislation would classify the Elio uniquely.

An autocycle is a sub-class of motorcycle that includes three wheels, automotive airbags, automotive controls, and a roll cage – i.e., the reinforced cabin.

Additionally, Vassallo said insurance should be motorcycle cheap while the company strives for maximum safety. Given that the Elio should be safer than a motorcycle, Vassallo said Elio could argue insurance premiums ought to be even less, but it will be content if underwriters at least keep it lower cost than an automobile.

Highest Safety Standards

If you have read reports saying Elio will be granted a “5-star safety rating” from the federal government, Vassallo said Elio has never said exactly that, nor could it because the federal government does not crash test motorcycles. Rather he says it will meet the “highest safety standards.”

Whether the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration chooses to anonymously purchase and crash test the Elio after it’s in production is still up in the air though the request has been made.

This is potentially even a “political” question, Vasallo said. If NHTSA decides not to crash test the Elio, it will nonetheless be engineered for occupant protection with its automotive-length crumple zone, three airbags – front and side curtain – and if needed, Elio will contract a private firm to crash test the autocycle and provide data.

What safety “standards” it might meet is unclear given that it’s not classified as a car, and there are no crash test standards for a motorcycle, but the gist is the autocycle will be safe, potentially even counter-intuitively so.

The Anti-Tesla?

Paul Elio says the Elio story began after he could take it no more hearing of U.S. trade deficit, money going offshore to feed the oil habit, environmental and related issues, and decided to take matters into his own hands.

It’s been said in ways his bargain-basement priced solution could not be more different than the technologically avante garde approach Tesla is taking with its $75,000-$140,000 Model S and other creations pending.

paulpress3-e1429021451538

That its objective is at least similar to Tesla Motors is clear however, and both companies contemplate overlapping goals with very different thinking.

Where Elio is different includes, but is not limited to it caters to “poor” people – or those on a budget. Its demographic is those who want a cheap commuter, not an ultimate long-range, gas-eschewing large electric sedan capable of competing with all comers, even in P85D form against a Lamborghini Aventador in stoplight drag races.

Tesla aims to go down market too, but one $35,000-$50,000 Model 3 could buy at least five Elios so Elio is aiming to sell them in bunches like bananas. Tesla’s “gas savings” touted for a Model S is $10,000 over five years.

Vassallo said a buyer would be hard pressed to equip an Elio from its a la carte menu options above $10,000.

The Elio is also a motorcycle, not a car, and it is a low-tech internal combustion-powered vehicle. Elio is developing its own 900cc naturally aspirated three-cylinder engine modeled on the Suzuki/Geo Metro developed engine used in prototypes. German engineering firm IAV which makes engines for Mercedes, others, and “did the Veyron” engine for Bugatti is doing the work, but this will be produced in-house in Elio’s Shreveport plant.

Like Tesla, Elio occupies a formerly GM-affiliated facility, in the U.S., and pro-USA Elio says this will create 1,500 jobs and be 95 percent U.S. content. Last week, Elio said the U.S. originated engine from a U.S. startup automaker was recently fired up. This was the first time in 60 years a U.S. automaker had done this, he said.

Unlike Tesla, Elio does use gasoline, just less of it, and the company does tout this benefit potentially from an energy security and environmental standpoint.

“At up to 84 mpg you’ll be passing gas pumps in your Elio all day long. Which also means you’ll be putting far less pollutants in the air than even the most environmentally-friendly cars,” says Elio on its website. “Multiply that times the number of Elios projected to be sold, and America could save almost 5 billion gallons of fuel per year, while reducing harmful CO2 emissions by more than 90 billion pounds.”

There’ve been questions and loose dealing of facts sloshing around the blogosphere about this car being a motorcycle which has been said not to need to meet emissions regulations, but this is not exactly correct.

Motorcycles sold in the U.S. do need to meet less stringent regulations, and the Elio which is built from all automotive componentry will have a catalytic converter and be developed to relatively efficient automotive standards.

Its design ethos of using lower tech (thus less expensive) parts also means while it will have variable valve lift, 12.5:1 compression yet compatible with regular gas, the 55-horsepower mill won’t have direct injection or other tricks such as a Ford 1.0-liter EcoBoost has.

Estimated performance for its new car is 0-60 in 9.6 seconds, top speed of 107 mph.

Vassallo said amongst all the brainstorming that happens behind the scenes, the proposal of racing Elios has been floated, he thinks it would be a neat idea, but no plans are pending.

Despite deviating with its own engine and re-engineering parts like the windshield washer bottle, or the hood latch to save $20 per car, Elio is trying to use parts bin engineering where it can. It simultaneously boasts of thinking outside the box but staying safely within a cost-containing box and implies it is working smarter, not harder to deviate from what it describes as major automaker practice which may be careless with production costs.

This is part of the formula for hitting that $6,800 price point which Elio will offer in strip mall-based privately owned stores.

Here too the formula is like Tesla but different in that it’s planning factory stores with no pressure, no haggling. Where it differs from Tesla is that its real estate will not be as premo as Tesla’s which plants itself in high-floor traffic districts to attract enough upper socioeconomic folks who can afford the Model S and subsequent planned products.

Rather, Elio offers an inexpensive, novel conveyance that will do the job, and while progressive in its sales approach, it expects buyers to come to it.

Challenges

Elio Motors has inspired quite the following, while simultaneously provoking several writers and other self-appointed guardians of the truth to decry it as a “scam” on a high order, or simply an overoptimistic goal which cannot succeed.

Numerous objections start with the low price and relatively high mpg for a U.S. based manufacturer, considering such facts that imported scooters can cost a few thousand more, and perceived red flags range from there.

Another objection is three wheelers have a checkered history of ever being embraced in America, and that the Elio is a motorcycle in a country checkered with helmet laws and motorcycle licensing laws meaning bottlenecks to sales here and there.

Paul Elio said the autocycle is actually safer without a helmet as a helmet could increase likelihood of injury. Still, some states may require owners be licensed as motorcyclists before they may drive the Elio on their roads.

To this, Elio Motors says motorcycle licensing and helmet laws are a minor issue, it’s lobbying state by state, has had success in reasoning with lawmakers, and Elio says issues will be resolved.

Another sore point for detractors is the fact Elio is building its own engine and not using an off-the-shelf component like it otherwise boasts of as smarter engineering. Elio says when it made the decision to build its own engine, supply was not available from other sources, so this is the road it chose.

 

U.S. Solar Created More Jobs Than Oil And Gas Extraction January 21, 2016

Filed under: Energy Exploration,Energy Generators,Green Living,Solar — bferrari @ 6:39 pm
Two of 105 solar panels are installed on the roof of a barn Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, north of Hesperus, Colo.

Two of 105 solar panels are installed on the roof of a barn Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, north of Hesperus, Colo.

Over the last year, the solar industry added jobs twelve times faster than the rest of the economy, even more than the jobs created by the oil and gas extraction and pipeline sectors combined.

The Solar Foundation released its annual Solar Jobs Census Tuesday, and found that for the third straight year, the solar workforce grew 20 percent in the United States. According to the census, the industry added 35,052 jobs, elevating its grand total to 208,859. That builds on the 31,000 jobsadded the year before, and 23,600 added the year before that.

“It’s incredible,” SolarCity CEO and co-founder Lyndon Rive told ThinkProgress. “The industry employs over 200 thousand people — more than the coal industry.”

The census found that even just the U.S. solar installation sector employed 77 percent more people than the coal mining industry. Installers have reported the most job growth by far, with project development, sales, and distribution also rising.

Solar employment growth by sector, 2010-2015CREDIT: TSF

Solar employment growth by sector, 2010-2015CREDIT: TSF

Most of these jobs (83 percent) were new positions, and 65 percent were in the installation sector. Solar ranked third behind wind and gas power capacity in 2015, with over two gigawatts being added to the grid across several states. Companies expect this trend to continue as costs keep declining — over two dollars per watt over the last five years.

Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the Solar Foundation, told ThinkProgress that the industry “continues to create skilled well-paying jobs at a really fast clip.” Workers in the solar industry, she said, find it easy to rise and be promoted, while wages continue to be competitive with similar industries. Solar businesses are employing more women than in previous years — 49,775 workers over the last year, which is up from 37,500 the year before. Though the census did find some percentage decline in racial and ethnic minorities working in the solar industry — 5 percent of the workforce is African American, 11 percent Latino, and 9 percent Asian/Pacific Islander — the absolute numbers did rise.

The percentage of military veterans working solar jobs declined to 8.1 percent in the last year from 9.7 percent in 2014. Luecke said that the number of veterans in the industry did rise in an absolute sense to 16,835, but they just did not grow as quickly as the rest of the workforce. She said that some of the variability can be attributed to regional changes. Arizona, for instance, has a workforce rich with veterans and Latinos, but the state experienced some “job turmoil” in the last few years. SolarCity’s Rive said he did not believe that the flat growth trend was true for SolarCity: “we’ve got a really aggressive veterans hiring program.”

With one in five employers reporting that it is “very difficult” to find qualified employees, the labor demand is there, and so these imbalances seem easily addressed.

Last year, President Obama announced a new program aimed at providing solar training to veterans, called “Solar Ready Vets.” Last week the initiative began in its eighth installation at Fort Drum, New York.

The census measures employment in the time period preceding November 2015, and uses company surveys, growth trends, and extrapolations similar to those used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to arrive at its totals. It includes all direct solar company jobs and some indirect solar-focused positions. This ranges from installation to sales, finance to R&D.

The report said its data “is derived from a statistically valid sampling and survey that went to nearly 400,000 establishments throughout the nation.”

Rive said that SolarCity added over 6,000 jobs over the last year, bringing the total to around 15,000. “This year we want to add almost as many,” he said.

Regional data is not available in the census released Tuesday; Luecke said that data would be available in February.

2016 looks to be a big year for the solar industry after Congress extended the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Luecke told ThinkProgress that the fight over the ITC had made solar businesses “very cautious about their hiring plans,” though the certainty going forward could boost hiring and installation projections through 2016 and beyond.

However some states, such as Nevada, enacted policies that would make electricity for solar households more expensive, which cannot help but influence solar industry hiring. “These jobs can be lost if you have a person who doesn’t look at the future and only looks at supporting the monopolies of the utilities,” Rive said.

The fights over solar fees, taxes, and net metering in Nevada and Arizona — states that could be leading the nation in solar power production — have led to layoffs.

“In December, the Nevada PUC decided to kill solar in the state,” Rive said. “There’s probably about 5-6 thousand solar jobs in the state, and most of those jobs are going to get laid off. We just laid off 550 people in Nevada. At the stroke of a pen, three people can decide the fates of millions. We’re going to fight it — we think it was unethical.”

As demand for solar rises, and these companies get more efficient at production and installation, what does that mean for job numbers?

“In 2013 it used to take two days to install one system,” Rive said. “In 2015, we were a little less than one system per day — efficiency has essentially doubled. I don’t think we’ll have that kind of leapfrog again but we could get close to 1.2 systems per day.” Rive explained how the 2013 change was due to some important technology: the company’s acquisition of Zep Solar, which simplifies the mounting of the panels on the rooftop.

Luecke said that the industry used to see a more direct relationship between installed capacity and jobs even as companies were getting more efficient. In 2012, it took 19 people to install a megawatt of solar power; that number is now 15, and Luecke expects the trend to continue as crews get more and more efficient and competent. “We’re going to have the ability to install more, and more cheaply.”

Source

 

Hybrid Cars – Elio To Launch by Mid-2016 With 41,000 Reservations And Counting October 11, 2015

Filed under: Electric,Gasoline,Green Living,Hybrids — bferrari @ 2:56 pm
86 MPG Elio Hybrid

86 MPG Elio Hybrid

The ongoing saga of Elio Motors’ push toward production now projected by mid 2016 took a new step last week with the aspiring automaker’s first-time presence and press conference at the New York International Auto Show.

With 41,000 reservation holders having shelled out $100-$1,000 for the American startup’s economical three-wheeled, front-wheel-drive vehicle, Elio has been likened to an “anti-Tesla” and has many supporters as well as detractors willing to offer opinions on its prospects.

In New York, founder and namesake Paul Elio gave a brief talk April 2 for the media and fielded questions.

Elio Motors has said production deadline for the tandem two-seater – which has been pushed back – as well as funding goals, and mpg estimates are not hard-and-fast, but general ranges.

At the same time it does continue to tout eye-catching statistics like 49 mpg city, 84 mpg highway for $6,800 but these targets the company concedes are not do or die, but they remain, and it will at least be very close if not on the money.

“I wanted it to be high mileage, and I think our initial target was 75, and then we realized we could do better,” said Paul Elio in January to Jalopnik in a lengthy phone interview. “84 was a stretch target if you will, and we’re very close to hitting it. Right now, I think we’re about 81.4, but we’re continuing to work on the design. So I don’t know that we’ll hit 84, but let’s face it, if we go into production at 81, did we fail? I want to hit it because I said I would. But from a social impact and product value, anywhere in that neighborhood is going to be dandy and I know we’re there.”

Paul Elio has his talking points down, and to his supporters, he’s been called a visionary with a more-practical mission than Tesla chief Elon Musk.

Whatever is the case, while there’s been some ambiguity on how to classify the vehicle, it is officially a motorcycle, he says, or rather, an “autocycle.”

SEE ALSO: The Elio – High Hopes For This Unusual UnderdogThis term was explained by Vice President of Sales Jerome Vassallo in an interview with HybridCars.com April 1 at Elio’s modest presentation in the basement of the Javits Center, and Vassallo says proposed legislation would classify the Elio uniquely.

An autocycle is a sub-class of motorcycle that includes three wheels, automotive airbags, automotive controls, and a roll cage – i.e., the reinforced cabin.

Additionally, Vassallo said insurance should be motorcycle cheap while the company strives for maximum safety. Given that the Elio should be safer than a motorcycle, Vassallo said Elio could argue insurance premiums ought to be even less, but it will be content if underwriters at least keep it lower cost than an automobile.

Highest Safety Standards

If you have read reports saying Elio will be granted a “5-star safety rating” from the federal government, Vassallo said Elio has never said exactly that, nor could it because the federal government does not crash test motorcycles. Rather he says it will meet the “highest safety standards.”

Whether the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration chooses to anonymously purchase and crash test the Elio after it’s in production is still up in the air though the request has been made.

This is potentially even a “political” question, Vasallo said. If NHTSA decides not to crash test the Elio, it will nonetheless be engineered for occupant protection with its automotive-length crumple zone, three airbags – front and side curtain – and if needed, Elio will contract a private firm to crash test the autocycle and provide data.

What safety “standards” it might meet is unclear given that it’s not classified as a car, and there are no crash test standards for a motorcycle, but the gist is the autocycle will be safe, potentially even counter-intuitively so.

The Anti-Tesla?

Paul Elio says the Elio story began after he could take it no more hearing of U.S. trade deficit, money going offshore to feed the oil habit, environmental and related issues, and decided to take matters into his own hands.

It’s been said in ways his bargain-basement priced solution could not be more different than the technologically avante garde approach Tesla is taking with its $75,000-$140,000 Model S and other creations pending.

That its objective is at least similar to Tesla Motors is clear however, and both companies contemplate overlapping goals with very different thinking.

Where Elio is different includes, but is not limited to it caters to “poor” people – or those on a budget. Its demographic is those who want a cheap commuter, not an ultimate long-range, gas-eschewing large electric sedan capable of competing with all comers, even in P85D form against a Lamborghini Aventador in stoplight drag races.

Tesla aims to go down market too, but one $35,000-$50,000 Model 3 could buy at least five Elios so Elio is aiming to sell them in bunches like bananas. Tesla’s “gas savings” touted for a Model S is $10,000 over five years.

Vassallo said a buyer would be hard pressed to equip an Elio from its a la carte menu options above $10,000.

The Elio is also a motorcycle, not a car, and it is a low-tech internal combustion-powered vehicle. Elio is developing its own 900cc naturally aspirated three-cylinder engine modeled on the Suzuki/Geo Metro developed engine used in prototypes. German engineering firm IAV which makes engines for Mercedes, others, and “did the Veyron” engine for Bugatti is doing the work, but this will be produced in-house in Elio’s Shreveport plant.

Tesla by contrast constructs proprietary electric drive systems and to date has sold technology to Toyota for its RAV4 EV and Mercedes-Benz for its Smart Electric Drive and B-Class Electric.

Like Tesla, Elio occupies a formerly GM-affiliated facility, in the U.S., and pro-USA Elio says this will create 1,500 jobs and be 95 percent U.S. content. Last week, Elio said the U.S. originated engine from a U.S. startup automaker was recently fired up. This was the first time in 60 years a U.S. automaker had done this, he said.

Unlike Tesla, Elio does use gasoline, just less of it, and the company does tout this benefit potentially from an energy security and environmental standpoint.

“At up to 84 mpg you’ll be passing gas pumps in your Elio all day long. Which also means you’ll be putting far less pollutants in the air than even the most environmentally-friendly cars,” says Elio on its website. “Multiply that times the number of Elios projected to be sold, and America could save almost 5 billion gallons of fuel per year, while reducing harmful CO2 emissions by more than 90 billion pounds.”

There’ve been questions and loose dealing of facts sloshing around the blogosphere about this car being a motorcycle which has been said not to need to meet emissions regulations, but this is not exactly correct.

Motorcycles sold in the U.S. do need to meet less stringent regulations, and the Elio which is built from all automotive componentry will have a catalytic converter and be developed to relatively efficient automotive standards.

Its design ethos of using lower tech (thus less expensive) parts also means while it will have variable valve lift, 12.5:1 compression yet compatible with regular gas, the 55-horsepower mill won’t have direct injection or other tricks such as a Ford 1.0-liter EcoBoost has.

Estimated performance for its new car is 0-60 in 9.6 seconds, top speed of 107 mph.

Vassallo said amongst all the brainstorming that happens behind the scenes, the proposal of racing Elios has been floated, he thinks it would be a neat idea, but no plans are pending.

Despite deviating with its own engine and re-engineering parts like the windshield washer bottle, or the hood latch to save $20 per car, Elio is trying to use parts bin engineering where it can. It simultaneously boasts of thinking outside the box but staying safely within a cost-containing box and implies it is working smarter, not harder to deviate from what it describes as major automaker practice which may be careless with production costs.

This is part of the formula for hitting that $6,800 price point which Elio will offer in strip mall-based privately owned stores.

Here too the formula is like Tesla but different in that it’s planning factory stores with no pressure, no haggling. Where it differs from Tesla is that its real estate will not be as premo as Tesla’s which plants itself in high-floor traffic districts to attract enough upper socioeconomic folks who can afford the Model S and subsequent planned products.

Rather, Elio offers an inexpensive, novel conveyance that will do the job, and while progressive in its sales approach, it expects buyers to come to it.

Challenges

Elio Motors has inspired quite the following, while simultaneously provoking several writers and other self-appointed guardians of the truth to decry it as a “scam” on a high order, or simply an overoptimistic goal which cannot succeed.

Numerous objections start with the low price and relatively high mpg for a U.S. based manufacturer, considering such facts that imported scooters can cost a few thousand more, and perceived red flags range from there.

Another objection is three wheelers have a checkered history of ever being embraced in America, and that the Elio is a motorcycle in a country checkered with helmet laws and motorcycle licensing laws meaning bottlenecks to sales here and there.

Paul Elio said the autocycle is actually safer without a helmet as a helmet could increase likelihood of injury. Still, some states may require owners be licensed as motorcyclists before they may drive the Elio on their roads.

To this, Elio Motors says motorcycle licensing and helmet laws are a minor issue, it’s lobbying state by state, has had success in reasoning with lawmakers, and Elio says issues will be resolved.

Another sore point for detractors is the fact Elio is building its own engine and not using an off-the-shelf component like it otherwise boasts of as smarter engineering. Elio says when it made the decision to build its own engine, supply was not available from other sources, so this is the road it chose.

And one other big issue is that life blood of any company – funding.

Vasallo said Elio has a goal of $300 million, a number that’s been reported in the middle $200 million range at other times, and in any event Elio Motors has raised $65 million – mostly from private venture capital funding and one wealthy backer.

Meanwhile, the capital-light business model has become the most successfully crowd-sourced company in history, said Paul Elio, and counting 41,000 reservations it has “pre-sold” $280 million in product. This assumes 100 percent of all reservation holders do not back out though the “all in” reservation holders are obligated with non-refundable deposits.

Elio said also the first year 5,000 reservation holders signed on, the next year 33,000 did. Beyond this, he said he believes 250,000 reservation holders may sign up meaning 100-percent of the plant’s production capacity is accounted for (18:17 in video).

Vasallo said the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (AVTM) program re-contacted Elio Motors and offered to let an application made a few years ago be reopened. After negative press and political fallout from loans gone bad to Solyndra, the government had shut the AVTM program down, but it’s again accepting applications.

It’s believed established suppliers are more likely to be approved, but Vassallo said $185 million is potentially waiting in federal tax dollars if AVTM stamps yes on Elio’s request.

For the above objections and more, the company has patiently answered and its website does as well.

Helping Elio’s case is the fact Pep Boys has signed on to service the company’s products, and Elio Motors is making headway which means objectively, the jury is definitely out despite subjective feelings expressed by naysayers, fans or anyone in between.

Hope

Elio Motors fully acknowledges it is selling what others have said is pie in the sky, but it maintains these sky high aspirations of a reliable, safe, American-manufactured car that gets 49 mpg city, 84 mpg highway, and starts at $6,800 is on its way.

Today’s economy and market have witnessed other companies with big ideas floated amidst a sea of naysayers and some are still standing even if they defy traditional accounting fundamentals in some sense.

Three or four years ago Tesla looked far more shaky than it is, and it has defied odds, so will Elio do so as well from the low end of the spectrum with quite the different alternative?

For its part, Elio is shooting for first deliveries sometime before June 2016. Stay tuned.

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