Three-wheel car boasts up to 84mpg for $6,800

Up to 84 miles to the gallon on the highway, and 60 mpg on average, for only $6,800?

That's the promise of a first-of-its-kind, three-wheel car called "Elio." The Elio is named after Paul Elio, founder of Elio Motors.

The company is on a nationwide tour to show off its creation, get feedback and, of course, drum up investors and buyers.

For now, they're traveling with a prototype, which is the only version of the Elio that exists. It has two tires in front and one tire in the back. Retail Sales VP Jerome Vassallo says all the power is in the front.

"All our power comes from the front wheels, so we're a front-engine, front wheel drive vehicle," he said.

The regular passenger car tires and bumpers in front are positioned away from the vehicle's narrow body. There's only one door -- on the driver's side. And there's no rear-view mirror. Vassallo points out the narrow body construction allows a full rear view through the two side view mirrors. The two seats in the vehicle are tandem, so the passenger sits directly behind the driver. The transmission is manual. So is the steering.

Under the hood, almost everything you'd find in a standard automobile: battery, radiator, anti-freeze, reservoir, oil and filter. But by design, there is no windshield wiper container. According to Vassallo, the engine compartment is designed to hold store-bought bottled water which the consumer can swap out as needed. The company says the older model Geo Metro engine in the prototype is strictly for demonstration purposes on the tour. The actual engine is still in the works-

"It's a modern masterpiece, I mean it is fully electronic. Electronic timing, variable valve timing, full fuel injection- it does a great job," Vassallo said.

Plans are for the retail sales price of $6,800 to include multiple air bags, AM/FM radio, air-conditioning, anti-lock brakes, a full roll cage, power door locks and power windows. The company says tests so far point to a very high safety rating. But the Elio is "technically" not a car. It's a motorcycle.

"The federal government calls this a motorcycle, because they define anything less than 4 wheels as a motorcycle," Vassallo explained

Which means owners will pay less for insurance and licensing and will have the HOV advantage.

"That allows you, by yourself, to ride in this vehicle without having a passenger," Vassallo added.

Elio Motors is banking on the affordability factor. Between high gas prices, high car prices, and many people still struggling financially, the company especially sees a potential market in consumers who need reliable transportation they can afford. To that end, the company is also working on a unique credit card financing model where buyers agree to use a special Elio credit card for all Elio fuel purchases.

Each use of the credit card would charge triple the amount of the purchase. One third of the sum would pay for the fuel (or other merchandise) and the remaining two thirds on the credit card statement would be automatically applied toward payment on the loan. Vassallo says the credit card financing idea is still under consideration by lenders. But with promises of affordability and high fuel efficiency, Elio says more people are making reservations to buy a 3-wheeler - once production gets underway sometime next year.

As you can imagine, the forward-thinking concept is attracting skeptics as well as fans and investors- so the proof, as they say, will be in the pudding. The company acknowledges that start-up auto companies are a huge financial risk, but says it's approach of using existing technology and existing, easy to acquire parts will help Elio overcome that challenge. The company says is working now to certify technicians across the country who will be able to service the Elio easily and conveniently, because the Elio is built from existing, standard car parts sold everywhere.

Question is- would you buy one? You can check out the Elio prototype for yourself Friday Sept 6th and Saturday Sept 7 from 1-7 p.m. at Westlake Park in Seattle, and on Sunday during mall hours at Northgate Mall.