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Behind the Curtain: A Peek at the Elio’s Instrument Panel | Elio Momentum v57

Behind the Curtain: How we made the Elio Instrument Panel

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It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to go behind the curtain to see how a vehicle is assembled, especially one that’s not yet on the market. If you’re the kind of person who is curious and enjoys technology, however, today is your lucky day.

We’re taking you into Elio Motors’ Pilot Operations Center to see the process of assembling our E-Series vehicles. This installment is about how our instrument panel (I/P) is built up and installed. While this isn’t quite as sexy as sitting in the driver’s seat and watching the gauges respond as you accelerate on a winding country road, the amount of technology in the Elio’s I/P, as we call it, is astounding.

One of the vehicle’s features that Paul Elio often talks about is its tandem configuration, which makes it more aerodynamic. Of course, you’ve noticed that it makes the interior approximately half as wide as a traditional vehicle. This means that the instrument panel for the Elio is more compact, which also means that we have to be more efficient with our space to include all of the technology you’ve grown to appreciate in a vehicle. This includes things such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning components that traditionally are located toward the front passenger area of the vehicle. Our “packaging wizards” on the HVAC product development team have done an excellent job of fitting existing componentry into these specific areas.

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The Elio instrument panel in an inverted position.      
When the I/P is in an inverted position, you can get a better perspective on the internal components. In the image above, the cross-car beam can be seen snaking through the panel. On the left side near the orange I/P fixture, you can see the I/P wiring harness bundle, which shows just how much functionality of the vehicle is incorporated into the panel.

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A myriad of smaller wiring harnesses provide power and communications.

When you really want to see the complexity of what’s going on behind the curtain, the back of the I/P is the place to look. In the image above, our technician is torqueing a steering column bolt to the cross-car beam near the HVAC system’s blower motor, which lies behind the green connector in the middle of the frame. The gray panel on the top actually is the knee bolster, since the I/P module is upside down for ease of assembly. In this position, you can see the myriad of smaller wiring harnesses that provide power and communications to and from the systems that are incorporated into the I/P. These include not only the HVAC system and steering column (the column adjusting lever is visible on top), but also entertainment/radio/navigation, the instrument cluster, and various knobs that control the vehicle’s lights and HVAC.

An interesting note about the layout of the instrument panel: the controls for the Elio are traditional knobs and dials located in traditional placements, so that the vehicle feels familiar when you get behind the wheel for the first time. The stereo/entertainment/navigation components remain on the right side of the steering wheel, while the HVAC knobs are located on the left side of the steering column.

Once the I/P assembly has been built up, it’s ready to install in the vehicle. On a traditional assembly line, instrument panels, which can weigh over 100 pounds, are mated with the vehicle using an ergonomic conveyor system. In this pilot build, our technicians hand fit and finesse the assembly to ensure it’s aligned as designed.

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In this pilot build, the Elio Motors technicians hand fit and finesse the assembly.

The design of the Elio’s I/P isn’t meant to prepare it just for the installation phase, however. The Elio’s panel is designed for flexibility and upgradability, which means it will allow you to eventually change your entertainment system or upgrade to navigation at any point in your ownership experience.

As you can see, we’ve been busy since the product development teams completed the engineering phase for the E-Series vehicles. As a Momentum reader, you’ll have a front-row seat as we assemble the first E-Series vehicle.

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