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Elio Motors Shows Off its Body Panels | Elio Momentum

Body Panel Design, the Latest Completed Milestone

If you are a regular reader of Momentum, you know this has been a busy three months for Elio Motors. Here are just a few highlights:

All of these are important announcements in our company’s development and all are indications that we are moving in the right direction.

While all those things were happening, our vehicle development teams also have been hard at work moving the design and engineering of the Elio forward to hit our goals. In any new vehicle’s development, there are seemingly small developments that are actually critically important milestones. Month by month, week by week –  even day by day – we are hitting these milestones.

Over the next several weeks, we will use Momentum to bring you more behind-the-scenes looks at some of the work that goes into bringing a new vehicle to market. This will include background information on some of the vehicle parts and systems, how the engineering and development teams work together, information about some of our key supplier partners, and photos of how this is all coming together. This week, we’ll start with a look at the final body panel design.

Body Panel – Key to Aerodynamics, Aesthetics

Just this week, the engineering team has completed the final body panel design. The Elio has one of the most unique body styles on the market today, and the body panels are obviously a big reason why. The aerodynamic shape of the body panels has two important roles – first, it is the key to the vehicle’s striking looks and, second, the body panel shape helps cut through the air, contributing to the overall fuel efficiency.


The majority of the body panels are made from molded fiberglass. Fiberglass has several advantages that make it perfect for Elio Motors.  It offers significant weight savings over stamped steel and other metals, which benefits overall fuel efficiency. Tooling to manufacture fiberglass panels is less expensive than stamping dies and it also can be produced more quickly. It is also cost effective in production, because it has low labor requirements.

The body panels were designed by the Molded Plastic Development team, which includes Molded Plastic Industries of Holt, Michigan and Excel Pattern of Dearborn, Michigan, in collaboration with Frame Development Team supplier-member, Schwab Industries of Shelby Township, Mich.

Speaking of the process, Frank Phillips, Jr., president of Molded Plastic Products said, “The Elio Motors design process is the new paradigm in automotive engineering and design. It allows participating suppliers to bring their best ideas to the table and to work together collaboratively with other product development teams (PDTs) for the good of the project. It’s very different from the long-standing status quo in getting a vehicle to the commercial production stage. I’ve worked in the industry since 1982 and have never experienced this much revolutionary development-process innovation.”

LH_Side_Body_Panel  Left Hand Side Body Panel – Pattern cut ready for benching and seal painting to bring the surface up to class-A finish.

The Molded Plastic Development team is one of eight engineering/supplier team workgroups. Each workgroup is responsible for a functional area of the vehicle’s development. The key to the workgroup structure is the increased teamwork between all of Elio Motors’ suppliers and the empowerment the suppliers have to make decisions.

The outcome of this work structure is a much faster overall design and development time. On the body panels, for example, the Molded Plastic Development Team estimates that development time was reduced by 90 percent – or, on average, two years and two months – but the design will still provide the aesthetics and quality our customers demand.


Skirt_Tool_CompleteRear Left Hand and Right Hand Skirt Tool Complete – ready for mounting to vacuum form base.
The body panels are one of the first tangible examples of why Elio Motors’ supplier relationships are key to our long-term success. We look forward to bringing you more examples in the weeks to come.

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