We Can’t Leap Tall Buildings in a Single Bound, But, We’ll Be Fuel Efficient, Easier to Build, and Less Expensive
Imagine sitting in the theater and watching the matinee movie. Up on the big screen, Superman has just saved the day because the Man of Steel stands for truth, justice, and the American way.
Not the “Man of Aluminum.” Not the Man of “Sheet Molded Composite (SMC).”
The Man of Steel. Because steel works.
Frankly, our engineers have come to the same conclusion. SMC is pretty good.
Steel is better.
Paul Elio and E1A and Prototypes – All of the prototypes of the Elio, including the E1A E-Series engineering vehicle (center, with Paul Elio), feature SMC molded body panels, which are well suited for low-volume production.
That’s why we’re pleased to announce an important change in our overall vehicle strategy. The majority of the Elio body will be made of galvanized steel. The hood, the quarter panels, the roof, and the sides all will be made of steel, while a few select parts, such as the nose, will be made from Thermoplastic Olefins (TPOs) and possibly some SMC in select locations, like the wheel fairings.
Why the shift away from SMC? As we go through the E-Series build, we continue to learn. Our engineering team weighed the pros and cons of SMC versus galvanized steel and found that in order to meet several of our “must haves,” galvanized steel just made more sense.
“Every decision we make at Elio Motors is weighed carefully against our “must haves” – ultra-low price, fuel efficiency, safety, and made in America – and galvanized steel gives us better performance when we weigh the pros and cons against Paul Elio’s long-term vision for our company,” said Jeff Johnston, Elio Motors’ VP of Engineering. “It’s lighter and easier to manufacture and galvanized steel combats rust. In the final analysis, it just made more sense.”
All 6 Versions of The Elio – The P-Series prototypes all had tubular frame construction, but the E-Series engineering vehicles have evolved to feature unibody construction, which the Engineering and Manufacturing teams have deemed a better choice. A similar evolution is occurring with body panels from SMC to galvanized steel.
The reasons are several-fold:
First, we have identified a new steel supplier and have configured several components in a way that actually provides some weight savings. Obviously, lower weight helps to get us closer to our fuel efficiency goal of up to 84 mpg highway.
Galvanized steel is held together using welds, while SMC is typically held together using adhesives. The steel can be recycled at the end of vehicle life – in fact, the auto industry recycles approximately 18 million tons of steel annually. The adhesives are much more likely to end up in a landfill and that isn’t ideal when measured against our environmental ambitions.
Steel will also have a positive impact on the Elio’s final cost. Steel is easier to use from a manufacturing standpoint, which will mean that the Shreveport team will be able to get more done in less time. More efficient manufacturing ultimately lowers costs, helping us meet our low price “must have.”
Metal Stamping on Die – For high-volume production, steel stamping is much more cost effective for body panels than SMC. Galvanized steel also will hold tolerances better for a more precise finish.
Steel also will positively impact the vehicle’s overall quality and appearance as well as make it easier to add options. Steel has lower variation, which will aid in making the overall fit of the vehicle better. In addition, galvanized steel is more reliable for a high-quality finish and allows for a faster paint process. Again, this will align well with our cost-containment objectives.
As for options, many that will be available can be bolted and screwed to the existing steel parts. This provides better long-term quality and reliability.
As we continue to move closer to our production model, we’ll share more information on how steel will be incorporated into the vehicle. In the meantime, if you happen to watch a Superman movie, it will serve as yet another reminder that steel just makes sense.