Coined the “people’s” vehicle, Elio’s reservation holders and fan base comes from all walks of life. In this week’s Tech Talk, “I’m All-In” reservation holder Eric Hatch shares his perspective on Elio Motors from a slightly different lens — that of a fine art photographer and a professional writer who has worked on three continents. And, as part of those experiences, enjoys sharing what he saw and felt along the way. His journey to Elio Motors included.
In the Words of Eric
I’m terminally curious. One day in 2013, I came across the Elio in the course of an unrelated Google search. One glimpse caught my attention. I liked the unique design and, well, cool styling of the Elio. More important, the specifications were miles ahead of anything else I was considering at the time.
Miles ahead, especially considering my current vehicle is a well-traveled `09 Subaru Forester with more than 100,000 miles, much of which came from hauling camera gear, myself, and my dog over gravel roads and permafrost in Canada and Alaska. To say my vehicle is “tired” is an understatement. Over its lifetime, the car has averaged 23.7 MPG, and that is just not good enough. Last year I was getting 20-21 MPG until I finally found out what was actually wrong and fixed it (for $800 plus). The majority of my driving is bopping around by myself. Lugging that much mass around for 95% of my driving is just nuts. I’m good to go if it has room for me, camera bag and a tripod.
As for what attracted me to the Elio? First, I consider myself an early adopter versus first adopter in general. Meaning, up near the head of the queue. I’m not afraid of new approaches to old problems, and that’s what the Elio is.
On the surface, the Elio looked like good idea so I started researching all I could about the design, the credentials of the team involved, the specifications, and so forth. I initially put down $250, an amount I felt I could afford to lose if the project didn’t come to fruition, joined the Elio Owners forum, and finally, in July of 2014 met with Jerome Vassallo, Elio Motors Vice President of Sales, and his team in Columbus, Ohio. And yes, I took my tripod, a duffel and a camera bag and made darn sure they fit!
At that first meeting I really grilled Jerome. My greatest concern was whether such a project like this one could make it. That and why certain decisions, such as building your own engine, had been made. Jerome’s answers were solid and I believed completely genuine.
I also used that opportunity to take some images of the Elio from a perspective that most other folks may not have considered.
But what really won me over was when I had the opportunity to experience the Elio in person. Everything about the Elio FELT terrific! Very much like a roomy version of a single-seat airplane. The seat was comfortable, the elbow-room was substantial, and the visibility was excellent. I loved it!
A friend came along on this trip who is about 6’3″ and, well, about the bulk of your average defensive lineman. He too really liked the Elio and found it equally comfortable as I did with my 5’8″ and 170 lb frame. That experience cost me a bit as afterwards I did what most reservation holders do after seeing the Elio in person — I increased my reservation amount.
As for how owning an Elio will impact my life? Here’s a real-world example.
I drove to the Smokey Mountains last fall for a photo shoot. Then I drove to Michigan the next weekend. That’s 2,000 miles for those two trips. My Subaru averaged 25 MPG. Approximately 80% of these trips were highway driving (might have been more, but let’s be conservative). So, 2000 miles/25 MPG = 80 gallons versus 19 gallons for the Elio. With an average cost of gas at $3.19, the Subaru’s gas cost was $255.20 compared to $60.61 if I had been driving my Elio.
An expense of $255 versus $60. That extra money would pay for nicer accommodations or maybe a panoramic head for my tripod. That’s a real-life, non-hypothetical, actual-cash-out-of-my-pocket example.
One more thing I should talk about. Early on I started thinking about the societal implications of the Elio. What Paul calls “the project” is more than the vehicle itself. To start with, I believe reducing our carbon footprint isn’t a nice-to-do, rather it’s vital for survival. The Elio is a fine step in that direction.
I also think that the working folks in this country are being slammed and that Elio’s ability to save $1,000 or more in annual vehicle operating costs would have a genuine effect on the US economy. It sure would have an effect on my economy!
The Elio would also enable people to travel to more distant jobs. Or, maybe even get to jobs that they couldn’t travel to on public transport or in a clunker.
So when I asked Jerome “If you clearly could sell this thing for ten grand easily, why is $6,800 such a commitment? Can Paul live with $7,000 if he has to?” Jerome responded by saying, “Paul knows that if we can’t meet the $6,800 price point and come in slightly over, well then we can’t. But he’s walking around the Elio every day, pointing at things to save wherever he can without compromising the quality and integrity of the vehicle. It’s those little savings here and there that add up to the big savings and help us realize our goal of producing a $6,800 vehicle. And while doing so, Paul is focused on the woman who works at Walmart 50 miles away and who just can’t afford $10,000 but can more likely pay $6,800. Paul cares about that woman, and that’s really why we’re holding the line on cost the way we are.”
Paul cares. Elio Motors cares. If ever there were a reason to get on board with the Elio, that’s it.
The Elio meets my needs, is affordable, looks like a lot of fun to drive, feels good, and, if it succeeds (which I believe it will), it will do a significant amount of good for the people of this country and for the nation itself. So for me, I get to contribute to something beyond my own convenience and have a good time doing it. I’ll be 70 when my Elio arrives — and what a great way to celebrate!
(Photos courtesy of Eric, Hatch Photo Artistry)
To reach Eric: