Just what defines a three-wheeled vehicle? You'd think it would be the number of wheels, but the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) and its Three-Wheel Vehicle Working Group has been thinking about exactly this question, and has come up with a more nuanced definition that could have a big effect on the EV market. After all, we dare you to name all of the three-wheeled high-mpg or plug-in electric vehicles we've featured over the years.

In fact, it was a maker of one of those green cars – Elio Motors – that drew our attention to the AAMVA decision in the first place. Elio is working on bringing an 84-mpg trike to market, and knows that it's awful hard to sell motorcycles compared to cars. Currently, highway-speed vehicles with three wheels are classified as motorcycles by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

AAMVA wants to change this, and has come up with a difference that is partially defined by how the driver (slash rider) sits on the vehicle. If you have a motorcycle-style seat, AAMVA suggests it gets treated like a three-wheeled motorcycle. If the vehicle has a seat with a back – and especially if there are passenger seats – then AAMVA calls it an autocycle, and says it should be treated somewhat like a car, especially for driver's license purposes. Also, a motorcycle often has handlebars while an autocycle has a steering wheel. AAMVA's decisions are not law by any means, but the group does hope that state DMVs will use the document to help write their own new laws about just what defines a three-wheeled vehicle.

You can get the AAMVA decision in PDF here and check out a video on the decision below. As of November 14th, Elio said it had 5,148 reservation holders for its $6,800 three-wheeler. We wonder what it will be, technically, when it arrives.

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Elio Motors' Judicial Success Continues With American Association of Motor Vehicles Administration Policy Recommendation

DETROIT, Nov. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The AAMVA (American Association of Motor Vehicles Administration), the authority on best policy for all state DMV's and Licensing Bureaus, is recommending the Elio be driven with a standard driver's license.

Earlier this week, the AAMVA (American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators) released their new "Best Practices" policy on licensing and registration of 3 wheel enclosed vehicles that are certified as motorcycles by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). AAMVA is recommending that only a regular passenger car driver's license be required to operate a 3 wheel, fully enclosed vehicle with automotive controls like the Elio. This means that a standard driver's license, with no motorcycle endorsement, will be the only necessary license needed to drive the Elio.

Joel Sheltrown, VP of Governmental Affairs for Elio Motors is pleased with the new policy. "We have been in close contact with AAMVA for quite some time and are quite confident that AAMVA's policy on motorcycle endorsements and registration is the correct way to handle vehicles like ours." With this new policy, AAMVA strongly encourages jurisdictions to use these best practices to promote uniformity. This will facilitate the movement of these vehicles from one jurisdiction to another.

Some of the remaining states with motorcycle endorsement issues were waiting for AAMVA's position before making changes. "Going forward we should see even better progress in eliminating endorsement requirements where they still exist," said Paul Elio, Founder of Elio Motors.

The AAMVA also recommends a motorcycle plate be used on the back of the Elio, instead of the larger automobile plate, since the Elio will be registered as a motorcycle or an Autocycle. Utilizing the motorcycle plate will help drivers avoid problems with HOV lane enforcement and tolls, which have different requirements for motorcycles.

About Elio
Elio Motors was born out of Paul Elio's vision for an efficient and affordable revolutionary vehicle. The American made, three-wheel vehicle boasts 84 mpg on the highway and 49 mpg in the city, plus an anticipated 5-star safety rating. At $6,800, this vehicle is for everyone. For more information, please visit http://www.eliomotors.com or www.facebook.com/ElioMotors.

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