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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 carsElio 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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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 16 Comments
      The Wasp
      • 6 Months Ago
      I wonder if this discussion was really initiated by Elio or if they are trying to secure their position before the government outright bans 3-wheeled vehicles that lack full safety measures. If this is really Elio's idea out of the blue, I would urge them to tread lightly since lawmakers could understandably reply that enclosed 3-wheelers should have all the same safety measures as full passenger vehicles.
        • 6 Months Ago
        @The Wasp
        Elio is going for a 5 star safety rating based upon auto crash safety tests. It has 3 airbags, large crumple zones, pretensioned roll cage, seat belts and ABS brake system.
      • 6 Months Ago
      I'm willing to get a motorcycle permit to drive one, and I trust my instructor will find it as absolutely stupid as I do. You bring your own motorcycle to get your licence, I think, so I'll be legal to drive a bike without ever touching one. I've met some people that get angry over that. I'm hopeful that all this will change pretty quick.
      jeff
      • 6 Months Ago
      Three wheelers are the perfect EV platform for many reasons. I have avoided them due to the need for a motorcycle license which I have not desire to get much less the wife... You really should be able to drive these with a stardard drivers licenses...
        Actionable Mango
        • 6 Months Ago
        @jeff
        Two wheels in front probably drives similar to a car, but I haven't had that experience so I don't know for sure. But two wheels in back does not drive at all like a car (nor like a motorcycle) and there are definitely things you need to learn that aren't covered in a car-based class.
      Actionable Mango
      • 6 Months Ago
      It has been my understanding that the reason why so many small EV manufacturers went with three wheels was specifically to *avoid* being classified as a car, which brings with it a ton of safety regulation such as side impact beams, airbags, extra strong roof pillars, crash testing, etc.
        Michael Walsh
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Plus (and I'm talking about ICE versions)...if a vehicle has three wheels, it can be used by a solo occupant in many States' HOV lanes.
        raktmn
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        That is exactly what I was thinking. If they want to be cars, with everything that entails, then why just have one rear wheel? If they want to a car, and be treated just like cars, just add that fourth wheel on, and like magic you have a car.
          jeff
          • 6 Months Ago
          @raktmn
          The single rear wheel is significantly more efficient....
      goodoldgorr
      • 6 Months Ago
      At 6 800$ new i might be interrested to buy, this can be a fun car on the road.
      Smooth Motor
      • 6 Months Ago
      The government is trying to get 3 wheeled vehicles that have a full roof classified as cars. They are getting wise to people trying to slip 3 wheeled passenger cars into the US without all the normal passenger vehicle safety equipment.
      • 6 Months Ago
      Forget that! When a new category is made, these vehicles fall under a new insurance category as well, and no way insurance companies are going to change all people's policies from $200/month, to $200/year!
        • 6 Months Ago
        Not to mention, what with those that will create a car seat vehicle with motorcycle handlebars? Or a motorcycle with a steering wheel?
      2 wheeled menace
      • 6 Months Ago
      These things are dozens more time safer than motorcycles. Let's hope that there is some sanity here...
      • 6 Months Ago
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      BipDBo
      • 6 Months Ago
      Elio motors is pushing for this rule change. Basically, they are looking to get the best of both worlds. If things go there way, a 3-wheel fully enclosed vehicle with a car-like seat will be able to be registered as either a motorcycle or an "autocycle" so that that the owner can decide what registration offers the best benefits in his jurisdiction. A 3 wheeled car, registered as an autocycle will not require a motorcycle license to operate. Just a normal driver's license will do. It seems as if an autocycle, however, would not be required to comply with all of the safety and crash standard of a 4 wheeled car. An autocycle will even get to use the smaller motorcycle sized license plate to avoid confusion with traffic cops and allow for single occupancy HOV lane access. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/elio-motors-judicial-success-continues-with-american-association-of-motor-vehicles-administration-policy-recommendation-232389671.html
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