Preview: ECO Motor Company EMC3 Commuter

By Kevin Miller

02.11.2009

Newcastle, Washington, is a suburban enclave about 10 miles southeast of Seattle. Best known for its tony golf club and upscale housing developments, Newcastle is also the home of ECO Motor Company. The upstart company is set to launch its three-wheeled EMC3 Commuter to US customers in April, so I headed to their headquarters for a sit-down with David Joner, the company’s CEO to chat about the upcoming commuter car.

The EMC3 starts at $13,995, is estimated to get 60+ MPG, and looks like nothing else on the road in the US; it is a three-wheeled vehicle with two wheels up front and one in the rear. A 54 HP, 1.0 liter, three-cylinder engine drives the front wheels through either a manual or optional automatic transaxle. There is room for two passengers and two sets of golf clubs in the car’s cabin. The cabin is enclosed by a convertible top.

The EMC3 is the end result of what originally started as a summer project – ECO Motor Company’s CEO, David Joner, always liked to spend each summer doing hands-on projects with his children. In the spring of 2005 while on a family vacation, Joner’s son (who would turn eleven that summer) proposed that they build a car that summer. After discussions with Joner’s father Bruno (an engineer), the summer project got started. As the idea for this three-wheeled car gained momentum, the Joners were joined by Pete Brewer, Forrest Page, and several other design engineers from around the country and the world.

As the design progressed and the decision was made to put their car into production, the team at ECO had to decide where to build their car. In order to make the EMC3 affordable, they wanted to use existing technology and to work with a company skilled in the manufacture of vehicles. Looking into costs, the team estimated the EMC3 would cost nearly $27,000 if it was to be built in North America. Searching farther afield, Joner found the perfect partner in Geely, China’s largest privately-held automaker.

The EMC3 is being built in China, largely from production parts used on Geely vehicles. David Joner is fond of saying that ECO Motor Company didn’t aim to reinvent the wheel, but just to take one off. Living up to that philosophy, the EMC3 uses proven, off-the-shelf Geely mechanical components and a Geely-sourced engine. Knowing that American consumers perceive Chinese-made vehicles to be of low quality, ECO Motor Company has hired around fifty employees who work at the Geely plant to ensure that the vehicles are properly assembled with attention to quality.

Because it is has just three wheels, the EMC3 is classified by the US Department of Transportation as a motorcycle. Current licensing regulations in most states require that motorcycle drivers have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s licenses. Here in Washington State, operators will need a Sidecar/Trike Endorsement on their driver’s licenses, which can be obtained by completing a training course and passing written and driving exams. There is talk of a bill allowing “autocycle” vehicles such as the EMC3 to be driven without a special endorsement, but such a bill is not yet law. As the vehicle provides head protection for its occupants, wearing a helmet is not required.

Although the EMC3 is classified as a motorcycle, the design team at ECO Motor Company designed the vehicle to automobile safety standards. As such, the vehicle wraps the passengers in what is effectively a roll cage, and it features front airbags, dynamic side impact beams, and reinforced A and B pillars and glazing for a 3,000 lb. rollover rating. Although not required by any federal regulations, ECO Motor Company is having crash testing performed on the EMC3 by the same laboratory used by automakers and the NHTSA.

David Joner predicts a target market of 25-45 year old drivers for the EMC3, which is about 13.5 feet long and 6 feet wide. The EMC3’s base price of $13,995 includes manual transmission, convertible top, power windows and locks, air conditioning, AM/FM/MP3 player, and front airbags. Versions with an automatic transmission start at $14,995. The vehicles are customizable at the dealer, with options including ABS, a turbocharger with intercooler (good for about 80 HP), infotainment system with navigation, and VehSmart (a telematics and driver assistance system similar to OnStar). Just as a yardstick, the base price of EMC3 is right around the price of a base model Smart car, which is also basic transportation, and gets about 40 mpg.

Although warranty terms have not been announced, expect a three year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. Mr. Joner explained that he expects warranty costs to be relatively low because the parts are fairly inexpensive, and the car has been designed for quick replacement of faulty parts. As an example, rather than rebuilding an engine, it would simply be replaced.

One component of CEO David Joner’s previous life is as the manager of a suburban Seattle new car dealership. With that retail auto background, Joner knew what it would take to make owning an Eco Motor Company franchise appealing to potential dealers. The company has signed franchise agreements with hundreds of auto dealerships who will be selling the EMC3 when they begin to arrive stateside in April. Quite a few potential customers have reserved their own EMC3 at the company’s website (http://www.ecomotorcompany.com). With production already started and a capacity to build 5,000 vehicles per month, Joner predicted during our interview that if you reserved your own EMC3 now, you would have it in your driveway in May.

As the EMC3 looks to be safe, efficient, and smartly priced, it will offer commuters a vehicle which is inexpensive both to purchase and to operate.

While its unfamiliar name and pedigree (and its convertible top) may leave some buyers cold, the 60+ MPG two-seat, three-wheeled vehicle will surely prove to be the perfect addition to some families’ garages.

I’m looking forward to the chance to drive a production EMC3 this spring, to report on its handling, economy, and real-world appeal.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Kevin Miller

As Autosavant’s resident Swedophile, Kevin has an acute affinity for Saabs, with a mild case of Volvo-itis as well. Aside from covering most Saab-related news for Autosavant, Kevin also reviews cars and covers industry news. His “Great Drive” series, with maps and directions included, is a reader favorite.

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14 Comments

  1. Even on the companies website I can’t seem to find any reference to performance. Top Speed? 0-60? Nothing.

    Cheap enough to make me buy one for commuting and get what I really want for the rest of the time if it can handle 75 mph each way to work.

  2. The problem with 3 wheeled vehicles is that you cannot avoid pot holes unless you weave the entire vehicle around one. And if you hit a bump with the rear-center wheel, the entire rear of the vehicle lifts up (and if you hit one on the highway going 65 it can be a hair raising experience). For get this thing and get yourself the forthcoming Ford Fiesta.

  3. Wow, I just went to their website. That is one of the worst-looking websites I’ve ever seen. I realize they’re just a startup, but they certainly aren’t putting their best face forward to the online world.

  4. Like No-Nonsense, I have actually driven a three-wheel vehicle, and it ain’t no picnic on a bad road. I’ve driven a Harley 3-wheel trike and an old Morgan 3-wheeler. Fun until you hit some bumps.

  5. These things aren’t going to sell until gas gets to $5.00 a gallon.

  6. This is a front wheel drive 3 wheeled vehicle. It is esentially a small compact front wheel drive car with only one wheel in the back. I have never seen a production vehicle with this arrangement and it rides and handles just like a car. Unlike the motorcycle based 3 wheelers of the past it combines the safety and convienience of a car with many of the benefits of a motorcycle. In Washington this vehicle can use the carpool lane like a motorcycle and has first on and first off priviliges on the ferry boats just like a motorcycle. This is truly a new type of vehicle.

  7. The EMC3 will have a top speed of 85 mph, and will cruise at 70-75 mph with ease, according to the “ECO” office.

  8. This is a Scam

    The Car does not exist.

    The CEO is a Bull Shit Artist

    He is a liar. He cannot tell you who is building the car

  9. Hey Rich.

    Where is your proof of such allegations. I hope you can stand behind them as you have truly opened yourself to a major liable suit. I know the owner of ECO and I will forward this to him. I don’t think he will be happy about the blind allegations, but we will see.

    I know the prototype exists as I have seen it, felt it and seen it perform on the road.

    So there goes some of your allegations.

  10. Although I do not think it is a scam, there are several areas that concern me.
    1) April 8th, I reserved 1 for $100.00, I haven’t gotten any confirmation from the company.
    2) No change in the website, I would recommend photos from the plant of actual cars being assembled.
    3) No no events listed for 2010.
    4) When I first herd about this it was February, with anticipated delivery of mid May. When I emailed the company, they told me it would be mid June. While searching the internet, came across a dealer promising delivery in July.
    Too many inconsistencies, no updates on their web page.

  11. Brian, have you tried calling them? I see that there is a phone number on their website.

  12. Kevin,
    Please be aware that David Joner is a con- artist. The ECO Motor Company is a scam and is still taking deposits and trying to lure dealers to cover the deposits Mr. Joner has squandered. Please warn your readers asap! This is a Ponzi type scheme. Here is a link to some information

    http://www.emcthree.com/index.html

  13. THIS IS A TOTAL SCAM. WE ARE A DEALER AND GAVE 10,000 DEPOSIT TO BE “THE ONLY DEALER” IN OUR AREA…DO NOT BUY INTO THIS BS!!!! AND RL, YOU MUST BE A SCUMBAG FRIEND OF HIS TO BE DEFENDING HIM. WE WILL SOON SEE WHEN THE FTC,IRS AND FBI FINISH INVESTIGATING MY COMPLAINT!

  14. Their web site is in Chineses (or some form of an Asian language).

    I think it is really cool but I have not found anything that it is being made.

    If I was to get a three wheeler, one alternative would be the Myres Motors NmG.
    http://www.myersmotors.com/
    They have a neat looking three wheeler. A possible downside might be that it is electric.
    It would be really good with this Eco Motors engine.
    http://ecomotors.com/

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