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Plan for three-wheeled car clears House amid concern

Plan for three-wheeled car clears House amid concern

Dustin Hurst
February 13, 2015
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February 13, 2015

A plan that would allow three-wheeled cars to hit Idaho’s roads, highways and interstates cleared the Idaho House Friday, but not without some opposition.

Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, pitched the bill, originally brought by Elio, maker of a super-efficient three-wheeled car. Though the car isn’t yet in production, Palmer told colleagues, the company wants to clear regulations before trying to sell its product.

In Idaho, that means a new classification of vehicle, dubbed an autocycle. Vehicles in this classification must operate like a car, with a steering wheel and brake pedals, among other features. If the bill clears the Senate and wins approval from Gov. Butch Otter, three-wheeled cars will pay motorcycle registration fees.

“It’s basically like a skinny car,” Palmer said of Elio’s brainchild. “It will drive like a car.”

Palmer’s district counterpart, Rep. Jason Monks, a Republican, voted against the bill, though he didn’t object in testimony on the floor.

Afterward, he told IdahoReporter.com he believes the bill’s language will likely restrict other three-wheeled cars from entering the Idaho market.

“We tailored it too much,” Monks said.

In his floor testimony, Palmer said the narrow regulations make sense and no other three-wheeled vehicles come close enough to the rules.

For its part, Elio is comfortable removing some of the narrowest language. Elio’s car features tandem seating -- the passenger sits behind the driver. Palmer’s bill requires that seating arrangement, though other brands in that market feature side-by-side models.

Joel Sheltrown, the government affairs manager for Elio, told IdahoReporter.com earlier this week he wouldn’t mind if lawmakers stripped the seating language out of the measure. He did oppose, though, removing requirements for airbags and crash cages.

The Legislature’s only auto dealer, Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, opposed Palmer’s bill. She did declare a possible conflict of interest, as is normal procedure in that scenario. She didn’t say why she opposed the measure.

The bill now heads to the Senate.


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