Kelsie Jennings
KU Statehouse Wire Service
A bill could create a new classification of vehicles in Kansas known as “autocycles.”
Proponents of House Bill 2044 say autocycles are neither cars nor motorcycles and need their own classification to protect drivers from breaking the law.
Autocycles are three-wheeled vehicles that weight about 1,200 pounds and have seats like a car, but the federal government classifies any vehicle with less than four wheels as a motorcycle. To operate autocycles in Kansas, drivers must have a motorcycle license, but proponents say the motorcycle license test isn’t helpful for operating autocycles because they aren’t driven the same way.
“It’s a requirement that makes absolutely no sense,” said Joel Sheltrown, vice president of governmental affairs for Elio Motors, a Phoenix company that plans to start making autocycles in 2016. “My customer base, a lot of them, don’t have motorcycles licenses and they’re not going to go out and rent a motorcycle, learn how to drive it, go down and take a test just so they can drive our vehicle, especially seniors.”
Sheltrown said about 18 states are working on legislation for autocycles and six states already passed laws for defining autocycles. HB 2044 passed the Kansas House last month by a 123-0 vote.
He said this bill would insure legislation is in place by the time Elio starts making autocycles next year. Otherwise, out-of-state drivers could run into trouble if they drive into a state like Kansas where a motorcycle license is required. He said drivers could face tickets or possibly get their vehicle impounded until they could prove they had a motorcycle license.
Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady (R-Palco) shared the same concern for autocycle drivers coming in from other states.
“If they were cruising down I-70 and pass into Kansas they’d automatically be breaking the law,” he said.
Couture-Lovelady supports the bill and said it wouldn’t have a fiscal effect. He says this industry has potential to grow as the vehicles from Elio would cost about $6,800 and get 84 miles to the gallon on the highway.
“It’s kind of an emerging industry across the country,” Couture-Lovelady said. “There’s a lot of folks that could really benefit from this.”
Sheltrown said there are about a dozen people in Kansas who drive Slingshots, an autocycle made by Polaris. Nationally, he said Elio has more than 40,000 pre-sold reservations on its autocycle.
Sen. Mike Petersen (R-Wichita), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said it would meet Thursday to discuss the bill and work out senators’ questions.
Kelsie Jennings is a University of Kansas senior from Olathe majoring in journalism.