There is nothing like an Energy Crisis to arouse America’s entrepreneurial spirit. While the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 gave birth to some odd but economical little cars like the virtuous CitiCar and the dubious Dale, the 1979 crisis sparked by the Iranian revolution brought us the HMV FreeWay.
The HMV (High Mileage Vehicles, Inc.) FreeWay was the brainchild of Dave Edmonson of Barnsville, MN. With the FreeWay, Edmonson took basic transportation to the extreme. It had 1 door, 1 seat, 1 headlight and a 1-cylinder engine. This fiberglass-bodied, 700lb mini car looks more like an enclosed motorcycle. Actually, it had more in common with a snowmobile. That rear-mounted Tecumseh-sourced engine and CVT transmission saw far more action barreling through the snow than on the freeway in a FreeWay. Mr. Edmonson claimed the FreeWay got 84mpg from its standard 12hp gasoline engine. A “sport” version put out 16hp, do 60mph, and get 60mpg.
HM Vehicles, Inc. also offered an electric and diesel versions. But the former had very limited range and the latter was prohibitively expensive. Both sold in extremely limited, if any, numbers. Over three years about 700 FreeWays were sold before in 1982 HMV went belly up. D&A Vehicles, also of Minnesota, acquired the rights to the car. They turned it into a 2-seat roadster called the Minikin. D&A sold a handful of them in 1983 before they too went out of business.
Dave Edmonson wasn’t the first entrepreneur to convince himself that America wanted a fuel efficient car with 3 wheels. Apparently, he wouldn’t be the last. In 2009, Paul Elio of Phoenix, AZ announced his own 3-wheeler, the Elio. He claimed it would be in production by 2012. What is it about 84mpg? Like the FreeWay decades earlier, Elio claimed that seemingly magical mileage number.
The Elio’s launch date was later pushed back to 2014, then 2016, and lately to 2019. Hmm, maybe the FreeWay will be America’s last fuel efficent 3-wheeler.
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