Home » The Eliica Was The Bonkers Eight-Wheeled 230-MPH Electric Limo You Never Knew You Wanted

The Eliica Was The Bonkers Eight-Wheeled 230-MPH Electric Limo You Never Knew You Wanted

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Every so often, the universe produces an almost mythically outrageous vehicle, something that feels like it came from the mind of Jason Torchinsky but is actually a running, driving car and not an elaborate hoax. Surely, nobody would build an eight-wheeled EV, surely nobody would take it to 230 mph around the Nardò Ring in Italy, and surely, all of this wouldn’t have happened before the first Tesla Model S rolled off the assembly line, right? Well, say hello to the Eliica, the absolutely insane electric limo where nearly everything you’ve heard about it is true.

It was as quick as a Porsche 911 Turbo. It did have absurd top end, eight-wheel-drive, and a wild arrangement of doors, and it wasn’t just intended as a one-off. While the Tesla Model S popularized the narrative of the electric super sedan, the Eliica started it, was the most advanced electric car in the universe, and then just vanished from popular perception.

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Today, let’s examine this magnificent piece of Japanese engineering, the likes of which will probably never be seen again. After all, how many cars were designed from scratch to have eight wheels? There’s the OctoAuto, the Eliica, its predecessor, and not much else.

Meet Kaz

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Nobody just produces an insanely fast eight-wheeled executive sedan out of nowhere, so what’s the backstory on this thing? It all starts with a little university project called KAZ, an acronym for Keio Advanced Zero-emission vehicle. This absolutely bonkers vehicle rolled out of Keio University shortly after the turn of the new millennium.

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Guess what? It was even weirder than the Eliica. Instead of being a grand sedan, it was a minivan with a rear-facing second row, it measured in at nearly 22 feet long, tipped the scales at 6,570 pounds, and featured double-wishbone hydropneumatic suspension at all, um, eight corners. Alright, maybe corners was the wrong word there.

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Yes, this was also an eight-wheeled vehicle, because it used a hub motor in each wheel, and eight-wheel-drive was exactly how KAZ managed to crank out 590 horsepower and hit a top speed of 193.3 mph at Nardò in 2002. Granted, a drag coefficient of 0.30 certainly helped in achieving that last figure. Crazier still? This contraption also featured six-wheel steering, and Popular Science reported that KAZ had a highway cruising range of nearly 200 miles in 2002. However, KAZ was only a stepping stone, because even in 2003, project lead Dr. Hiroshi Shimizu had a good idea for a follow-up. As per Popular Science:

What’s next? You can’t accuse Shimizu of not listening to what the marketplace is trying to tell him. His next project is swimming in sex appeal–a luxury sports car, a la Porsche 911, with which he expects to set a world electric-vehicle record of around 250 mph.

We’re talking biblical figures for something that would launch in the mid-aughts, but the end result was stranger than anyone could possibly imagine. Well, anyone who wasn’t on the team.

Let’s Get Even Weirder

Eliica

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Clearly, KAZ wasn’t outrageous enough for Dr. Shimizu and his team, so the next act was the Eliica, a shortening of Electric Lithium-Ion Car. Relatively plain name, relatively insane car. Once again, an eight-wheeled layout was employed, only with even more powerful motors to churn out 640 horsepower, or 80 horsepower per wheel. While this feels a bit like boy math, it actually worked, and the result was 229.9 mph at Nardò, as confirmed by Porsche Engineering, keepers of the test track itself. While not quite the 250 mph the team was aiming for, it’s still an absurd figure for the time. Keep in mind, it hit that speed in 2004, years before the Tesla Roadster entered production, and it didn’t come at the expense of acceleration. After all, zero-to-60 mph in four seconds is still plenty quick, just like how 186 miles of range isn’t bad for 2004. However, the Eliica wasn’t some wild hypercar. It was a sedan, albeit unlike any other sedan we’ve ever seen.

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Obviously, the eight wheels played a role, and the Eliica featured double-wishbone suspension at each corner just like the KAZ, but it featured four-wheel steering where both sets of front wheels pivoted to turn the vehicle. While KAZ featured a drag coefficient of 0.30, the Eliica dropped that figure down to 0.16, an almost unbelievable number until you realize that this is a fantastical machine full of outrageous figures. I mean, it’s eight-wheel-drive, for Pete’s sake. It’s an enormous sedan that looks equally inspired by the Shinkansen, Covenant vehicles from Halo, and the Catbus from “My Neighbor Totoro,” it measured in at 17 feet long, yet it could keep up with a Porsche 911 Turbo of its time to 100 mph. Astonishing stuff.

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British magazine AutoExpress managed to get behind the wheel in 2004, and despite the Eliica’s odd appearance, the takeaways from the quick road test draw parallels to the performance EVs of today.

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At our drive at Keio University near Tokyo, we punched the ‘D’ button on the dash, pointed the car down the road and flattened the gas pedal. With a faintly audible whirr of eight 100bhp in-wheel motors, the 0-60mph sprint was smooth, effortless, quiet – and surreal. The mind-boggling acceleration was on a par with that of a 500bhp GT racing car. Yet the lack of a transmission meant there were no jerky cog swaps as we were thrust back in our seat by an incredible 0.8Gs.

With that ultra-low centre of gravity, the car handles surprisingly well, and has virtually no body roll or nose-dive. It turns in sharply with well weighted steering through the front four wheels, and gives adequate feedback. And it does not feel as big or as heavy as its length and 2,400kg kerbweight suggest.

Surprising reports of steering feedback aside, this could easily be a driving impression of a Lucid Air, or a Kia EV6 GT, or a BMW i4 M50, just years and years in advance of all those cars.

Eliica interior

Oh, but it gets weirder. The front doors opened swan-style like on an Aston Martin DB9, but the rear doors were gullwing units. The shifter push-buttons were arranged in the exact opposite way you’d expect, and the dashboard design is a little eccentric to say the least. With a massive screen ahead of the driver and a massive bulge in front of the passenger, it looked a little like three or maybe four dashboards put together, with a self-checkout kiosk thrown in for good measure. Oh, and the seat inserts were orange, because why not.

So Very Close

Eliica

Did I mention that if people were brave enough, the Eliica would’ve made production in both long-wheelbase prototype form and a short-wheelbase form? Although Dr. Shimizu and Keio University shopped around for investors for the Eliica, nobody stepped up to the plate, likely partly because of an initial predicted price of more than $300,000. Of course, that didn’t stop former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, former Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara, and Emperor Naruhito from experiencing this eight-wheeled beast.

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Imagine if the electric status symbol of the 2010s wasn’t the Tesla Model S, but instead a completely and utterly batshit eight-wheeler. The world’s financial districts would’ve been so much cooler with the Eliica rolling around. Oh, what could’ve been. Still, it’s worth remembering the Eliica, not just because it was completely insane, but because it worked. It was completely different, completely functional, and deserves a hell of a lot more credit for being a modern EV pioneer. What a machine.

(Photo credits: Keio University)

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Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
1 month ago

This reminds me of a scaled-down version of “The Big Bus”

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
1 month ago

Fascinating! So what happened to Prof. Shimizu?

A quick Google dive found him tied to something called SIM-Drive Corporation in Japan, which was involved in EV development and in more recent years seemed to focus on EV conversions of ICE cars (Toyota 86, “pagoda” SL) … but the last post on its website was seven years ago.

Surely his expertise is sought-after now?

BentleyBoy
BentleyBoy
1 month ago

Hello NTB I need some tires for my car……..

Kleinlowe
Kleinlowe
1 month ago

Man, a bunch of people very cranky about a very cool car today. I thought the Eliica looked amazing when I first saw it – some kind of cybernetic trilobite or an alternate-universe Tatra – and it still looks crazy amazing now. Also a reminder that one of the reasons Tesla was so groundbreaking was because the Model S was just A(n) Car(s), not an octopod space capsule, a golf cart with aspirations beyond its station, or a middle school science project.

Still, very time people crawl out of the (particleboard veneer) woodwork to vociferously denounce the imaginative and wonderful I try my best not to imagine them as the type of person that would spend a half our removing the m & m’s from their trail mix or need some time to overcome the excitement of an undressed boiled hot dog on plain white bread – I need to remind myself that people aren’t always their best selves, that we all have bad days. Maybe their plain oatmeal a little too hot this morning. Their black coffee might have had an extra half a spoonful of Folgers’. The painters finished the bathroom in Sunrise Eggshell rather than Misty Beige, perhaps. Their white New Balance sneakers may have shed a sole during the morning jog. No, no. It’s just not right to judge people that way, even if their comments are the equivalent of plucking a bottle off the grocery store shelf and announcing; ‘Spicy catsup! Wow, that’s a redundant statement!’

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
1 month ago

First impressions:
KAZ = Fiat Multipla
Eliica = Citroën DS

Translates into awesome designs.

Viking Longcar
Viking Longcar
1 month ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

yeah from the front 3/4 view, it the back has some VERY DS vibes

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

Mad looking thing. I’d never hear of this thing nor seen it before. IMO looks better than the Cybertruck and the model Y.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
1 month ago
Reply to  James Carson

Low bar there.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

Fair point it does have presence without looking like a 6 yr olds origami project, giant rogue mouse or a super extra large suppository.

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
1 month ago

I would 100% daily this thing. Completely insane and very capable, I’m about it. I’m sure 8 skinny tires would fare well in the snow as well.

Greensoul
Greensoul
1 month ago

Ugliness on wheels just met its new definition.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
1 month ago

I chased the Eliica down on the Tomei Expressway and stalked it into Ebina parking area. There was just the driver (a Keio student?), a very personable young man happy to talk about the project.
What a gas, though, bombing around on public roads in a car like nothing else on Earth.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
1 month ago

I’ve always loved these things and I’m glad they are getting the coverage they deserve!

If they had come from an Italian design house every car enthusiast around world would know their names and speak in awe of their performance and truly exotic design.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rapgomi
Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago

Also, I think you have the Cd value for the Eliica wrong. I read 0.19 decades back, not 0.16.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago

Also, if I had this car, I’d paint it black, with a red hourglass on the roof just in front of the rear window, and name it the “Black Widow”.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago

I knew about this car almost two decades ago. You should also look into its predecessor, the KAZ(edit: looks like you already covered it in this article, which is what I get for commenting before reading the whole thing), also capable of 186 mph and also designed by Professor Shimizu of Keio University as the Eliica was.

Two decades ago, I recall reading of a conversation between Professor Shimizu who designed it, and the emperor of Japan, and some auto industry execs while they were all riding in it.

The emperor was asking why this technology was not being used in production cars to help Japan end its dependency on fossil fuels and save the consumers money.

One of the executives responded along the lines of, “Electric cars don’t have engines.” The implication being, that they don’t require constant upkeep/maintenance in the form of oil changes, tuning, pistons/belts/pulleys/gaskets, and the electric motors can basically last a human lifetime. The reason it wasn’t being used came down to greed; the industry can’t keep extracting money from the users of these vehicles.

Of course, it wasn’t until the industry figured out how to lock the user and indie mechanic out of basic repairs that EVs finally became mainstream. That needs to change, otherwise all of the embodied resources that go into making these cars are being thrown into a landfill, needlessly, just to keep making already rich people more money at the expense of everyone else. Letting the Chinese run amok in the industry with cheap EVs will light a fire under EVERYONE’S ass to fix this.

Making an EV able to last a human lifetime with minimal cost/repairs is not rocket science. The biggest cost on a per mile basis should be the battery, and it should therefore be serviceable and accessible so that the car isn’t totaled when replacement time comes.

Last edited 1 month ago by Toecutter
Lardo
Lardo
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

there seem to be lots of guys doing aftermarket work on teslas. and the 100% tax on chinese will kill them more here than the chicken tax on small pick-ups

Von Baldy
Von Baldy
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

That’s what kills me is if we didn’t have protectionism capitalism, or the rampant and wild fear mongering, we probably would have cheap evs and nevs running around, and if those were taking the big 5s money from here, they’d be scrambling to get something akin to those built.

Hell, if they even could build factories here because tariffs, they still would likely way under cut what the big 5 would offer.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago
Reply to  Von Baldy

With actual competition again, there would be a race to improve quality control and keep reliability high and overall operating costs low among the cheapest offerings, on top of the MSRP being as inexpensive as possible.

The BYD Seagull is akin to the sort of car GM could have built in the late 1990s/early 2000s, if it were really serious about EVs back then. An aerodynamically slippery design with a 25-30 kWh pack of NiMH batteries was perfectly possible with the tech of the era, and in mass production, so too was a sub-$20,000 price tag.

What could have been…

Von Baldy
Von Baldy
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Oh absolutely, or hell, if even the ev1 and the mandate cars lived beyond just compliance and first generation, imagine how far we’d really be.

To think we coulda had 400 mi ranges with 1 hr charge times in the early millenia, and today, cars with plausibly double that at half that charge time and weight they are now.

Maybe we’ll see BYD and SAIC over here one way or another soon and still turn the market on its head, as it’s been said here the fit and finish is miles ahead of where they were 10 years ago

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago
Reply to  Von Baldy

The BYD Seagull gets 250 miles range on the Chinese driving cycle(probably 150-ish miles at US freeway speeds), and it only weighs 2,700 lbs. Not built of exotic materials, either, and costs $11,400 USD. A more aerodynamically streamlined version of this car if built could exceed 250 miles range speeding on a US interstate with its 39 kWh pack.

The mainstream auto industry not only isn’t even trying, they don’t want to try. They don’t want such a thing to even be available. Neither does the oil industry, or seemingly, the U.S. government. It would ultimately cut the amount of money going to already rich people.

Last edited 1 month ago by Toecutter
Von Baldy
Von Baldy
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Indeed, all the cronyisms to keep the level at their level and squash competition.
If tesla was built better than a 80s Yugo and not ran by a lunatic, they likely could continue dominance. Maybe Vivian’s new r4 will make big waves and deliver a sub 35k promise that goes the extra mile

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago
Reply to  Von Baldy

If the Teslas get rid of all the embedded tech bullshittery and went to actual buttons and knobs for all of their functions, truly made all of their software open source, designed their cars to be worked on by indie mechanics and DIY types, and made their battery packs accessible, they’d probably own the entire damned car market.

Most people are living paycheck to paycheck and struggling. The offerings available on the US auto market do not at all reflect this reality. Instead, the wealthiest 20% that can afford to buy new are the only demographic catered to, with no concern regarding what happens to the vehicles on the 2nd and 3rd hand market. Thus, we have a mess of unrepairable vehicles, with EVs being the worst offenders(when they should instead be the poster child for longevity/reliability given the inherent simplicity that the technology proposes). There’s a valid reason that EVs’ depreciation curves shows values dropping off a cliff, and 4-cylinder ICE Camrys/Corollas/Civics retain their value better than most anything else.

To Tesla’s credit, their EVs do retain their value better than the rest.

Last edited 1 month ago by Toecutter
Von Baldy
Von Baldy
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

That was one of the things I’d joke about to the buddies with them, is all the haptic and touch crap than the lack of buttons and switches.
The motor drive and packs I feel are cutting edge most of the time, but the ui and other crap is weak sauce at best.

But hey.. once us the poors can attain these second hand bloatmobiles maybe then itl all work out.

I’m just surprised their value manages to stay somewhere realistic given how much their prices swing all over the place

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
1 month ago

How many Tony Montanas of cocaine were involved in this vehicle?

Professor Chorls
Professor Chorls
1 month ago

I’ve been in the EV game long enough to have seen this debut and I’ll definitely daily either of them. $650 cash, will bring truck & trailer and loading help. No questions asked.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

“What if we took the best parts of a Lincoln Sentinel and a Renault Avantime and put them all together – with all the wheels?”

M. Park Hunter
M. Park Hunter
1 month ago

“Never knew I wanted.” …

“Never” covers past, present, and future in this case. Woof!

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

Clearly, KAZ binge-watched hours of “The Thunderbirds”and “Captain Scarlet” before setting designer pen to paper. This shouts Gerry Anderson production.

The Eliica is both outrageous and beautiful. Shame no one wanted to build it.

I wonder how the hub motor design might’ve held up in regular usage. As far as I know, there are no production cars using hub motors outside of heavy equipment vehicles, though at one time it was a fashionable idea for proposed EVs.

Marlin May
Marlin May
1 month ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

This all day. If Lady Penelope ever decided to add something new for Parker to drive, just paint this pink, add rocket launchers and a machine gun.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
1 month ago
Reply to  Marlin May

And much more appropriate than the Ford Thunderbird abomination they used in the movie.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  SonOfLP500

To be fair the T-bird was an abomination before the movie..

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 month ago

That’s a big brake job

Cerberus
Cerberus
1 month ago

And people complain about replacing tires on current EVs!

I had forgotten about this thing as I don’t remember there being a lot about it at the time other than that it sounded like vaporware (before I knew that word) by the performance claims and spec. I remember thinking that even if it were a serious venture, it’s far too weird for most people to buy (too expensive for me and there’s that tire cost because even a rich me would be a cheap ass), perhaps too far ahead of its time (being optimistic), but that’s as much a portend of failure as something that never has its time. Sure, you might get credit by a few history nerds at some point, but that’s like receiving a posthumous award*—what does it matter to the recipient?

*Here in the Underworld, Hades used to recognize these honors and inform the appropriate residents, but the response was so often negative that he stopped bothering. He’s far more sensitive than the living think and Persephone is disappointed whenever he reveals it, so he saves it for his dog. Heads 1 & 2 still debate whether ceasing to inform was the right move, while I (head 3) just hate seeing Hades upset.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
1 month ago

The Eliica Was The Bonkers Eight-Wheeled 230-MPH Electric Limo You Never Knew You Wanted

Drew
Drew
1 month ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

The Eliica Was The Bonkers Eight-Wheeled 230-MPH Electric Limo You Never Knew You Wanted

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