Years ago we wrote about how tiny cars were “almost cheaper than walking,” and praised the virtues of BMW’s postwar Isetta. Because for most of the driving that people do, they don’t go that far, don’t go that fast, and don’t carry very many people. Now it appears we might actually get a modern version of the Isetta, the Microlino. Micro, who is going to be making it, gets it:
There is no need for 300 hp for daily shopping. The average covered distance is less than 35 kilometres per day and the average speed in urban stop-go traffic is well below 50 km/h. New types of vehicles are therefore required, which take account of this mode of use. Easy mobility with pedestrian protection instead of SUV’s with crash tests! The Microlino with its range of 100 kilometres and a maximum speed of 100 km/h is designed for use on 95% of average trips, unlike conventional cars whose design only considers the remaining 5%.
Micro’s Wim Ouboter started working on the redesign in early 2015. He teamed up with students at Zurich University of Applied Sciences and the design firm Designwerk. The result is a vehicle that closely resembles the Isetta of old, just a bit bigger and rounder. The biggest difference is that Micro swapped the BMW Isetta’s 247cc engine (which delivered 70 mpg) for a 15-kilowatt electric motor. The Microlino tops out at 62 mph, goes 60 to 75 miles on a charge, and weighs just 880 pounds. Micro is using an 11-kWh lithium ion battery for the time being, but hasn’t decided what it will use when it’s time for production.1 A few AAAs would probably do the trick.
It will cost somewhere between $9,000 and $13,500. Compare this to a Tesla Model X that weighs 6,000 pounds and has a 100 kWh battery pack, goes 289 miles and costs upwards of $ 80,000. It can do a lot more, but Microlino says it is good for 95 percent of what people do with their cars. That is a lot of extra car and money for the other 5 percent.
Microlino insists “It’s not a car!” But it is good enough for what most people do most of the time. Years ago I thought every car in and around our cities should be like this. I thought we needed a slow car movement:
Why do our cars have to be so big and consume so much gas? Perhaps, like the slow food movement, we need a slow car movement, a radical lowering of the speed limit so that the private car can survive in an era of peak oil and global warming, simply by being smaller and slower. We don't need hydrogen cars and new technology, we just need better, smaller designs, lower speed limits and no big SUVs on the road to squish them.
And that was before battery technology and electric cars got so much better. No doubt the safety standards will be higher too, and perhaps a seat belt for the kid. Microlino says they will be in production for the European market in 2018,
…other countries such as China will then be served. This will be achieved by granting licenses, thus allowing production and distribution to be organised in the respective countries. This ensures more rapid expansion, local jobs and avoids high import duties (e.g. Brazil).
I do hope they come to North America soon. And I hope they make a camper trailer too: