When conventional small cars are having a hard time in the face of stricter pollution standards and expensive electrification, new, tiny electric vehicles are pushing their way into the city as light vehicles.
“It’s not just the exhaust fumes that cause problems in the city,” says Wim Ouboter from Micro Mobility Systems in Munich. It is also about the excessive space requirement: “Often enough, five meters and more than two tons of cars are moved just so that one person can get from A to B.”
Because that goes against the grain for him, he developed the Microlino. After many labor pains, it should be launched at the turn of the year: just 2.50 meters long and only 1.50 meters wide, it is sold from 12,500 euros and has a maximum range of 200 kilometers and a top speed of 90 km / h consistently designed for city traffic, says Ouboter.
Back to the 1950s with mini electric cars?
The Microlino is not a real novelty. After all, the idea goes back to the legendary Isetta from BMW. But while it first made large sections of the population mobile in the 1950s, it now wants to save the cities from traffic collapse, says Ouboter.
He mentions another advantage of the tiny one: “Finding a parking space has never been so easy.”
The City Transformer from Israel, which can make itself thinner at the push of a button, also relies on this: the tiny wheels with two seats arranged one behind the other are just 1.40 meters wide, then retracted and the width shrinks to one meter, according to the manufacturer. The Stromer may then only drive 45 km / h instead of 90 km / h, but there is always a lane in traffic jams and a gap in the parking lot.
City One from the Munich start-up ACM is variable in a different sense. Already very compact and, with its radically simplified equipment, designed for small prices of up to 15,000 euros, the standard version only has a range of around 100 kilometers.
But the highlight, according to company boss Paul Leibold, are the additional batteries. They are the size of a wheeled suitcase and can be installed in the rear if necessary. The price increases, but the range climbs up to 240 kilometers.
The now 89-year-old manager Frank Stronach also wants to get a narrow-gauge one-and-a-half-seater called Sarit on its way, as he said on Austrian television. The founder of the supplier, production and development service provider Magna from Austria wants to start producing in Canada from next year.
The Sarit will be launched with a range of 100 kilometers and a top speed of 25 km / h for the equivalent of around 4,000 euros.
E-minis look back on a long history
Even if the Minis are apparently coming out big, they have been around for a long time – and you don’t have to go back to the Peel P50 from the 1960s for that. With a length of 1.37 meters, it is still listed in the Guinness Book as the smallest car in the world.
Some car manufacturers have tried their hand at it: for example Renault with the Twizy, which, as an electric two-seater, has sought the gap between car and motorcycle.
The Citroën Ami also appears as a so-called light vehicle. The same model will hit the streets as the Opel Rocks-e in 2022. According to the manufacturer, it wants to score with its clean drive, small format, smart design and low price.
Those who buy the Rocks-e pay little and “those who lease it can often travel cheaper than with a monthly ticket in the transport association,” says press spokesman Patrick Munsch. Around 7,000 euros are under discussion.
Not a car – but a light vehicle
The fact that these vehicles are comparatively cheap, while classic small cars are becoming more and more expensive, is not least due to their classification as light vehicles, explains Jan Burgard. “The requirements for crash safety and occupant protection systems, for example, are much lower,” says the expert from strategy consultant Berylls.
“At the same time, however, power, weight and, above all, speed are regulated, which in turn makes it more difficult for drivers from the traditional camp to accept them.”
Nevertheless, Burgard sees great opportunities for the little ones – and not only because of the problem-free parking and the maneuverability in narrow city traffic. “While SUVs and their owners are increasingly being criticized, these cars are being accepted and their positive image is being reflected on the drivers.”
Some light vehicles such as the Rocks-e with a maximum speed of 45 km / h can be driven with an AM driving license from 15 years of age. Others like the Microlino are only allowed from the age of 18 due to the speed.
Big future for small e-cars?
If you ask Prof. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer about the prospects for such vehicles, the automotive economist from Duisburg likes to turn his gaze to China: The best-selling electric car there is currently the Mini-EV, which is being built by SAIC GM Wuling.
With a range of 180 kilometers for the equivalent of 4,000 euros, it sold more than twice as often in the first seven months as the Tesla Model 3 in second place on the e-hit list.
“This is how you bring the electric car to the general public and to where it has the greatest advantages: in the cities,” says Dudenhöffer, thinking of mobile care for the elderly, delivery services or pizza shuttles.
However, in his opinion, success depends not least on whether such vehicles meet the learned expectations in terms of comfort, safety and quality, or whether customers are prepared to make certain compromises in the future.
The experts are very optimistic for this segment. But obviously this is a vehicle class in which newcomers and lateral entrants find it easier than established manufacturers: While numerous start-ups made corresponding announcements at the IAA, the withdrawal of the first modern micro-car has begun at the same time.
Because when the next generation Smart is launched in the coming year with the series version of Concept # 1, the tiny will become an electric SUV of 4.29 meters – and the shortest series model in the country at 2.50 meters will be history.