By on March 11, 2018

Micro Mobility Systems recently strayed from producing electric scooters to build what is essentially a modern-take on the Isetta microcar called the Microlino. The Swiss firm has been bringing its enclosed quadricycle to the Geneva Motor Show since 2016, although this was the first year we’ve bothered to mention it. However, they haven’t abandoned the platform. Instead they’ve persisted, gradually approaching a point where they actually might grace public roads with the Microlino’s dainty carbon footprint.

It’s really tempting to root for little autos like this one. In addition to being adorable, they seem like the perfect solution for city dwellers who sometimes find the very idea of the traditional automobile mildly contemptible. Claims that they take up too much space or are energy inefficient can be countered with vehicles like the Microlino. Unfortunately, the odds of us ever seeing it in North America are slim.

The gumdrop-shaped transport has room for two with storage in the back for smaller items. Entry is achieved by opening the vehicles’ face, just like the classic Isetta. Bent on being a green vehicle, the Microlino uses a tiny 8.0-kWh lithium-ion battery but is still capable of an impressive 75-mile range. Shoppers can also option a 14.4-kWh unit that expands its maximum travel distance to 134 miles — more than enough for routine city use.

Micro Mobility has said the vehicle yields a of top speed of 62 mph, which is theoretically enough to take it on the highway. Although, we’d wager range becomes a bit of an issue if you have to peg the throttle in order to keep up with slow traffic. It also probably wouldn’t hold up all that well in a high-speed crash (the prototype doesn’t have seat belts but the production unit should). That might not make it a good fit for American roads but it’s hard to condemn it for that, as that wasn’t what it was built for.

It’s for parallel parking in impossibly small spaces (or just pulling in directly) and bragging to the neighbors that you have the most energy efficient vehicle in the neighborhood. We’re entering into an era where high-end manufacturers are beginning to build six-figure battery-electric sport utility vehicles. These faux-green models are truly magnificent but they also betray the whole point of moving toward electrification in the first place. They aren’t hyper-efficient eco cars for the masses — but the Microlino is. You could own one of these babies and be as comfortably smug as a Prius owner from 2004.

It’s what the world claimed it wanted when this obsession with electrification began and it is cutesy and efficient enough for skeptics to buy into it. So why won’t it sell in America? Safety issues are the biggest hurdle to get around. While it wouldn’t be marketed as a car, it still might get hit with regulatory hurdles it couldn’t possibly overcome. Average American’s also have a more-than-mild aversion to microcars.

Pricing is also an issue. Micro Mobility has said it would probably cost at least €10,000 (or about $12,500). In the United States, you could could negotiate a Chevrolet Spark for that price. Still, the company has said it’s acquired several thousand preorders already. All it has to do now is avoid becoming the European equivalent of Elio Motors. Fortunately, things appear to be more-or-less on track for Micro Mobility and the company has said production of the goofy little non-car will begin later this year.

 

[Images: Micro Mobility Systems]

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32 Comments on “The Most Interesting New Car at the Geneva Motor Show Wasn’t Actually New or Technically Even a Car...”


  • avatar
    kkop

    Actually, with a car this size parallel parking isn’t necessary: just park perpendicular to the direction of travel (like a motorcycle). Used to work in some situations with the original mini, should work here.

  • avatar
    azfelix

    Add a couple of strategically placed score lines and it will conveniently fold into a coffin upon impact. The buyer can choose their level of eternal luxury with upgrades to fine pleated velvet on the seats. Don’t forget to add four more handles to the sides for the pall bearers.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “It also probably wouldn’t hold up all that well in a high-speed crash.”

    How can you say that? Smart cars do very well in crashes, because, you know, engineering.

    “It’s what the world claimed it wanted when this obsession with electrification began and it is cutesy and efficient enough for skeptics to buy into it.”

    BS, BS, BS. What the world wanted from EVs is embodied in the Leaf and Tesla’s products. The Leaf is an affordable legitimate 4-5 passenger EV, and Tesla showed the world that EVs don’t have to be dorky. This car is dorky, and consequently, DOA in the US.

    Lastly, it’s “Elio Motors” – run by Paul Elio – not “Elios Motors”. Doesn’t TTAC have editors?

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Imagine if a ttac author put that sort of snark into an article about a musclecar.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      “How can you say that? Smart cars do very well in crashes, because, you know, engineering.”

      Take a look at the IIHS crash tests involving a Smart Car and an E-class. Spoiler alert: physics laughs at the gullible.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    The Microlino would be an urban alternative to planet killers like Teslas, should Teslas ever be mass produced.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Funny that walking and cycling and motorcycles and golf carts and subcompacts and sedans and suvs and pickups and utility trucks and heavy trucks and buses make sense, but nothing between golf carts and subcompacts makes sense.

    There are already cars equivalent to these in Europe, and Kei cars are accepted in Japan. Are North Americans too stupid to implement a car form that has a perfectably rational niche and has very desirable aspects?

    • 0 avatar
      ScarecrowRepair

      No. American regulators and politicians have frozen innovation out of the market. There is no room for anything new. This almost certainly would have to have air bags, 2.5 mph bumpers, headlights at the right height, pedestrian safe hoods, etc etc etc.

      I bet you could make a $5K version of this without all the nanny regs, and it would sell like hotcakes.

      • 0 avatar

        “No. American regulators and politicians have frozen innovation out of the market.”

        And for very good reason – there too many suicidal and crazy people in big cities esp SF. As a civilized society we have to protect their lives.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      It isn’t stupidity and it isn’t regulations. American driving needs are different than European and Japanese driving needs. There are few places in America that would work for things like Smart cars.

      Simple as that.

      • 0 avatar
        ScarecrowRepair

        $5K electrics with speeds limited to 40 mph would do fine in every city. About all the safety equipment they’d need would be seat belts and padded interiors.

        • 0 avatar
          aquaticko

          I’d say that stupidity does still play something of a role. Here in “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, I’m still amazed at the number of people I see going around without seatbelts on–and that it’s legal.

          • 0 avatar
            Willyam

            In my state, helmet laws…aren’t. We tend towards two camps: A – Giant SUV and Sedan-Trucks, because tiny cars are too small to be safe (I used to drive mini-trucks a few kids ago and people were amazed I was still alive) and B – Giant cruiser bikes where the rider is protected by a lot of sequins and denim, but helmets are a fashion faux pas.

            I pass no judgement. To each his own. The logical fallacy has my eyebrow in a quizzical fashion, though, as an interested observer of local custom.

        • 0 avatar
          aquaticko

          I’d say that stupidity does still play something of a role. Here in “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, I’m still amazed at the number of people I see going around without seatbelts on–and that it’s legal.

          • 0 avatar
            Stanley Steamer

            Also also motorcyclists who ride without helmets. I’ve seen 1 rider with a helmet in 10 years. Folks in NH live (and die) by their state motto.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @ScarecrowRepair:

          Americans are never satisfied with what *should* be sufficient. This is why the F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in the country.

    • 0 avatar
      Tinn-Can

      Kei cars only exist because of regulation… Now that they are losing that tax advantage, they will probably disappear…

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    It’s brilliant that all the controls – manual and electronic – are in a panel that gets to be slammed shut at least twice per trip. This does not bode well, if the tailgate/electric window on one of my ole’ SubHumans is any indication. I do like that the car appears to be self-righting, though, which is an oft-overlooked safety feature.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I can imagine these things clogging footpaths (sidewalks), it’s bad enough with some of those dangerous mobility device drivers now, and most of them wouldn’t need a mobility device if there diet consisted of more than KFC and Coke.

  • avatar

    In America I imagine this vehicle as an exploration pod (or lifeboat) in full-size pickup. You drive pickup (the mothership) on the interstate and explore big cities in that pod. If Alien takes over your pickup this pod may save your life.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    They could bring this to the US if they designated it a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. That means they’d need to limit its top speed to 25 mph though.

    The NEV rules could use an update: given that NEVs often lack bumpers or doors, a speed limit of 45 or so would make them a lot safer…from other cars. I’d hate to be in one with a tailgating SUV on my ass, unaware that my car WON’T go any faster.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    Surprised that no one has noticed this (or mentioned it) but the design of the car is based on the BMW Isetta micro car, even the tight rear wheels and refrigerator front door:

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-RqYxyFIMi98/VNXy4WFGiII/AAAAAAAACLc/UJ0HBx__QNQ/s1600/IMG_0342.jpg

    Maybe I’m showing age a bit but Steve Urkel rolled in one of these…
    “It’s a BMW?”
    “That’s what I-setta…”

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    This is really intriguing and yes, it brings up a lot of issues and paradoxes. Scarecrowrepair says, rightly I think, innovation has been regulated out of the market. We now have to engineer cars to survive collisions with light trucks that are nearly the size of gravel trucks from 25-years ago. And yet, I can still ride a motorcycle with no protection at all. What I like about this is that someone finally ditched the 3-wheel idea. Three-wheelers have always been a red-herring (Morgan excepted), too many compromises. A four wheeler will drive like a proper car and can be configured to carry acceptable cargo. It’s a good start to the conversation on how to reduce the footprint, carbon and physical of cars in the city.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Still too space-inefficient for everyone to use it in big cities. The only powered vehicle that really works in a city if you assume that everyone will use one is a scooter, moped, or very small motorcycle.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Can’t see how this could be marketed as a car legally, but hey, I like the idea :)


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