Microcars, the next step in micromobility
Micromobility is booming. Nowadays almost no city goes without shared bikes or even shared scooters. So, time to create a new step: the microcars. As convenient as cars, as small as bikes – or almost.
They are electric and therefore green, they are tiny, so they fit in the congested streets, and they still offer the comfort of a car. Hence, microcars might be the next step in the (micro)mobility revolution. Let’s have a look at the micromobility cars that are already out there.
One of the latest additions to the world of microcars is the electric three-wheeled vehicle Gotcha has launched. The company already operates bike, scooter, and electric shared ridehail vehicles in 20 US states and will now fill another gap in the micromobility landscape with its microcar. its electric three-wheeled vehicle will first be launched in Austin, Texas. The microcar can reach a top speed of 25 miles per hour – which is faster than most dockless scooters and bikes, and drive up to 40 miles on a single charge.
Another microcar launched by a micromobility expert is the Microlino. The man behind the Micro Scooter and Kickboard, Wim Ouboter, now developed something between these two micromobility modes and the car: the Microlino.
This microcar can drive between 125 to 200km (with the bigger battery) with a single charge and reach a top speed of 90km/h, probably somewhat high for the urban environment it is designed to operate in. The car can be charged at home, which takes 4 hours, while charging at a type 2 connector only takes one hour. The first Microlinos will be delivered to Swiss customers in the spring of 2019, and from mid-2019 German customers will also receive their Microlino. Other European countries will follow soon thereafter. The price tag? €12,000.
If you’re looking for your privately-owned microcar, you can opt for the four-seater electric microcars of the German startup e-GO Mobile. Calling it a 4-seater is somewhat optimistic in light of the available space, but there's definitely room for two children and some shopping bags.
The e.GO Life will cost about €15,900, which will give you a range of 80 miles standard, or you can equip the vehicle with the optional 19.2 kWh, giving you 106 miles of range.
Besides the dockless mobility provider, some OEMs are starting to develop their own microcar concept.
Ami One (Citroen)
Citroen created its concept vehicle ‘Ami One’, a micro electric two-seater. The microcar can reach a speed of 28 miles per hour, and drive up to 65 miles on a single charge. It is not on the streets yet and the speed limit means it could be legal to drive without a dedicated license in most European countries.
The Ami One will probably be accessible via the Free2Move app, which is already available in 33 European and 3 US cities, after which your smartphone can be docked inside the car and function as a display.
Getting a bit long in the tooth is the Renault Twizy. The one-man electric microcar fits perfectly in the congested streets and parking lanes. The car has a range from 40 to 50 miles – 62 miles in theory, and takes 4 hours to charge at home, so slow charging. Additionally, if you have to carry around some packages, the Renault Twizy can take a load of up to 180 liter or 75kg. Good to know, you buy the car, but you hire the battery. As a result, drivers are protected under the terms of their hire contract from battery failure.
Another two-seater, but with a range of 100km is Seat's Minimo. Designed for the carsharing market, the Minimo has an interesting feature: rather than occupying some crucial hours to charge, you can simply replace the battery with a full one, reducing the charging time to a couple of seconds. However, it's not on the market yet, but Seat is already designing a premium edition for individual customers, and an utility version to corporates.
Pros and Cons
The microcar might be seen sooner on our streets than we think – especially if you look to China where there are plenty on the roads already. This new trend has its pros and contras. It will be a convenient and green way of driving and parking in the congested and traffic-restricted city centres that can be a part of a shared mobility service. The battery, which poses the highest environmental risks, is sufficient for urban mobility, so there is no excess range.
The only issue will be their place in the overall mobility landscape. Similarly to scooters and bikes, they can push the capacity of the streets and pavements to their limits, raising questions about road safety and shared road use – who will drive/walk where? This seems to be a question to be answered by local transport authorities which must be addressed to enjoy the most from the new electric, shared micromobility modes.