Light Electric Vehicles microlino_wimOuboter800x520

Published on March 20th, 2016 | by Steve Hanley

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BMW Isetta Reborn as EV, Still Cute (w/ Video)

March 20th, 2016 by  
 

Isetta, BMW’s iconic bubble car penned in 1952 by Ermenegildo Preti and Pierluigi Raggi for Renzo Rivolta, has been reborn as an electric car. At the time, Rivolta’s company, Iso, was making refrigerators, motor scooters and small three wheel trucks. He wanted to manufacture a small car that could be mass produced. The Isetta was the result. The name in Italian is a diminutive of Iso.

BMW Isetta Reborn as EV Concept


microlino_wimOuboter800x520

Diminutive is an apt description for the Isetta. The tiny vehicle was powered by an equally tiny 200 cc single cylinder engine. The 1955 BMW Isetta became the first production car to use less than 3 liters of gasoline to go 100 kilometers, an achievement that cars of today are only now able to duplicate. To get into the car, the entire front panel swung up and out of the way, taking the steering wheel with it. Crash resistance was something people didn’t think about then, which was probably a good thing, since the Isetta had none.

Now, according to Technologic Vehicles, Micro, the Swiss electric scooter manufacturer, has decided to re-introduce the Isetta as a contemporary electric car called the Microlino. Almost a carbon copy of the original, it features the same side hinged front door and slide away steering column. It is powered by a 12 kW electric motor driving the rear wheel. Top speed is  54 mph and the car has a range of about 80 miles. Best of all, it sells for just a whisker over $10,000.

 

Electric Isetta / Microlino in Action


There are lots of electric vehicles on the market that sell for more and offer less, especially when it comes to protection from the elements. The Microlino weighs about 900 lbs without the battery. Best of all, you can add an eMicro One electric kickboard to take you that last mile after you park you Microlino. Micro showed the car publicly for the first time in Geneva earlier this month. It says it already has 340 reservations for its all electric way back machine.

Don’t expect any to reach America. The idea of this car undergoing modern crash testing is too scary to even think about. That doesn’t mean the original was not as cute as can be!

BMW Isetta

Photo by the author.

 


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About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.



  • dogphlap dogphlap

    Fantastic. A mate of mine had one of these in the 1960’s and apart from the vulnerability of those inside the real down side was the awful noise that two stroke engine made (which of course the electric version would not). I hope they do well with this.

  • Joseph Dubeau

    I like it, but how safe is it?

    • BlackTalon53 .

      Still safer than a motorcycle, I’d guess.

      • Steve Hanley

        My old Irish grandmother would call that “Damning with faint praise.”

        : – )

        • BlackTalon53 .

          Oh well, I ride myself, so I’m quite okay with whatever little additional protection the car offers.

        • Barry Kennedy

          Your Irish grandmother was well-read 😉 That’s a phrase from Shakespeare

      • Burnerjack

        Not so sure about that. A skilled rider can “lay it down and kick it away” if the need arises. This looks to be more of a death trap.
        On the other hand, if you’re only using it on side streets, etc. Its probably as safe as a skateboard.

        • BlackTalon53 .

          That old and tired “I had to lay’er down” myth is just an excuse made by riders who locked up their wheels in emergency and crashed, nothing more.
          If you keep the bike upright and on its rubber contact patches you will not only be able to decelerate much harder all the way, you will also be able to maneuver around an obstacle, should you get the chance at the last second. Also, if you keep the bike upright with any luck you may be ably to get thrown over thehood or the trunk instead of sliding right underneah the car and getting run over.

          Unless you are bout to hit a semi trailer broadside, “laying it down” is always the worst choice.

          • Burnerjack

            Not so sure about your assertion, however I DO, without reservation believe that keeping the Shiny side up is always the best technique. If one has to lay ‘er down, as you put it, is a telltale that you ‘messed up’ real bad a moment ago.
            On that, I think we agree.
            As to that machine in the picture, I think I’d rather try a diesel powered unicycle. While juggling bears.

          • Barry Kennedy

            The basic point he made is that, in the event of an actual crash (not your ability/inability to avoid one), this micro-car (even with it’s complete lack of safety equipment) would be slightly safer than a motorcycle (with it’s complete lack of safety equipment, and no thin metal shell). I think it’s patently obvious that even a thin shell of steel is better than none at all.

          • Burnerjack

            While I do see your point, I have to wonder if that ‘thin metal shell’ would be little more than a hinderance to EMTs. I mean, one doesn’t normally need the ‘Jaws of Life’ to pry you out of a bike, right? Sorry if I sound argumentative. I guess my mind reels in contempt for this machine.

          • tb

            As a former rider, I think I would rather have the option of going over the bars/hood/trunk/roof than helplessly going through the windshield in a collision. If there is such a thing as “not as safe as a motorcycle”, this car may be it.

          • Burnerjack

            Excellent post! As anyone who understands basics physics can attest: its not the velocity but the sudden stop that does the most damage. My brother got cut off by a kid in a Firebird who just HAD to take his left “NOW!”. My brother went, as you stated: Over the bars, over the hood and flipped onto his a$$ landing in the street. His injuries? One broken toe and a ginormous black and blue where he met the blacktop.

          • Barry Kennedy

            You might have a point about that…yikes. I guess I think of it as a scooter with a roof. But yeah, it wouldn’t fare well in a traffic accident

          • dogphlap dogphlap

            Well in my case I was riding in the outer lane of a three lane each way dual carriageway when the semi-trailer truck in the middle lane came over to my lane (when I caught up with him at the next red light he said he had no idea I was there). As the available strip of road disappeared I had no choice but to lay the bike down on the metre wide medium strip or lose a leg or worse (waiting for the truck to pass was not an option, it was too long). That was thirty years ago but it is still vivid in my mind, not something you forget.

        • Barry Kennedy

          That’s ridiculous. I love bikes too, don’t get me wrong. But that is a ridiculous bit of rationalization.

          • Burnerjack

            Yeah, maybe so. I suppose it reflects the claustrophobia I think I would feel.

          • Barry Kennedy

            It is pretty tiny, totally understandable. I have an irrational love of these things

          • Burnerjack

            LOL! ‘irrational’. Yeah, I can agree with that! But hey, ya likes what ya likes!

    • Steve Hanley

      Let’s put it this way. Would you let your son or daughter ride in one?

      • Joseph Dubeau

        No.

      • Barry Kennedy

        No, but I would love to drive one.

  • tb

    They should classify it as a motorcycle. Then they could sell it anywhere.

    • Burnerjack

      One question regarding trikes:”why”? I mean, unless you have a physical limitation, why? It doesn’t lean into corners and 4 wheel cars can out brake/accelerate and I would imagine corner as well. I’m thinking “If you want to experience motorcycling, get a motorcycle. I just don’t ‘get it’.

  • Duke Woolworth

    A high school friend had an Isetta in the late 50’s. On any given day, he had no idea where it would be after classes. At least once it would be parked between two trees so that it would have to be moved to get the door open. It was parked in front of the library double doors one afternoon, trapping the librarian and the owner in study hall.
    After the car appeared on the school roof, we never saw it again.
    Then there was the maroon and gray Renault 2CV…

    • Steve Hanley

      Did you go to Ridgemont High? ; – )

      • Burnerjack

        (Duke Spicoli) Where do you put a large pizza?

  • Burnerjack

    “To each their own” I suppose. As for me, of all the words that come to mind, “cute” isn’t one of them. Just sayin’.

    • Steve Hanley

      Aww, c’mon. Just look at the photo I snapped at Cars N Coffee a few years back of one of these things with a picnic hamper strapped to the luggage rack. That is the very definition of cuteness! ; – )

      • Barry Kennedy

        For a scooter based car, I think it’s cute and retro sci-fi futuristic

      • Burnerjack

        To paraphrase Rodney, “If this were a baby, the doctor would have slapped its mother.”

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