Microlino is the tiny electric car driving smiles and smiles

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It’s the tiny electric car that is already generating a major buzz only weeks after coming off the production line in Turin.

They say it’s the car that makes people smile. Take a bow, the Microlino.

If it looks vaguely familiar, then you’re not mistaken. The cool, front-opening ‘fridge door’ is a dead give away. Yes, the Microlino is a stylish re-imagining of the iconic bubble car called the Isetta, a much-loved sensation in the 1950s.

The Isetta made motoring affordable for the masses during the cash-strapped post-war era, but even though it was a budget run-around, it was adored by the rich and famous, not least Hollywood legend Cary Grant.

Cary Grant in an Isetta in New York in the 1950s

Now the bubble car is bursting back onto our roads, thanks to the tycoon who brought the world scooters. Swiss inventor Wim Ouboter, 62, created his first foldable aluminium Micro scooter 25 years ago and revolutionised the way people get around. He’s hoping his new car will trigger another transport revolution – the radical downsizing of city cars.

‘The Microlino is all about challenging people to question how much car do they really need,’ says Ouboter. ‘Climate change means that we must urgently reduce CO2. Less car means more life for our planet. There is no Planet B, so everyone must take responsibility and downsize.’

Micro scooter and Microlino maker Wim Ouboter in the Pioneer model of his new car

Micro scooter and Microlino maker Wim Ouboter in the Pioneer model of his new car

Ouboter’s idea is based on research that revealed most short journeys are taken by an average of 1.2 people in cars that are 95% too big and too over-powered for that trip. Consequently, the Microlino strips out everything that is deemed unnecessary. It uses 60% fewer parts than a conventional car. Weighing only 1,169lbs, it generates one third of the CO2 per mile compared to other small electric cars.

‘Driving a big car with only one of two people inside should become as unacceptable as wearing a fur coat,’ adds Ouboter. ‘There was a time when fur was fine, but now everyone accepts that it is disgusting to kill animals for clothing. I want Microlino to be a fashion statement that says this driver cares about their carbon footprint.’

The Pioneer: the first model of the Microlino

Ouboter – nicknamed “the Swiss Elon Musk” – has spent seven years and a fortune making the Microlino with his co-creator sons – Oliver, 28, and Merlin, 27. Their launch model is called the Pioneer and the first car in Italy went to Marco Bizzarri, the CEO of Gucci, which bears testament to the Microlino’s aesthetic allure. It is also being warmly greeted on the streets.

Ouboter revealed: ‘People love the car. They stop, stare, and smile as it goes by. You don’t get a smile when you’re in a Ferrari. We want our car to bring some fun back into urban driving.’

The Microlino opens from the front

So, what is the Microlino like up close? Well, it is certainly small. At just 8ft 3in long, 4ft 10in wide and 4ft 11in high, three cars can cross-park – that’s facing the pavement – in a single parking bay. Inside, there’s a comfy bench seat for two and a boot big enough for a few small bags – or “three cases of beer”, as it says on the car’s website.

It is also super nippy. It hits 30mph in five seconds and has a top speed of 55mph. The maximum range is 142 miles and it fully recharges in four hours from a conventional home plug socket. Due to the lack of protective bonnet, the passenger cabin has a sturdy steel frame and a reinforced steel front door that has scored better than other mini cars in head-on collision safety tests.

The entry price is £13,600, rising to £19,800 for the full spec’. Ouboter says: ’People will always have big cars for long journeys, but they can have a Microlino for the city. We want it to be the first second car. The key factor is that people downsize.’

The Microlino is already a smash hit. More than 36,000 prospective buyers have already registered to buy one, although only 500 will be delivered in Europe this year. This rises to 5,000 next year, with the car going on sale in the UK in the spring. Microlino is securing production partners in each country to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation.

Ouboter also plans to partner with major city authorities such as Transport for London to bring entire fleets of Microlinos to be hired, just like electric scooters and bicycles.

They say that seeing a Microlino on the road makes people smile. Well, just the thought of driving one brings a full beam!

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