Baby Microlino and Microlino Lite EV zip into 2024 Geneva show | CAR Magazine

Baby Microlino and Microlino Lite EV zip into 2024 Geneva show

Published: 29 February 2024 Updated: 29 February 2024

► Details on Microlino quadricycle
► BMW’s Isetta bubble car reimagined
► New Microlino Lite makes Geneva 2024 debut

Is this the return of the bubble car?  Two Swiss brothers are returning to the downsized delight of the BMW’s Isetta era with a tiny electric car: the Microlino. The original has been on sale in certain markets in Europe in 2023, with the Micro brand also launching a new Microlino Lite model at the 2024 Geneva motor show.

The Microlino is a diminutive EV inspired by 1950s bubble cars and is designed for urban use at affordable prices. The city EV is classified as a quadricycle, rather than a car, given its size and small powertrain, meaning it can be driven by younger people in markets across Europe or, in the UK, those who just have a motorcycle licence.

Originally, the Microlino launched in 2023 with two models: the Dolce (priced from €19,990) or the Competizione (€21,990). Then along came the Lite model, making its debut at the 2024 Geneva show.

What’s so clever about the Mircolino?

Just look at it! The Microlino is just 2.5 metres long, making it easy to park (the makers claim you can squeeze three into one conventional space), and weighs in at just 496kg. It’s a virtuous circle: low mass and a tiny footprint means the electric powertrain uses less energy, so smaller lithium-ion batteries are required. It’s a wonderful tonic to the spiralling weight of modern cars (especially electric ones).

Buyers can choose between 6kWh, 10.5kWh and 14kWh battery capacities and the company quotes recharging times between three and four hours, depending on the size of cell. Range is calculated at 56, 110 or 143 miles.

It’s a strict two-seater and the boot is 230 litres, enough for a daily shop and trips around town, according to its makers. Performance? Zero to 30mph takes around five seconds and top speed is capped at 56mph. It sounds perfectly fast enough for urban duties.

‘We realised that with 1.2 people sitting in a car on average and a distance driven of just around 35 km (22 miles), modern cars are far too big for what they are actually used for,’ said co-founder Merlin Ouboter. Hence the idea to revive tiny bubble-car-era design, with their quirky front door, for the twenty-first century.

You can order a Microlino now, with reports pointing to a UK market launch due in the summer of 2024.

What’s different about the Microlino Lite?

The Lite model features a smaller battery sizes and a top speed limited to 45km/h (27mph) to comply with L6E licencing requirements that allows people to own a Lite without a driving licence. Those battery sizes – either 5.5kWh or 11 kWh – allow a range of 62 or 111 miles respectively.

Spec a Lite and you’ll be able to pick from just two colours – Venice Blue or Berlin Anthracite – as well as specific ‘Lite’ graphics in orange as standard.

Micro: the company behind the Microlino

Micro was founded in 1999 by Wim Ouboter, who launched the Kickscooter and claims to have invented the micromobility movement with 90 million scooters sold since. In 2013, it launched its first e-scooter and went on to collaborate with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot on two-wheeled projects.

The Microlino quadricycle project started in 2015 led by Ouboter’s two sons, Merlin and Oliver, and has suffered numerous setbacks along the way to production. Low-volume build started with Italian partner Cecomp in Turin in summer 2022 and is set to be ramped up in 2023. More than 35,000 people have reserved a Microlino, the company claims.

‘The idea was to create an alternative to conventional cars,’ Oliver told Reuters. ‘The Microlino does that much better than bicycles – it’s weather protected, you have space for cargo, you can have two people sitting next to each other.’

Brother Merlin added: ‘Because it’s smaller than a conventional car it consumes less material to make it, and it has a smaller battery which means it uses less electricity. So the ecological footprint is about a third of a conventional electric car.’

How the Microlino compares to the original bubble cars

BMW Isetta: a bubble pioneer

The Microlino was plainly inspired by the bubble cars of the 1950s. The BMW Isetta is perhaps the best remembered example. Impossibly cute, wasn’t it?

Early Isettas (above) had three wheels, which helped in some territories such as the British market where there were tax benefits for a single rear wheel. Most European Isettas had two closely-spaced rear wheels.

The Microlino is a four-wheeler, too – bringing greater stability and better grip when whizzing around town.

Note also the unusual front-hinged door for access shared across both eras of bubble car. The Isetta had a single front door and its steering column pivoted out with it. The Microlino’s column stays static, making it more like the Heinkel and Trojan bubble cars from the late 1950s and 1960s.

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches