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Microlino boss: "most cars are far too big for what they’re being used for"

COO confirms a £200 monthly lease cost for the adorable electric rival to the Citroen Ami

Published: 28 Feb 2024

Microlino has confirmed its follow-up ‘Lite’ model will begin production this spring and aims to bring it to Britain’s shores soon after, with it set to rival the Citroën Ami in perhaps the world’s most adorable bout of miniature EVs. Pika pika?

We sat down with Oliver Oubotor, the COO of Microlino, to find out more about his latest product which, thanks to current rules and regulations, can even be driven by 14-year-olds in Europe.

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“When we presented the original Microlino eight years ago, the idea was to create a new product category between bikes and cars. It’s a bit like an iPad, it’s not a laptop, and it’s not a smartphone, but something in the middle. Why? Because most cars are just far too big for what they’re being used for.”

He’s not wrong. The law of averages says there are between just 1.2 and 1.6 people sitting in most cars daily, with the average distance covered hovering around the 20-mile mark.

“Our idea was to introduce something which caters for this trend and, of course, with a lower footprint in mind. But you can’t just sell a car on making sense, it also needs to excite with its design. So when we came across the bubble cars from the ‘50s, like the Heinkel Kabine, we thought this was the perfect design language for the sort of car we were trying to create.

"And this sort of design only works in a small form factor, if you extend it, it looks awkward, right? So we ran with it.”

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The dimensions do make sense with all the flotsam and jetsam overwhelming today’s biggest cities, like London’s two-billion-strong army of Uber Eats drivers. If you didn’t already know, this has a direct influence on average speed, so is there any use in having a car which travels at more than 30mph?

“The Microlino is built to travel at between 18 and 37mph, which we think is the ideal speed for today. It means you can also travel on country lanes and not be a traffic hurdle.”

While the Lite has an identical top speed to the Ami (28mph), its 62 miles of range is a whole 16 more than its rival and could be a dealbreaker for some customers. Oliver then talked us through the Lite’s design philosophy, which could spell even more trouble for the little Citroën as a city car.

“The Lite is the only car in the world right now with a front door, which we decided to fit for the sole purpose of enabling cross-parking. It was definitely a challenge to put together, but it means owners can get out directly onto the pavement. It was one thing doing this 60 years ago, but the current taste in design, plus additional factors like weather-proofing, meant we had to think and work on different parameters.

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“We’ve also given it a unibody chassis to work with the soft close door, so it’s constructed like a car for better safety. The unibody then has a teardrop shell above it, but where it differs from the vintage bubble cars is the aerodynamics, which we’ve improved by bringing the rear wheels closer together.”

There are plenty of other quirky design traits to point out too, like the headlights, which have the mirrors incorporated into the rear for more efficient packaging. The Lite has also been given a soft-top design akin to the Fiat 500C, with customers also able to choose from a two-tone body finish. Feeling retro enough yet?

“The other main area of focus was the boot. We keep saying ‘two people and three crates of beer’ is what we’re aiming for, and we think we’ve achieved it with this design.”

You’ll be wondering about price at this point, and Oliver has confirmed a targeted ‘entry’ monthly price of under £200, though leasing will remain the sole purchase option as things stand.

Let us know in the comment section whether you believe a modern interpretation of the bubble car ideology really could kick off or not...

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