Microlino EV bubble car on sale in UK this year

2 months ago - 19 February 2024, autocar
Microlino EV bubble car on sale in UK this year
Maker of Isetta-inspired electric car is aiming for 300 UK deliveries by the end of 2024

Swiss firm Microlino will begin selling its Isetta-inspired electric quadricycle in the UK imminently, Autocar can reveal.

The company is currently advertising a vacancy for a UK country manager, who will be responsible for establishing a sales infrastructure and a marketing strategy for the Microlino.

Co-founder Oliver Ouboter told Autocar that the brand will begin sales “before the summer” and it aims to launch its retail network by partnering with an existing dealer franchise.

The Microlino was first unveiled at the 2016 Geneva motor show and entered production six years later. The company has since launched across continental Europe and built its 1000th example of the bubble car in June 2023 but it has yet to launch in the UK.

Ouboter cited Brexit as the reason for its delayed UK launch. He said: “We needed to understand how we do it with logistics, importing and so on. After careful analysis, we decided that we see a huge potential in the UK.”

The bubble car has the same heavy-quadricycle (L7e) classification as the old Renault Twizy, meaning that although it is only marginally larger than a Citroën Ami, it offers a much more useful 17bhp motor and has a 56mph top speed.

The Microlino can be had with battery packs of 5.5kWh, 10.5kWh or 15.0kWh, corresponding to claimed ranges of 58 miles, 110 miles and 142 miles.

It mimics the Isetta’s front-mounted door, but unlike its spiritual forebear, the Microlino has a reverse gear, so drivers are not trapped when parking forward against a wall.

The target, Ouboter said, is to make 300 UK deliveries by the end of 2024. He said: “We consider that a decent start. It takes some time to get the vehicle known, launch everything, and we are a small company so we don't have a huge marketing budget.”

He added that the UK could eventually become one of Microlino’s top three markets. “I think there could be several thousand vehicles that we sell in the UK, but of course it will go step by step,” said Ouboter. “It will not be from one year to the next, but will take several years.”

The company will target private buyers and small businesses, pitching the Microlino as a second car for commuting and running errands.

Like the Ami, it will be offered in left-hand drive only, owing to the cost and complexity of flipping the door. Ouboter added that the vehicle’s narrowness and bench seat mean right-hand drive is unnecessary anyway, because “it's very easy to just scooch over and reach for a parking ticket”.

He said the Microlino will sit in a class of its own and noted the Ami is the only comparable proposition currently on offer in the UK. However, he rejected the notion that it was a true rival, saying: “The UK does sell some Citroën Amis, which is an L6e, meaning that it's limited to 45kph [28mph]. 

“What we primarily want to focus on in the UK is on the category L7e, which goes up to 90kph [56mph]. We think this is much more a replacement of a car than something that drives only 45kph. And so, in that category, actually, there is not so many competitors.”

Ouboter also implied that the Microlino’s unibody construction and sub-500kg weight would make it a more compelling proposition than the Ami, “which is really built more like a motorcycle with plastic panels around it”

News of Microlino’s imminent arrival in the UK comes just after Spanish brand Silence confirmed that it will put its similarly sized and specified S04 quadricycle on sale here at £15,995 in the coming weeks.  

However, Ouboter suggested the Microlino has a clearly distinct market position. He said: “We always say the Microlino is more like an iPad. An iPad is neither a smartphone nor a laptop but something in between, with unique use cases where it absolutely makes sense.

“I think this is exactly the type of thinking you have to approach the Microlino with. It's really perfect for all the routine distances: going to work, all the times you're sitting alone or two people in the car, which is 90-95% of trips. If you look at it from that point of view, it's super-practical for these types of use cases.”

As such, the Microlino is expected to be priced at a significant premium compared with the £7695 Ami, yet still undercut full-size electric cars such as the £26,995 MG 4.

In Europe, the Microlino starts at €17,990 (£15,400) and rises to €19,990 (£17,100) for a 10.5kWh model, or €21,990 (£18,800) with the 15.0kWh battery.

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