I read a report recently that suggested that the BMW Isetta was being put back into production. Another report said that the Isetta was to be re-introduced. Neither are correct. What is happening this year is that the Microlino will go into production. Built by a Swiss company, the design of the Microlino is a clone of the BMW Isetta or more specifically, its original licenser: the Iso Isetta.
The Swiss company, called Micro, mostly make toy scooters and bicycles and teamed up with the Italian electric car manufacturer, Tazzari, to assemble the car – a nod back to Iso who were also Italian.
Micro readily acknowledge that the Iso Isetta was the inspiration of the design and you can see that immediately – design wise, there is nothing new. It is a direct clone, however, what is new is all under the skin. 70 years have passed since the Isetta first hit Italy’s roads and it is over 55 years since the last licensee stopped making them, so you would have to think that this new version would have new technology, materials and power plant. The company does promote that the car is a Swiss design, yet it is so close to the original that you have to consider it an Italian design.
What is old about the car?
The design and concept are over 70 years old – the idea of transporting people in urban environments cheaply and in a small package has been around even longer! The idea of electrification isn’t new – an electric Isetta appeared in the 1950s and the current idea wasn’t even from Micro. It was from a group of students at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences! The size of the car is similar though, unlike the new Beetle or Mini, that are huge compared to their originals.
What is new?
The power is no longer from a 230cc two-stroke motorcycle engine – BMW put in a 600cc motor in theirs, with Microlino doubling the power output of the original with the new car delivering 15Kw from an electric motor. Range is up to 200km based on the mode used from the 450kg vehicle.
Mostly what is new are the materials used to build the vehicle – the original would have been built using steel components. The Microlino will be assembled by Tazzari, who specialise in creating their own electric cars using aluminium and in their words, other “ultra lightweight materials”. This would be important to keep the weight down and strength up.
I like the idea of more urban focused electric cars and with the ever increasing range of batteries, we should see more on the road. I do think it is a bit cheeky to copy someone else’s design completely and claim it is yours though.
The cars should now be ready to go into mass production, if the messaging from the company is correct, and they also claim that they have over 3,000 pre-orders already, so that should give them a boost as they prepare for the official launch. Time will tell if people really do want a two seater urban car. Locally in Sydney, more apartments are being built without enough car spaces or charging points because the local Governments expect residents to use public transport and it is these people that the Microlino is targeted at. I see this happening in other cities across Asia as well.
Maybe Australia and Asia won’t be a big market for them – however I would expect Europe and the major cities in the US to be where most will get sold. I wish them luck – they could be an evolutionary branch in the history of personal transportation.