ElectricVehicleWeb caught up with Merlin Ouboter, the Chief Marketing Officer of Microlino AG based in Küsnacht, Switzerland, developing the production model of its bubble car concept to launch later this year in the EU. The Coronavirus pandemic and the fallout have had a profound influence on the personal mobility segment. Oubouter told us about the demand and the market plans for the vehicle, which inspired by the BMW Isetta, is highly relevant to the present times.
EVW: You have spoken about starting production in September 2021. Are you still on course for this timeline? Will customer deliveries commence this year?
Merlin Ouboter: Yes we are, the project is progressing as planned and the first deliveries to customers will take place this year.
EVW: Besides Switzerland which markets specifically in the EU would you be launching in initially? Naming the markets would be useful to our audience.
Merlin Ouboter: After launching the Swiss market we will soon thereafter enter into Germany, Italy and France as well.
EVW: As for production, can you tell us a bit about the facility and the capacity?
Merlin Ouboter: We have our own production which is located in Turin, Italy and are planning a capacity of around 10,000 per year as a first step but we believe the market is far greater than that since we have received up to 22,000 reservations so far.
EVW: What about the future of the Microlino 1.0? Would it exist alongside the 2.0? In some markets where the purchasing power is lower, would the 1.0 fit their needs?
Merlin Ouboter: The Microlino 1.0 will not be produced as far superior is the new 2.0 version. For those markets we are thinking about a stripped down version of the 2.0 which could be produced locally to reduce the price.
EVW: Are you looking at direct sales or carsharing companies for the 2.0?
Merlin Ouboter: Both is very interesting for us but we will first focus on serving our own customers before we tackle the sharing market.
EVW: We observe interest in this product from the United States. Would you be developing a version that can be homologated in the U.S.?
Merlin Ouboter: We receive a lot of interest and reservations from the US but the regulations vary greatly from the ones we have in Europe. Therefore we will first need to adjust the vehicle to meet the local regulations.
Last month, the company released a video showing the Microlino 2.0 and Microlino 1.0 competing in a drag race. As comical as the two microcars may look competing in a drag race, on a serious note, the video indicates that the updated version offers significantly better acceleration. Although an unofficial comparison, the new model seems to have finished the drag race about one and a half seconds earlier, which is an appreciable difference.
In other updates, after finishing the first Microlino 2.0 prototype in February, Micro Mobility worked on a second prototype last month. In the process, the company surveyed the popularity of the micro car’s colours. It received nearly 10,000 entries, and the most voted colours were the shades of red, blue, and mint green.
Micro Mobility test drove the first working prototype of the Microlino 2.0 in February to understand the improvements compared to the Microlino 1.0. The company released a video of this red & white prototype and new details, which you can watch on facebook.com.
The Microlino 2.0 has better handling characteristics compared to the old model. Its new structure, which we have discussed further in the story, brings significant safety improvements. Passenger safety would be the first question in the minds of many when this pint-size car goes on sale in the European market, addressed by the new frame.
Microlino 2.0’s journey to production
Micro Mobility’s plan before homologation and pre-series testing is to build five prototypes. The prototypes made after the first unit was said to be closer to final production units, featuring even the elements missing in the prototype, like the LED light bar, for instance. The company aims to complete prototype production by June, after which it expects two or three months to go into the homologation process for making the car street-legal. While the homologation procedure happens, it will start building pre-series units, make the required adjustments, and begin the first test drives.
A few weeks after the EU type approval is completed and the official papers have been received, Micro Mobility will commence series production and deliveries of the Microlino 2.0. If everything goes per schedule, the rollout would be in September. The company has also released a picture showing the expected timeline:
In December last year, testing of the Microlino 2.0 began in Turin, Italy. In February, the company said that it is “really happy” with the initial testing of the first Microlino 2.0 prototype mule. It uses a newly engineered chassis with a wider rear axle and independent suspension, and it said that this “has greatly improved the overall handling and comfort.” The recent developments strengthen confidence in the company’s announced market launch timeline of this year.
Micro Mobility showcased its product at its flagship store in Zurich in November 2020. It displayed the concept version for customers to sit in and get a demo. In October 2020, the company said that it is working in parallel on the electronics integration besides the prototype mule. It Instagrammed a clip of a test bench showing the car’s components, including the motor, battery, heater, etc., testing before combining into one fully functional system.
We spoke to Microlino enthusiast Christian Reding who is following the developments of the vehicle closely. He runs the Instagram channel microlino_on_tour where he pictures and footage of the test prototypes appear regularly. Here’s his take on the quadricycle –
The prototype of the Microlino 2.0 feels very solid. The driving behavior is much better than that of the first version. Also, thanks to the larger track width of the rear wheels, more safety is guaranteed. The acceleration is also better than the first version.
The Microlino 2.0 is unique with its design. He stands out, finds a parking space everywhere. Space in the cities has never been scarcer than it is today. And the electric drive means that you are locally CO2-neutral mobile. All in all, it was worth the wait!Christian Reding of microlino_on_tour
Ex-Tesla Director keeping an eye on the development
Microlino revealed at the end of June 2020 that Jochen Rudat, the former Director of Tesla (Central Europe), will join its Advisory Board to help it in the rollout of its first model rollout. It is worth noting that Rudat has a strong background in bringing an EV start-up to success. He was Tesla’s first employee in Switzerland in 2009 and worked at that company for 10 years. Under his lead, Tesla functioned with a team of 300 employees, opened 35 stores, and launched the Roadster, Model S, Model X, and Model 3 in the Old Continent.
Microlino remade with version 2.0, different inside & out
Micro Mobility unveiled the new Microlino 2.0 electric mini car and Microletta electric scooter at a private event in early March 2020 after the Geneva Motor Show got cancelled. In April 2020, it shared the first promotional video that shows the exterior and interior of the bubble car. Micro Mobility decided to change the design of the Microlino before it went on sale because the company wanted to improve safety and comfort. Hence, Microlino 2.0 took shape with inputs from the customers who had pre-booked the microcar.
The Microlino 2.0 gets an all-new chassis that is not made with a tubular frame but built with pressed steel, improving the stiffness and safety. Body parts of the car are now built with aluminium, and steel, with the plastic usage, limited to only the front and rear bumpers. Also, the Microlino 2.0 has independent suspension at the front and rear. For this, the rear track has been increased by 50 per cent and the e-motor, which earlier resided in the rear axle, sits in the chassis, thus reducing the unsprung masses and also improves the driving comfort.
The electric motor is a new one, a synchronous unit with permanent magnets that improves the efficiency by 15 per cent, meaning either Micro Mobility can improve the range or reduce the battery size. The battery chemistry of the cells has also been changed from LFP (Li-phosphate) to NMC (Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt), which has more power density resulting in the same battery with less volume and lesser weight. This has enabled the company to have the battery under the floor instead of in the cabin.
The exterior design stands completely revised. The lines have been smoothened to the front, and there’s a new LED light bar in the front with integrated turn indicators, while the headlamps are placed on either side of the door. The steering column is now fixed to the car and not connected to the door anymore. The seats have been redesigned for better comfort and ergonomics, and ambient lighting is included. The interiors have been made more spacious as many components have been removed, leaving only the rigid frame and panels. A digital display in place of the instrument cluster gives the interior a clean layout.
Despite the changes in design, the company has stated that the base price of the Microlino 2.0 will remain unchanged at 12,000 Euros.
Microlino 2.0 specifications (provisional)
|Weight||513 kg (incl. battery)|
|Battery Capacity||8 kWh /14.4 kWh|
|Acceleration (0-50 km/h)||5 seconds|
|Range||125 km / 200 km|
|Top speed||90 km/h (56 mph)|
|Price (European Markets)||12,000 €|
Featured Image Source: Facebook/Microlino