Good Oil: Your electric bubble car is ready now
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With Tesla having stolen so much of the electric vehicle limelight over the past couple of years, it’s easy to forget that, a couple of decades ago, forays into alternatively powered transport generally revolved around smaller city cars.
While mainstream players such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi are rapidly playing catch-up, the idea of a long-legged GT-style EV in which to cruise the highway was, when you boil it down, the exclusive remit of Tesla. And we are thankful for that.
Slowly though, there has been a return to electrified micro-motoring. Mini and Fiat both see their compact cars (the Hatch and 500 respectively) as ideal BEV platforms, and this week a Swiss scooter manufacturer has shown off concept plans for an EV that pays homage to one of the tiniest cars of all; the 1950s-era Isetta bubble car.
The company, called Micro Mobility, plans to start production of its Microlino electric bubble car before the end of this year. Micro Mobility states it will offer the Microlino — which unapologetically mimics the original cult Isetta in terms of both egg-shaped silhouette and signature two-tone exterior colour scheme — with either an 8kWh or 14.4kWh battery.
These will give the wee two-seater anticipated battery ranges of around 120km or 215km, meaning that — if used in the city as an office-bound commuter car and errand-runner — recharging could potentially be a once-a-week activity.
A bit like the original Isetta, the Microlino is designed to be as efficient at parking in cramped spots as it is an efficient form of transport. It even features the same entry and exit method as the original car, with the front end of the vehicle opening to allow access to the bench seat within.
Internal comfort? Masses of luggage space? Hmm, not so much. But really, like the 1950s original, while the Microlino wears its cheeky character on its sleeve to great effect, it is in essence a transportation pod, designed to ferry two people about busy city streets with a minimum of fuss and footprint.
We love it. Although with modern-day vehicle crash-testing regimes being what they are, it’s unlikely one will be okayed for use on New Zealand roads. In parts of Europe and in China, however, where licensing laws allow vehicles not much bigger than a conventional quad bike to use public roads, the Microlino looks like it could be a winner. Just be careful backing into those canal-side parks in Amsterdam ...
Just when we thought we were done with French hot hatches
The Renault Clio RS hot hatch has always had a cheery, jovial look about it but it has finally embraced its darker side with the introduction of the Clio RS 18 limited edition.
Just 10 versions of this limited-edition Renault Clio RS will make the journey from France to Australia, priced at $39,990 — plus on-road costs — apiece.
That’s $1000 more than the Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy on which it’s based, and for that you get angry, wasp-like deep-black exterior paint with contrasting yellow highlights on the side skirts, wheel caps and front air splitter.
The dark theme extends to the wheels and there are unique RS 18 badges on its flanks.
High-riding SUV drivers will also get a glimpse at the decal on the roof of the Renault Clio RS 18 — a double diamond — which Renault says is a hat tip to the Renault Sport F1 Team.
Although the new car gets no extra power from its 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, its unchanged 164kW/280Nm outputs are enough spice to see the car rip to 100km/h in 6.6 seconds. It manages this rapid time thanks to a launch control system that takes advantage of the car’s six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
According to Renault, the Clio RS Trophy chassis has been tweaked for the 18, to provide better handling response.
Lower, stiffer suspension is the main change for the Renault Clio RS 18, along with hydraulic compression stops for the front dampers and modifications to the steering for a more direct feel.
An Akrapovic exhaust is claimed to deliver a more prominent exhaust note that owners will hear from the driver’s seat.
The interior has also been tizzied up with faux carbon-fibre highlights round the air vents, an Alcantara/leather steering wheel and special RS carpet floor mats.
Germany says nein to diesel performance
It would appear that German car buyers are indeed shying away from diesel cars following a recent court decision that allows cities to ban diesel-powered vehicles.
On Wednesday, German motor industry association VDA reported that of the 878 600 vehicles sold in Germany in the first quarter of 2018, less than a third (32.3 per cent) were diesel cars, compared to 42.7 per cent during the same period last year.
In many German cities, nitric oxide air pollution is higher than permitted by EU regulation, in large part due to diesel exhaust fumes in congested areas.
A court in Leipzig ruled in February that cities with high pollution could ban diesel cars from circulation.
No city has yet introduced such a ban.
That decision was a further blow to the reputation of diesel cars after the revelations that German carmaker Volkswagen installed software in its diesel-fuelled vehicles that cheated on emissions tests.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has formed a new grand coalition for her fourth term in office, has said she will work to prevent diesel bans. However, should sales continue to slide in key European markets such as Germany, it would lead to car companies developing fewer diesel engines.