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Microlino relaunches bubble car with electric model

Microlino relaunches bubble car with electric model

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ZURICH – Two Swiss brothers aim to put their country back on the automotive map by revitalizing a classic 1950s car with an electric twist.

Oliver and Merlin Ouboter have launched a new version of the micro car, modeled after BMW’s bubble car Isetta, this time with four wheels instead of three.

The new Microlino replaces the old petrol engine with a 12.5-kilowatt electric motor, giving it a range of up to 230 km and a top speed of 55 km/h.

Its light weight — 1,093 pounds — and small size — 8.2 feet long — reduce the vehicle’s environmental impact and make it easier to park in tight spaces, said Oliver Ouboter, Microlino AG’s chief operating officer.

“The idea was to create an alternative to conventional cars. The Microlino does that much better than bikes — it’s weatherproof, you have space for cargo, you can seat two people side by side,” Ouboter told Reuters.

“Because it’s smaller than a traditional car, it uses less material, and it has a smaller battery, which means it uses less electricity,” added his brother Merlin. “This means that the ecological footprint is about a third of that of a conventional electric car.”

More than 35,000 reservations have been received for the Microlino, which is built in Italy and starts at 15,000 Swiss francs (16,195 US dollars).

The Oubuters’ parents – whose company has sold 90 million scooters – have invested more than CHF10 million in the project, although the brothers refused to say exactly how much.

Better known for chocolate, watches and banks, Switzerland had a car industry in the early 20th century with long-forgotten brands like Ajax, Fischer and Turicum.

High production costs and a tiny home market have doomed many, although Switzerland is home to some niche manufacturers.

“Ideas can be developed in Switzerland, marketing takes place here, mass production elsewhere. Microlino is the latest example of this,” says Daniel Geissmann from the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne.

“There is a market for a car like this,” he said. “It’s flashy and it’s fun.”

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