The spectrum of mobility was clear. On one side you had two wheels from a bicycle to a scooter, on the other side a car, in the middle a small car. That was a small car with more than two wheels, a moped or small diesel engine, usually two seats and a maximum speed of 45 kilometers per hour. If it was not wider than 1 10 meters, it seemed to be a disabled car, which you can park anywhere. Popular brands were Canta, Ligier, Aixam and Microcar. Their appearance was old fashioned. You didn’t see young people driving them, while you were allowed to drive them with a moped driver’s license at the age of sixteen.
Then everything changed with Birò. The electric city car became a hype in Amsterdam. With its top speed of 45, it was officially a small car, but it did not burn and you did not see elderly people with physical limitations in it. Birò’s target group was wealthy, often young and healthy. The car became the city hopper of Dutch celebrities. You could see Douwe Bob and Edgar Davids in it, who could easily take the bike. No, they happily paid a whopping 15 bucks for a car that they could register as a 1m by 8m wheelchair, so it could be parked everywhere.
In his ten years as an importer and distributor of Birò in Amsterdam, entrepreneur Pieter Vermeer sold two thousand to a public that previously did not associate them with small cars. “That ranges from a 16-year-old to a creative entrepreneur, from a lawyer to people over 70.” Sixty percent of buyers are women.
Citywide parking permit
The Wild West is over. The Biròs city-wide parking permit is now accepted by the municipality of Amsterdam – which you can apply for alongside your normal parking permit. Until at least July 2024, because the program is on trial, you can park a car across Amsterdam for 229.67 euros for six months.
At the same time, the Italian brand is getting more and more competitors. The small electric car seems to be a free in urban alternative to the real car. The French car group Stellantis, the brand group of Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel, Alfa, Chrysler, Jeep and Lancia, launched the Citroën Ami last year. A funky, two-seater 45km car in the Birò model has been available in the Netherlands under the name Opel Rocks-e since this year.
An alternative is the Dutch Carver and a special two-person bicycle. The cigar-shaped car, viewed from above, bends automatically thanks to a clever technical innovation, which provides an interesting driving experience, especially on curves. Carver recently presented a version with a top speed of 80 km/h, the S+. With an electric range of 100 km, there is nothing in the way of daily commuting over long distances.
Another foreigner is the Breda-based startup Squad and Solar City Car, to be launched this year, similar to the Birò with solar panels for extra range. Not unexpectedly, the first articles also appear. The Move CityCar is the Chinese version of the Birò.
In the niche between a small car and a city car, larger and faster models will follow in due course, more men, but still not quite a car. On the way is the Swiss Microlino, with its front door that opens like a refrigerator, a modern variation on the BMW Isetta from the 1950s: the interest is high. The German Evetta comes with the Isetta-like. In Japan, Toyota produces the C electric+shell The Chinese are sharpening knives. For Germany’s e.GO Life, with four seats next to a real car, a storm was brewing: all reservations have been cancelled.
These trolls can be an important factor in the energy transition. Founders saw that before, way ahead of the fan. Renault came up with the smart yet beautiful Twizy in 2012. The electric two-seater was available in 45 and 80 km versions. And the latter you can only get the Ring A10. He wasn’t a hit, but times are changing.
A gap in the market
What are manufacturers looking for in the gap between the bike and the car? The question is the answer: to fill the gap. Hyperinflation and the rapid rise in car prices create a gap in the market for those who rarely drive outside the city. For the 9,000 euros that Rocks-e costs, or the 15 to 16,000 euros that Birò or Carver costs roughly, you don’t have an electric car. That will cost you on the Dacia Spring of about 20,000 euros after at least two times. For 15 grand you can have a second Nissan Leaf or a Renault Zoe, but for city dwellers it immediately has all the disadvantages of a car. It takes up a lot of space and for its money it doesn’t get much more than the Birò.
Due to their low energy consumption, microcars are cleaner than electric cars
And why can you, if you can? You won’t be allowed to go faster than thirty in the city if the municipal authorities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht get their way. It is much easier to store your small car than a car: Birò is long, 1 74 meters, as normal cars are wide. Three cars go in different directions in one parking space. With some modifications you can also use them as company cars for pizza and package delivery. It has been thought of. The Carver has a special Cargo variant with 500 liters of storage space, Opel the Rocks-e Kargo with a volume of 260 liters instead of the co-driver. Birò can supply a Large Set, a type of glass bag with a travel volume of 300 liters, if required.
Because of their size and low threshold, minivans are very suitable as partial transportation. And because of their low energy consumption, they are cleaner than electric cars. The range of 75 km for the Opel and 100 km for the Birò is more than enough for urban use.
Small comfort and beating
But what is it? I liked everything. To my surprise, at 45 km/h you are always fast enough in Amsterdam. A wonderful experience to be on the road with ease and low power – Birò about 5, Opel 8 hp. I liked their simplicity. The dashboard is basic and utilitarian. Speedometer, battery level display, steering wheel, much needed trunk and light buttons, indicators, wipers and heated windshield. Is the Opel still warm, in Birò the ventilation is pure nature. The open gable roof serves as a ventilation system. The doors can be removed in the summer. This way it remains perfectly pleasant on the board on a hot summer day. Both cars have three-point seat belts and USB connectivity, the Opel even has bluetooth. Efficient, light and manageable, it’s a roof over your head for modest money. And they drive very well, if you can stand a little comfort and beating. You sit in small, hard seats and the suspension should not have a name. Entrances and exits, speed bumps and other obstacles can be very bumpy. Comfort can’t be beat for this money. Birò does not offer air suspension as an option.
But what a joy. All-round visibility is good, important in a city where the large blind spots of many real cars are visited. From an architectural point of view, the Birò is the most intelligent city car. The Opel and Carver are actually quite long at 2 41 meters and 2 89 meters, although the Carver makes up for it by less than a meter in width. Birò is a space advantage for the city, as long as the celebrities or the accountant on duty park their Cayenne outside the Ring A10. Or, better yet, sell it because he needs less and less. It happens, says the importer Vermeer. You are not too lost in the little one.
For those who occasionally have to go out of town, there’s the Carver S+. I drive there from Carver’s head office in Leeuwarden on regional roads to Groningen and back. That goes very well because only those 8 forces do not need to move 300 kg. He easily manages 66 km to Groningen. When I arrive, I still have 32 percent electricity left. On the way back to Leeuwarden – after two hours of charging up to 85 percent in two hours, with the adapter provided for a public charging station – a strong feeling of wind manifests itself, which the advanced tilt mechanism resists, both technically and internally. termination conditions are still allowed. one point on i.
Other than that, it’s a great concept. It is simple, it is practical, operation after the settlement phase is a pleasure. Even air conditioning is available, although you don’t need it because the indoor climate can be better controlled by natural ventilation, like Birò. The windshield continues above your head, where the fabric roof begins, which turns the Sculpt into a semi-convertible. However, the hood is very difficult to close, and with all that glass in front of you and above you, a sun visor at eye level wouldn’t be bad. Fortunately, you can get in and out of the car as a driver without a passenger seat next to you.
In this way gradually the portee of these vehicles penetrates. Small cars teach the automotive industry a lesson in performance design, proportions, size and cost control. They call for reflection. The automotive industry is cooking for seven miles: four hundred horsepower, two thousand kilograms of weight, for an SUV that is driven by one person but demands space for five. The waste of space and energy is staggering. The Carver S+ only requires a 7.1 kW battery. I know electric cars that don’t even get twice that and five times the battery capacity. If an EV remains impossible in the absence of an electric Volkswagen, real alternatives are emerging here.
Governments should look into that. Amsterdam has learned to do this the hard way, says Birò importer Vermeer. “We had the advantage that we now had 2,000 Birò on our doorstep in Amsterdam.” Without that big stick, that parking permit policy would not have happened. That speeds up decision-making processes, says Vermeer, and also makes it possible for Opel and Carver to base themselves here. From that point of view, he applauds the competition.
Now the actual policy. In what there are plans for electric cars, for example in the report Clean Air 2030 of the municipality of Amsterdam, the van is missing. The city can’t really be blamed for that, says Vermeer. Developments in the field of mobility are moving too fast for policy makers. On the other hand, he says, “municipalities still see public transport as the main weapon in reducing car use.” He thinks that’s a shame.
That’s where he wants to fill in as an entrepreneur. Until 2020, Birò was probably a practical device, now it becomes an interesting tool for energy transition. Vermeer is eager to start a car sharing program. “Participation is a very good way to spend.” But if you want to do it on a large scale, you will run into a mountain of bureaucracy, he says. “Who will own those cars? How will you arrange registration and insurance? What partners will you work with? Shall we do experiments with municipalities?” He sees a long way. Perhaps, he thinks practically, you should start small and let Birò owners start car-sharing communities with their neighbors and a social network. “In this way, small, effective solutions can be created .”