A microcar is the smallest automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 classification usually applied to standard small car (smaller than city car
City car
A city car is a small car intended for use primarily in an urban area.City cars are sold worldwide and most automotive industry manufacturers have one or two in their line-up. In North-America city cars are often referred to simply as "subcompacts" alongside the superminis. These kind of cars...

s). Such small cars were generally referred to as cyclecar
Cyclecars were small, generally inexpensive cars manufactured mainly between 1910 and the late 1920s.-General description:Cyclecars were propelled by single cylinder, V-twin or more rarely four cylinder engines, often air cooled. Sometimes these had been originally used in motorcycles and other...

s until the 1940s. More recent models (1960 and later) are also called bubblecars due to their egg-shaped appearance.


The definition of a microcar has varied considerably in different countries. Since there are usually tax and/or licensing advantages to the classification, multiple restrictions are often imposed, starting with engine size. The Register of Unusual Microcars in the UK says: "economy vehicles with either three or four wheels, powered by petrol engines of no more than 700cc or battery electric propulsion, and manufactured since 1945". The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum
The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum
The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum is a museum in Madison, Georgia, United States that holds the largest single collection of microcars in the world...

 (the world's largest collection of Microcars) says "Engine sizes of 700cc and less and 2 doors or less" and the US-based Vintage Microcar Club simply defines it as 1000cc or less.

Typical microcars usually have some of the following features:
  • seats only the driver and a single passenger
  • a 1 cylinder 49cc - 500cc engine
  • 1 wheel drive
  • cable operated brakes on 2 or 4 wheels (no longer permissible in countries such as the UK).
  • simple suspensions
  • 6" - 8" roadwheels

Many, but not all, microcars are also:
  • three wheeled.
  • Not fitted with a reverse gear (the weight of the car was light enough for parking to be achieved by lifting one end of the vehicle).
  • May have all gears operable in reverse as well as in forward gear such as the Messerschmitt KR200
    Messerschmitt KR200
    The Messerschmitt KR200, or Kabinenroller , was a three-wheeled bubble car designed by the aircraft engineer Fritz Fend and produced in the factory of the German aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt from 1955 to 1964.-History:...

  • Fitted with lifting bodywork instead of doors.
  • Less than 3m in length (sometimes less than 8', 2.440m).
  • Less than 85 cubic feet/2400 litres interior volume.

There are also a variety of microcar trucks, usually of the "forward control" or van style to provide more cargo room. These might be used for local deliveries on narrow streets where standard small pickup trucks would be inconvenient, and full-sized delivery trucks would be impossible.

Legal position

The economy of operating such a small car (mostly in fuel and tires) has also often been helped by three-wheeled microcars or cars with very small engines being treated as motorcycle
A motorcycle is a single-track, two-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.Motorcycles are one of the most...

s for tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

 and insurance
In law and economics, insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. Insurance is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for payment. An insurer is a company selling the...

 purposes (quadricycle
Quadricycle, quadracycle, quadcycle, quadrocycle refers to any vehicle with four wheels.More specifically the term may refer to:...


In some countries, microcars with a certain maximum weight are considered motorcycles and therefore no car driving licence is needed (Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Italy). This assures a certain market for elder people who do not want to or who cannot pass a car driving licence. More negatively, at least in Austria and France, such cars are sometimes derided as a solution for people who had their licence revoked because of drunk driving
Driving under the influence
Driving under the influence is the act of driving a motor vehicle with blood levels of alcohol in excess of a legal limit...


In some European countries, taxes used to depend on engine displacement and/or insurance on power. This has given rise to names of such cars as Citroën 2CV
Citroën 2CV
The Citroën 2CV |tax horsepower]]”) was an economy car produced by the French automaker Citroën between 1948 and 1990. It was technologically advanced and innovative, but with uncompromisingly utilitarian unconventional looks, and deceptively simple Bauhaus inspired bodywork, that belied the sheer...

 and Renault 4CV
Renault 4CV
The Renault 4CV was an economy car produced by the French manufacturer Renault from August 1947-July 1961. The first French car to sell over a million units, the 4CV was ultimately superseded by the Renault Dauphine....

. This favourable treatment by governments is based on the benefits to a society of reducing use of such resources as minerals, parking space and foreign exchange, reduced noise and chemical pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

, reduced hazard
A hazard is a situation that poses a level of threat to life, health, property, or environment. Most hazards are dormant or potential, with only a theoretical risk of harm; however, once a hazard becomes "active", it can create an emergency situation. A hazard does not exist when it is not...

 to others (they are slow vehicles) etc. Reduced global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 from carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 emission has now been added to this list.

Another advantage is the ease of parking. Some microcars can be parked perpendicular, where other cars park parallel, or be lifted by hand, like a motor scooter, to get into a tight spot. The Isetta and some others had forward entry, to facilitate perpendicular parking close to other vehicles. The Myers Motors NmG (originally called the Corbin Sparrow) is licensed as a motorcycle and parked in motorcycle spaces in California, and probably in other places.

The small size improves handling
Car handling
Automobile handling and vehicle handling are descriptions of the way wheeled vehicles perform transverse to their direction of motion, particularly during cornering and swerving. It also includes their stability when moving at rest. Handling and braking are the major components of a vehicle's...

 by reducing the angular inertia. The Messerschmitt
Messerschmitt AG was a famous German aircraft manufacturing corporation named for its chief designer, Willy Messerschmitt, and known primarily for its World War II fighter aircraft, notably the Bf 109 and Me 262...

 and Spatz
Spatz Kabinenroller
The Spatz later renamed the Victoria 250 is a four-wheeled microcar that was built between 1956 and 1958The car was originally conceived by Egon Brütsch as the Brütsch 200 "Spatz" a Fiberglass three-wheeler with the suspension of the front wheels and the rear wheel attached directly to the body...

 have been described as much better than ordinary cars on snow and ice. Spare room on the road and ease of missing obstacles are also improved.

For the performance oriented, who prefer more than two wheels and a roof, the scaling laws
There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom
There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom is the title of a lecture given by physicist Richard Feynman at an American Physical Society meeting at Caltech on December 29, 1959...

 show that one need not give up acceleration until the curb weight comes down to around the driver's weight, because power per weight of the car itself improves with small size, in an otherwise similar design. Top speed is lost with small scale, due to the decreased Reynolds number, but this is a small effect. The Messerschmitt TG500
Messerschmitt TG500
The FMR Tg500 was a sports car built by Fahrzeug- und Maschinenbau GmbH, Regensburg from 1958 to 1961. Based on the monocoque of the Messerschmitt KR200 three-wheeled car, it was a four-wheeled car with a two-stroke straight-two engine. FMR had taken over production of the KR200 from Messerschmitt...

 had about a 78 mph (126 km/h) top speed
Top Speed
Top Speed is a 1930 American musical comedy film released by First National Pictures, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers.-Production:The film was completed as a full musical...

 with 15 kW (20 horsepower) and excellent aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is a branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air, particularly when it interacts with a moving object. Aerodynamics is a subfield of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, with much theory shared between them. Aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, with...


In the UK before October 2000, a person who passed a motorcycle test was automatically granted a full sub-category B1 licence (lightweight car with an unladen weight of 550 kg or less, motor quadricycle, motor tricycle) as an additional entitlement with the full Category A (motorcycle) licence. Since 2000 a provisional car licence has to be requested.

The last major UK manufacturer, Reliant
Reliant was a British car manufacturer. The company was traditionally based at Tamworth in Staffordshire, England, but in 2001 it moved to nearby Cannock. It ceased manufacturing cars shortly afterwards.-History:...

, ceased production of these vehicles in 1998.

Electric microcars

Some examples of battery electric microcars are:
  • The Think Nordic
    Think Nordic
    Think Global is an electric car company located in Oslo, Norway, which manufactures cars under the TH!NK brand. Production of the Th!nk City was stopped in March 2011 and the company filed for bankruptcy on June 22, 2011, for the fourth time in 20 years; but the company was bought soon after by...

    , imported to the USA by Ford Motor Company
    Ford Motor Company
    Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brands, Ford also owns a small stake in Mazda in Japan and Aston Martin in the UK...

     to satisfy California
    California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

     Zero-emissions vehicle
    Zero-emissions vehicle
    A zero-emissions vehicle, or ZEV, is a vehicle that emits no tailpipe pollutants from the onboard source of power. Harmful pollutants to the health and the environment include particulates , hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, ozone, lead, and various oxides of nitrogen. Although not considered emission...

     (ZEV) requirements in the state of California
    California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

    . Removed from the market by Ford in a bargain with the California Air Resources Board. See PZEV
    Partial zero-emissions vehicle
    A Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle is a vehicle that has zero evaporative emissions from its fuel system, has a 15-year warranty on its emission-control components, and meets SULEV tailpipe-emission standards....

     for more information.
  • The Global Electric Motorcars
    Global Electric Motorcars
    Global Electric Motorcars , a wholly owned subsidiary of Polaris Industries, is a U.S. manufacturer in the low-speed vehicle category, producing neighborhood electric vehicles since 1998 and has sold more than 45,000 GEM battery-electric vehicles worldwide as of December 2010.Until June 2011, GEM...

     GEM, a 2- or 4-passenger "Golf car
    Golf car
    A golf cart or golf buggy is a small vehicle designed originally to carry two golfers and their golf clubs around a golf course or on desert trails with less effort than walking.Golf cars come in a wide range of formats and are more generally used to convey small numbers of passengers short...

    " style vehicle.
  • The REVA
    The REVAi, known as G-Wiz in the UK, is a small micro electric car, made by the Indian manufacturer REVA Electric Car Company since 2001...

     electric vehicle as used in its home environment, India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    . This may soon be exported to the USA with speed electronically limited and sold as an NEV.
  • The Corbin Sparrow
    Corbin Sparrow
    The Myers Motors NmG is a single-passenger, three-wheeled, battery electric vehicle designed specifically for commuting and city driving. It was initially produced by Corbin Motors and now by Myers Motors...

    , a single-seat electric microcar that can be licenced as a motorcycle.
  • The CityEl
    The CityEl is a 3-wheel light-weight electric car currently made in Germany by Smilies AG The CityEl was originally developed as the Mini-El by Danish company El Trans A/S in Randers and was first brought onto the market by them in 1987...

    , a three-wheeled single-seat electric microcar built in Germany
    Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...


The obstacle to adaptation of such vehicles in the United States is less technical than cultural and political. The mandates by regulatory powers that such vehicles meet full U.S. safety regulations ensures the unavailability of vehicles suitable for use in the mixed traffic conditions that predominate in U.S. suburban areas.
  • The French company SECMA produces the so called scootcar FUN-ELEC.
  • The TWIKE
    The TWIKE is a human-electric hybrid vehicle /light electric vehicle designed to carry two passengers and cargo. It can be driven in electric-only mode or electric + pedal power mode .Constructed of lightweight materials such as aluminium and plastic, this...

     is a microcar that is pedal assisted.
  • Electrocar
    Electrocar, Electrocart is an electric vehicle, typically a small cart with an electrical driving gear and a storage battery.In the United Kingdom, similar small electric vehicles were known as electric drays....

     is a small freight transporter typically used in enterprises or rail stations

Microcar makers

See the Kei car
Kei car
Kei cars, K-cars, or , are a Japanese category of small vehicles, including passenger cars, vans, and pickup trucks. They are designed to comply with Japanese government tax and insurance regulations, and in most rural areas are exempted from the requirement to certify that adequate parking is...

 article for Kei car makers.
  • Aixam
    Aixam - Mega is a French automobile manufacturer based in Aix-les-Bains, Savoie. It was founded in 1983 to make microcars in the old Arola factory after that company failed.-History:...

  • Bamby Cars http://www.wix.com/minimicros/bamby-home#!
  • Bellier http://www.bellier.fr
  • Berkeley
    Berkeley cars
    Berkeley Cars Ltd of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, England produced small economical sporting microcars with motorcycle-derived engines from 322 cc to 692 cc and front wheel drive between 1956 and 1960.-History:...

  • Casalini
    Casalini is an Italian company founded 1939 that makes mopeds and microcars. Casalini S.r.l. is the oldest microcar producer in the world. The factory is situated in Piacenza....

  • Chatenet http://www.automobiles-chatenet.com: Barooder S2, Barooder X2 MUST Barooder Sport (diesel, 4 kW), Barooder X4 and Speedino (gasoline, 15 kW).
  • CQ Motors http://www.cqmotors.co.jp/
  • 4 Seasons Velos http://www.4sev.de
  • Grecav
    Grecav is an Italian automobile and farm machinery manufacturer from Gonzaga, province of Mantua. The company produces, among other things, light motor vehicles. The company was founded in 1964 by Cav. Bruno Grespan through the merger of two companies; Fratelli Grespan S.n.c. and Cavalletti...

     http://www.grecav.it/index.en.php: Sonique
  • Ligier
    For the related Formula One team, see Equipe LigierLigier is a French automobile maker created by former racing driver and rugby player Guy Ligier.-History:...

  • Microcar
    Microcar (brand)
    Microcar is a French microcar manufacturer. The company was founded in 1984 as a division of Bénéteau group, a major sailboat manufacturer. Production moved to a new custom-built factory in September 2000. In September 2008, Microcar was acquired by Ligier Automobiles in a deal backed by the...

  • Micro-Vett
    Micro-Vett S.p.A. is Italian company producing electric, hybrid and bimodal vehicles, its located in Imola. It works closely with other Italian automotive companieslike Fiat, Piaggio and Iveco...

     (Ydea electric).
  • Mitsuoka
    is a small Japanese automobile company. They are noted for building cars with unconventional styling, some of which imitate British vehicles of the 1950s and 1960s. It is primarily a coachbuilder, taking production cars like the Nissan March and replacing the bodywork with its own custom designs...

  • Peel Engineering Company
    Peel Engineering Company
    The Peel Engineering Company is a manufacturing company based on the Isle of Man that primarily made fibreglass boats as well as fairings for motorcycles. They were also responsible for the Peel Manxcar, Peel P50, and Peel Trident microcars, in addition to the Peel Viking Sport and prototype GRP...

  • Piaggio
    Piaggio based in Pontedera, Italy encompasses seven brands of scooters, motorcycles and compact commercial vehicles. As the fourth largest producer of scooters and motorcycles in the world, Piaggio produces more than 600,000 vehicles annually, with five research and development centers, more than...

  • Renault
    Renault S.A. is a French automaker producing cars, vans, and in the past, autorail vehicles, trucks, tractors, vans and also buses/coaches. Its alliance with Nissan makes it the world's third largest automaker...

  • REVA
    The REVAi, known as G-Wiz in the UK, is a small micro electric car, made by the Indian manufacturer REVA Electric Car Company since 2001...

  • SECMA http://www.secmavehicles.co.uk/
  • Simpa-JDM : Albizia basic, club and confort.
  • Smart
    Smart (automobile)
    Smart is an automotive branch of Daimler AG. Smart is a German manufacturer of microcars produced in Hambach, France, and Böblingen, Germany...

  • Takeoka http://www.takeoka-m.co.jp/
  • Tata Nano
    Tata Nano
    The Tata Nano is an inexpensive, rear-engined, four-passenger city car built by the Indian company Tata Motors and is aimed primarily at the Indian domestic market....

  • Toyota Auto Body http://www.toyota-body.co.jp/products/life/ev/index.html
  • Town Life
    Town Life
    Town Life is an Italian microcar. The vehicle was created by the Tonino Lamborghini Group, a company run by the son of Ferruccio Lamborghini.There is no relation between this company and the more famous Lamborghini other than trademarks....

  • WeatherVelo http://www.weathervelo.com

See also

  • List of microcars by country of origin
  • Battery electric vehicle
    Battery electric vehicle
    A battery electric vehicle, or BEV, is a type of electric vehicle that uses chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs. BEVs use electric motors and motor controllers instead of, or in addition to, internal combustion engines for propulsion.A battery-only electric vehicle or...

  • Bubble car
    Bubble car
    Bubble car is a subjective term used for some small, economical automobiles, usually produced in the 1950s and 1960s.- Varieties :The Messerschmitt KR175 and KR200, and the FMR Tg500, had aircraft-style bubble canopies, giving rise to the term bubble car to refer to all these post-war microcars...

  • Cyclecar
    Cyclecars were small, generally inexpensive cars manufactured mainly between 1910 and the late 1920s.-General description:Cyclecars were propelled by single cylinder, V-twin or more rarely four cylinder engines, often air cooled. Sometimes these had been originally used in motorcycles and other...

  • Car classification
    Car classification
    Cars may be classified by a number of different criteria; however, comprehensive classification is elusive, because a vehicle may fit into multiple categories, or not completely satisfy the requirements for any. This article details the most commonly used systems of classification. Where...

  • Economy car
    Economy car
    An economy car is an automobile that is designed for low cost operation. Typical economy cars are small, light weight, and inexpensive to buy. Economy car designers are forced by stringent design constraints to be inventive...

  • Kei car
    Kei car
    Kei cars, K-cars, or , are a Japanese category of small vehicles, including passenger cars, vans, and pickup trucks. They are designed to comply with Japanese government tax and insurance regulations, and in most rural areas are exempted from the requirement to certify that adequate parking is...

  • Low-energy vehicle
    Low-energy vehicle
    A Low-energy vehicle is any type of vehicle that uses less energy than a regular fossil fuel vehicle.Higher efficiency can be achieved by changing the vehicle's design, and/or by modifying its powertrain. Energy consumption as low as 5-12.5 kWh/100 km is achieved directly by battery electric...

  • MIT Car
    MIT Car
    The MIT Car is a concept car project conceived at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States, for the purpose of exploring the idea of urban mobility. This intensive study on advanced human traveling has been in progress since 2003...

  • Vehicle size class
    Vehicle size class
    Vehicle size classes are a way of classifying cars. The common North American parlance is word-based, while English-speaking European writers also use words to describe car sizes...

  • Velomobile
    A velomobile or bicycle car is a human-powered vehicle, enclosed for aerodynamic advantage and protection from weather and collisions. They are virtually always single-passenger vehicles. They are derived from recumbent bicycles and tricycles, with the addition of a full fairing . There are few...

External links

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