Tiny vehicles, big impact: the past, present, and future of the ingenious microcar

This fun, deeply researched piece in Ars Technica looks at the history of microcars — tiny little vehicles designed to carry one or two passengers.   

The microcar is a singular little thing—its job is to frugally take one person (or maybe two people) where they need to go while taking up as little space as possible. A few have broken their way into the public consciousness—Top Gear made a global megastar of Peel's cars, BMW's Isetta remains a design icon, and the Messerschmitt KR200 is just plain cool—but where did these tiny wonders come from? And do they have a future?

While rarer in the US, these microcars have always had a foothold in the European market — seems that their streets are smaller and so are their people. 

From the dawn of the motorcar to today, the microcar has fought on. Whether as a cheap means of getting the masses around or as a way to village-hop in rural France, there always seems to be a place for them, even though they're not as popular as they used to be. More microcars will come in time—electrification allows for small batteries with decent punch, and more relaxed crash regulations mean design teams can stretch their fingers in more interesting ways.

The Peel Automotive miocrocars have always been my favorite — at least from a design point of view. No idea what it would be like to fit my 6'2" frame inside of one. I'm guessing a drive from LA to NY would be… challenging. 

[The 1962 Peel P50] was tiny (the Guinness World Record team declared it the smallest production car ever made); it had one door, one seat, a 49.2 cc 4.2 hp (3.1 kW) engine in the cabin, and no reverse gear. Backing up was pretty easy, though—just hop out and pick the car up by the handle mounted on the back. 

There's a lot more history and some fun photos if you click on the link.

World's largest collection of microcars
Adorable vintage microcars
Largest collection of microcars up for auction today
Velocars – microcars that are pedal powered
Microcar and Minicar Club annual meet photos
1959 Goggomobil microcar
Little car kits from Japan